For many of us Christmas is not so much ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ but more ‘The Grinch’. According to a survey carried out by the Samaritans, 45% of responders felt more worried at Christmas than at any other time of the year, and typically over the festive period the charity receives in excess of 200,000 calls. There are a multitude of reasons people can become emotionally overwhelmed at this time of year, and people with pre-existing Mental Health problems are even more vulnerable to these extra seasonal pressures.
So what can you do to protect yourself from stresses over the festive season? The first step is to be aware that you may be at risk. Once you have established which areas of the holidays are potential pressure areas for you, you are in a position to take steps to negate their effects.
For instance if cooking a full-on Christmas dinner sends you into a total spinv… then quite simply, don’t do it. There are no rules as to how you need to celebrate. Buying everything ready-made, or getting a take-away are perfectly acceptable alternatives and may lead to a much more ‘perfect’ Christmas for you. Similarly, many families have tense relationships and unresolved issues. Making plans to meet up at a different time of the year may be prudent, rather than having your annual get-together at the one time of the year loaded with expectation and emotion.
If you are alone at Christmas and would rather not be, then many charitable organisations and churches put on special lunches open to all. Alternatively, volunteering to help those less fortunate over the holiday season can be a therapeutic way to manage your own loneliness. If neither of those activities appeals, then carefully planning your day with things you really enjoy may help. Having a degree of structure to the day can help avoid expanses of unfilled time, which have the potential to turn melancholic. Going on your favourite walk, eating special food or watching a much-loved film can help you get through what may be a tough day.
It is very important to put strict boundaries on your spending if you are experiencing financial worries. The Citizens Advice Bureau can help with budgeting if you are struggling. Don’t put yourself in a position where you are paying for Christmas for the next 12 months.
Whatever your religious beliefs, it is important to remember that you don’t have to adhere to the stereotypical social and media representations of Christmas. Be kind to yourself and others. Be grateful for what you do have, rather than what you don’t. Take joy from modest things and be true to yourself. Hopefully, with these simple things in mind we can all have a happy and peaceful Christmas.