Anyone who has been an adult for more than one year knows just how stressful this time of year can be. For those of you who are facing your first Christmas as an adult, I’m sorry for what you’re going through for the first time.
Wellbeing during the festive period
There are so many ways in which our mental health can be affected at this time of year. There are financial pressures and worries that we may not have at other times of the year. There is the pressure and expectation of attending multiple social events that can trigger anxiety issues, punish depressive episodes, and worsen body image issues.
There is a tonne of extra responsibilities and tasks for us to do, and no extra time in the week! On top of all of that, the weather is colder, the days are darker, and we may feel like we are starting off on the back foot with our mental health regardless of the holiday season.
These times of high pressure, high stress, and little to no time to rest and recuperate wreak havoc with our mental health and when we already struggle it can feel as though we are drowning. The problems that we have become accustomed to dealing with on a daily basis suddenly become amplified by the extra pressure to be having a good time with our family and friends.
A cycle can often form of trying to live up to the expectations that we have for ourselves or feel that others are imposing upon us and feeling like a failure for not meeting the standards we think we should be able to, trying harder and crashing harder, and so on.
Not all hope is lost however and if you do feel like you are beginning to struggle it doesn’t have to mean that you are doomed to a miserable holiday season. There are things that we can do to help minimise the negative effects this time of year has on us, and bonus, they’re small and easy!
1. Write a gratitude list
It can be very easy to become so overwhelmed and stressed by this time of year that we begin to forget that the main aim is to enjoy ourselves. Acknowledging that can just add to our stress, so I recommend a gratitude list. On those days where you find yourself wishing Christmas was over already and deep down you don’t want to feel that way, try and write things that you are grateful for in a list.
The smells of Christmas candles, the sight of Christmas lights, the funny Christmas jumpers, prioritising spending time with family and friends. Try to find the little things that you like about the season to reignite the joy you might be missing.
2. Take things off your to-do list
Let’s be honest, at this time of year, we end up trying to take on more than we can physically cope with at the best of times! There is no shame in removing a few of those things from our lists. If you have to skip a couple of get-togethers or zoom quizzes, that is okay. If you need to scrap some gift hunting and give just cards or gift cards instead, that is okay.
Your Christmas doesn’t have to be picture-perfect, the gifts you give do not have to be Instagram worthy. The most important thing is that you look after your mental health.
3. Remember that it is just a holiday
At the end of the day, if you are finding the holiday season more stressful than joyful, it is okay to sit it out. You are allowed to do the bare minimum or even nothing at all! In the grand scheme of things, Christmas is irrelevant. Your overall mental health is much more important than some presents and parties.
You have to survive every day, Christmas comes once a year, but it comes every year, you can take a Christmas gap year if you need to. There is no shame in it.
Ultimately, I guess what my point is, is that your Christmas is exactly that: yours. Yes, there may be outside pressures from friends, family, co-workers and a whole host of other things, but at the end of the day, you get to decide how much you participate. That decision, whatever it may be, should be the one that prioritises your long-term mental health. It may not be easy to turn people down or do less than other years, but it will be worth it in the long run.