Mental Health During the Festive Season

At Christmas there seems to be almost an unspoken social contract that says we must all be permanently happy. This is a huge amount of pressure and when, as is inevitable, something occurs that pops the bubble of perfection we might find that we feel disappointed with ourselves and feel the need to cover it up. By hiding our emotions and storing the negativity away it builds up and up (and up) until eventually we explode (not literally, obviously – emotional spontaneous combustion is incredibly rare…) and all for what? Because it’s December we’re not allowed to show emotions? That’s ridiculous. Your emotions are valid any date of the year. And not only that but Christmas is an incredibly stressful time; there’s so much going on, there are food, finance and family worries to contend with in addition to any issues that transpire naturally, just as they would throughout the rest of the year.  

I think another thing that’s important to remember is that holidays are supposed to be just that – holidays i.e. ‘a break from normal life, a period of leisure and recreation.’ And so, if the thought of Christmas (or any other holiday for that matter) is making you feel anything but excited then you need to make some changes. If there’s something in particular that’s worrying you then talk to your friends or family and come up with a way for you to manage these feelings whether it be distraction techniques, taking breaks or (if possible and isn’t an unhealthy avoidance strategy), just getting rid of the thing that’s causing you these negative emotions completely. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed and not just endured.  

Food can also be a big issue for a lot of people at Christmas, there always seems to be a lot of it around and there’s an expectation that we will indulge and eat more than we usually do, almost to the extent of binging. This, understandably, brings up a lot of unwelcome emotions. In addition to this people also tend to use negative language towards food saying things that can exacerbate unhealthy attitudes. Especially on Christmas day; for example, people say things like ‘I’ll have to run for hours to burn all of this off,’ or ‘this is so unhealthy’ or even ‘I’ve been good for days in preparation for this.’ There should be no need to justify either how much or what you’ve eaten on any day of the year, the fact that it’s a special occasion shouldn’t even come into account.  And you should never feel pressured to compensate what you’ve eaten either by restricting your intake before or after the day or by exercising. The bottom line is, you should never feel guilty for nourishing your body even on days (like Christmas) when you eat more than you typically would.  

Holidays also typically come with a lot of additional family time which can further contribute to our stress levels (I remember a particularly haunting Christmas where an argument exploded during a game of dominos…) Differences of opinion are bound to come up whether your Grandad disagrees with your opinion on Brexit or long-lost Uncle Joe loves Donald Trump, and learning how to combat the stress that comes with them can be key to holiday survival. I think the best possible tip to avoid confrontation is to just steer clear of difficult or potentially controversial topics – maybe you could even say to your family that the dinner table is a ‘politics free zone’ (sorry Uncle Joe). But if something does come up that upsets you then remember that it’s okay to remove yourself from the situation. Just take five and come back when the conversations turned back to how delicious the Turkey is or other less controversial matters (that’s assuming your Turkey wasn’t experimentally cooked in Coca Cola – yes I’m looking at you Nan…)

Finally, in all seriousness Christmas can be a really difficult time for a lot of people, whether you feel alone, surrounded by everyone else’s façades of happiness, unable to fit in with their smiles or maybe the supposedly infectious ‘holiday cheer’ hasn’t permeated you yet, please remember that you are never alone (not in a sinister way, I realise that sounds creepy…), you are valued, you are worthy and you are loved. Hang in there and know that happier holidays will come.  

Lots of love and holiday hugs, 

Anna x


20171213_134704If you need support or someone to talk to over the holidays (or any other time of the year for that matter) then Samaritans are open 24/7 via email (jo@samaritans.org) or you can phone them on 116 123.

And if you want to read last years Christmas post ‘Have a Body Posi Christmas’ then just click here. 

 

Disclaimer: This post will also be published in my college magazine.

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