It’s early December and if you are anything like me and try to ignore Christmas as long as you can then you know we have run out of time – we are in the lead up to Christmas well and truly now and it is almost impossible to escape it.
Christmas can be a very joyous time that is filled with excitement. But for those who struggle with a mental health challenge, this time of year can be very overwhelming and extra stressful.
There is this invisible pressure that we must be jolly and happy 24/7. At the same time we seem trapped in this very fake world where everything is shiny, glittery and competitive. People must out do each other when it comes to decorating their houses, buy way more presents for the children than their neighbours and drown their families in materialistic stuff that fulfill them for five minutes tops.
For anyone who is sensitive and feels like they don’t belong in that world, the festive season can be a difficult time. If that is you then that is absolutely fine. I put together five essential tips to get through the holiday seasons with your mental health intact.
1) Set boundaries and stick to them
When we are not in the Christmas spirit, it can be hard to make it clear to others that Christmas isn’t our thing. Some people wait all year until Christmas comes around again and good for them. But that is not us.
First boundary to set is to acknowledge to yourself that you don’t like Christmas and that’s ok.
Second boundary is to NOT explain why that is if you are not comfortable. People might look at you dumbfounded but that’s ok. They like Christmas, you don’t, end of story.
It pays off to be firm here and not say much. Christmas fanatics won’t ever be convinced that their favourite holiday isn’t anything but spectacular. It’s not about that; it’s about your boundary. Stick with ‘I just don’t like it’ and leave it at that.
Thirdly, it is not only ok to say no but also important. December is always filled with Christmas parties and Christmas lunches and Christmas drinks and it can be so overwhelming. These events are exhausting at the best of times because we have to pretend we enjoy them and are just so ecstatic to be there. This is just toxic for your mental health.
It depends on your individual situation but it pays off to say No to as many of these events as possible. If there is one you have to go to because your boss’s boss is there and wants to see you then steel yourself and see if you are up for it. Do the round and leave as early as you can.
We can be flexible with our boundaries but only so much. This is about your mental wellbeing and exposure to these environments for a long time is not helping.
2) Seek reprieve
The closer we get to 25 December the harder it is to ignore or escape the Christmas cheer. Carols blare at us at the supermarket, Christmas trees in various sizes are just about everywhere and ‘Goodbye’ is replaced with ‘Merry Christmas’ during each interaction with another human being.
It is exhausting.
Make sure that you have a place that is Christmas free so you can go there to get a break and recharge. This could be your entire home or just a certain room that is declared a Christmas free zone. Ideally, it’s a space that is free of any decoration, annoying lights and present wrapping or hiding. It is a space just for YOU.
A major challenge during this time of year is to find peace and quiet. Everything is so loud and in your face. This can be very draining as it can be hard to escape it.
Do you have a spot in your office that you can escape to for a quiet moment to just be in the moment where it is not about presents, glitter and Christmas cheer?
Try and take as many of these little breaks as you need throughout the day. Listen to calming music via headphones or even do a guided meditation. This will allow you to feel more grounded and connected to what really matters to you during this time.
4) Keep a low profile
The lead up to Christmas is often packed with too many commitments. There are the office Christmas parties but also family matters such as pre Christmas celebrations and meet ups and someone is bound to ask you to come along to Christmas shopping.
All these occasions can be very stressful for anyone who doesn’t enjoy this time of year let alone for those who struggle with mental health. T
here is just too much happening without a break. At the same time, people seem extra stressed. They don’t like going shopping or all these events but say they have no choice but to attend.
It makes it extra hard for anyone to get through this time being mentally well. They seem strapped for time and patience and that makes it extra challenging to explain to them that Christmas time is not enjoyable for you. It seems as if people are far less understanding in December then they are the rest of the year.
Make sure to spend as much time as you can where you are comfortable. Don’t engage in chain messages on Facebook or via text where people try to get you to go shopping or for yet another round of drinks. No explanations are needed where you know they will fall on deaf ears. This is about you making your mental health a priority and that is always a good thing to do!
5) Do you own countdown
For some people, the countdown to Christmas is on as soon as this year’s Christmas is over. Others get in the spirit as soon as it’s November. It can make this time of year even more exhausting when there is someone near us who counts down the days and then the hours until it’s Christmas. It is just not for everyone.
Why not create your own countdown? Instead of counting down the days until 25 December, create a countdown until 15 December and then reward yourself for having made it through half the month already. Then start again with another countdown until 28 December or 29, even the 31st. As long as it works for you and does NOT stop at Christmas. Make this month one that works for you and ignore what you are supposed to be doing.
It can be hard maintaining good mental health when it is pushed in the background so much. This is why it is even more crucial that we do not neglect it and keep doing what helps us feel and be well.
Bonus – how to survive Christmas Day
The one question remaining is though – how do we get through the actual day?
There is only so much we can escape but eventually Christmas is here and that means lunch with the family where your drunk uncle will be incredibly annoying and your distant cousin will pester you about when you will get married and settle down.
Approach the day with your own kind of attitude.
Drunken uncle won’t probably remember your sharp and witty comebacks to his nonsense so why not have a crack? If you are feeling fierce then tackle the personal and rude questions as well.
Of course, it would be best if people could all mind their own business and be polite but it seems all rules are off on Christmas. Follow their lead then. If they are overstepping boundaries then put them in their place. Simply because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean we have to smile and nod politely all day.
This is your day, too and you matter.
And it always helps to make the earliest possible exit and to retreat back to your space where you are comfortable and can recharge from an exhausting day.