It’s that time of the year again, it seems as though we simply blinked and Christmas is already in full swing. People around the world are rushed off their feet going from event to event, visiting family and friends, going to work parties with little time to relax. While trying not to take anything away from the much needed festivity and ending up being referred to as the Grinch (there are worse people to be compared to lets be honest), I wanted to take some time to discuss the difficulties that can arise.
Although many people are taking time away from work and education for Christmas, mental health doesn’t get the privilege of taking a break. There seems to be so much pressure around this time, even if you do not celebrate it, everywhere you turn, you are reminded of Christmas, and how it is a time to celebrate and be the life of the party. From songs, to TV, to film, to decorations you are shown what the perfect Christmas should look like surrounded by loved ones having the time of your life, after all it’s the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ isn’t it? Christmas may be a time of festive cheer and celebrations but it can also bring along stress and anxiety, particularly for those experiencing mental illnesses so it is important to ensure that people suffering are given the same level of care as those with physical conditions. It is no different than if a loved one had diabetes or an allergy that you know about, it is accepted and understood and it is accommodated, this should be no different with mental illnesses.
In the lead up to Christmas there is the additional struggle of ‘Winter Blues’, the days are short, the hours are dark, motivation plummets and everyone sinks into hibernation mode which can worsen a persons mental health. Then you’ve got this sudden pressure to be a ‘social butterfly’, the numbness making you feel cold-hearted and finding yourself relating to Ebenezer Scrooge, negative self-talk becomes louder and not to forget the type of ‘loneliness’ felt despite being surrounded by loved ones. It’s overwhelming, debilitating and just really quite scary. You get so caught up in this expectation of what the season should be like, rather than allowing yourself to appreciate the holidays and taking some time for self-care.
It is so important that we all look out for one another and show each other that we care. It takes a lot of strength for someone to say ‘I need help’, however it doesn’t hurt for you to bring up the subject and ask how your loved one is coping this Christmas. This doesn’t have to be ‘directly’ talking about mental health, but simply spreading love, understanding and peace. By listening, being appreciative and spending time with loved ones. So get in your friends corner this year, you don't need to be an expert on mental health to show a loved one that you care, find more information on supporting a pal through Time to Changes fabulous (not that I am biased) #InYourCorner campaign here.
Not to forget the importance of looking after ourselves too! I think the most important thing that someone said to me last year, which has completely stuck is “Putting yourself first does not make you selfish, in fact it makes you selfless for acknowledging that you are not in the best position to provide support right now” and I think that is really important to understand – after all you can not pour from an empty cup. It doesn't make you a bad person for prioritising yourself; it simply means you’re allowing yourself to show self-love.
Finally, allow yourself to enjoy whatever kind of Christmas you’ll be having this year without comparing it to anyone else’s. Christmas day, is simply just a day. It is not a mark on your life, it does not determine your worth, it is not a test. Whatever you are feeling during this holiday period - you're feelings are valid. Reach out. Listen. Be Kind. Spread love.