I have a love-hate relationship with this time of year.
One of the reasons I love it is because of the presents. The art of gift giving is something I’ve always enjoyed. Hunting around for a thoughtful gift, wrapping it up beautifully and then seeing the recipient’s face light up as they open it. It’s wonderful and makes Christmas time magical.
Having many repeated conversations with family/friends who you wouldn’t normally socialise with is something I hate. It’s not because I don’t like socalising with others, but rather the amount of energy it zaps from my body. Trying to have enough festive buzz to go around everyone is incredibly difficult when you have depression and anxiety.
The festive season is a classic time of year for my depressive gremlins to rise up and start playing havoc with my anxious mind. As a Christian, I felt for years that Christmas must be a joyous occasion. A time of celebration as we welcome the Messiah in baby form. Yet, when you throw mental illness into the arena, the party poppers don’t seem so, well, poppin’.
So, in an attempt to help others who may struggle like me at this time of year, here are some of the ways I’ve learnt to cope with Christmas break.
Create a routine for yourself.
Having a fluid schedule for the off-work days can be really helpful. By providing structure to your day, you have an opportunity to control your mood and actions. It needs to be flexible as you can’t control other people’s actions, but you can put things in place to support yourself. My routine includes the following points which you may find useful.
Choose a similar time each day to wake up and go to sleep.
Sleep hygiene is incredibly important for everyone and it’s something that tends to get messed up when we’re visiting family or friends. Having a time schedule for my sleep helps regulate my body and my mind – which then helps my mood. One tip from me is to be open with others and say you’re tired and you’ve got to go take a nap. I’d rather people think I’m a loser than let the gremlins take over my mind.
Make a conscious effort to remember to eat.
Yes, eat. It’s the festive season which means that fortunately for many of us, there is food everywhere you look - from mince pies to the massive roast turkey. Yet, we often forget to eat three regular meals and instead, binge on one giant meal. I take anti-depressants every morning and evening. If I don’t eat before I take my morning dose, then I’ll be feeling sick – and usually have diarrhoea – for the rest of the day. Think about how food affects you and if you need to ‘check in’ with yourself, like I do, every couple of hours to make sure you’ve eaten. Oh, and drink water – obviously.
Set yourself the task of going out for a walk every day.
I’m not an avid gym goer or yogi but I do know that physical exercise is important. I’m really grateful that my parents have two dogs and this year my husband and I are spending much of the festive season with them. That means I can go out for dog walks every day. It might not be the case that you have dogs you can walk but you can say to everyone that it’s hot inside and you fancy some fresh air. You could even say you’ve got a headache (even if you don’t) and you need some air.
Have some alone time.
It can be overwhelming seeing lots of people and having many conversations – or even arguments. I’m used to spending quite a lot of time on my own and so when it comes to constantly being surrounded by others, the gremlins really go to town in my head. Setting a small amount of time aside each day to listen to music, read a chapter of a book or head out for a walk is important when looking after your wellbeing.
Ultimately, find a rhythm that works for you and stick to it.
If you have any extra ways to help the festive time become more manageable, then Tweet them to me @LizEdge_ - I’d love to hear them!
Finally, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Remember – it’s OK to not be OK. If you find yourself struggling then chat to Samaritans on: