Christmas, the most truly wonderful time of the year. For most anyway. I know more than anyone what it feels like not to be in the Christmas spirit. With all these carols and people dancing and prancing from November 1st. And you hiding away under you duvet blocking out any signs of the season until the big day itself. When you’re struggling with mental illness, the overjoyment and pressures of society to “have fun” can be if not overwhelming, it can make you just think “god, can’t it be over already?!”. Or maybe this is the first year without a loved one. The missing presence or that extra seat at the dining table is a cold stab that you can’t deny, but making the year without them, to reflect and celebrate their life is ever more so important than not partaking at all.
This year I felt like changing things – making small little changes to my mindset in order to keep my mental health more positive and making Christmas a good one. I know how difficult it can be to stay upbeat when everyone out there appears to be having the time of your lives and I know there’s no magic cure, but there is a few things you can do to put you in good stead for making the most, or even enjoying the festivities!
Such a simple but wonderful treat to get you into the festive spirit. I haven’t had one for years because I couldn’t be bothered counting down, but this year I decided I would count down. A milky bar calendar for me (because white choc is DELICIOUS)! They’re simple, cheap but keeps that childish spirit alive. If you haven’t got one, run down to the shops now and grab your fave! And don’t feel bad about having to start on the 2nd or even the 3rd. Just extra choc on your first day!
Remember, a small shaped piece of chocolate is not going to kill you or ruin your “diet”.
Attend Christmas Events
Whether it be a Christmas quiz or a Christmas market, get out and get involved. Christmas music playing, mulled wine and Christmassy treats! Depending on your anxiety, pick places wisely to make the best of your visits. I LOVE Manchester Christmas Markets but you have to time visits properly, as it can be SO overwhelming and busy. Try to pick an off peak quieter time, a weekday or if it’s too much, opt for a much smaller market. Chester and Liverpool don’t have as many stalls as Manchester, but they are much much quieter.
If you get invited to a party but you’re nervous or feel down but don’t want to not turn up, you can do little things to lighten your spirits and make events easier. Prep your outfit before, something that makes you feel amazing! Practice your makeup before (if makeups your thing) and even schedule it down and fix a time limit to how much you want to spend there. They sound stupid, but you’d be surprised how much organisation can help relieve anxiety. And if you want some “moral support”, bring a friend to come along with you, especially if you feel stressed in social situations.
If you’re feeling a bit down because you can’t afford to get all your pals presents (I know I do), then if there’s a group of you who’d be willing to participate, why not do Secret Santa? Each person in the group simply gets the name of another person in the group to purchase a present for. Make them funny. Make them practical. Set a budget (me and my friends usually set £10). Then everybody gets a gift WITHOUT breaking your bank. It’s great for students and if there’s a large group of you! It’s also funny trying to work out who bought who what!
Surround Yourself with Light
Dark nights and cold mornings can often make you feel down this time of year (I’ll explain this all in another blog post soon!), but there’s no need to wait until the lighter months. Make the most of the light in the days, get out and go for a walk, open your curtains and let the sun through. You’d be amazed what a light space can do for your mentality. And during the darkness? Fairy lights! Candles! Lit fires! Not only are they super cosy during cold nights, but the light provides a warmth that you wouldn’t get with dark rooms and your bog standard ceiling light.
So there we go! My little but effective tips for making the most of the festive season. I know they’re no magic cure for feeling down or being in a bad place, but they sure do help when it comes to getting up and feeling like you’re making achievements during the season.
Emma is a Registered Dietitian and Registered Associate Nutritionist based in Cheshire, England. Emma works in community healthcare and writes freelance alongside her work: topics including Dietetic life, nutrition, mental health and lifestyle. Emma also writes and photographs recipes for the platform, as well as being the author of the ‘Mummy and Me’ series for SR Nutrition. Emma’s Food Stories is PR friendly brand.