It is that time of year, it just kind of snuck on me I don’t know about any of you out there. For weeks now I have listened to every Christmas song I can, I’ve taken my kids to Christmas markets and talked of elves, Santa and the North Pole generally getting excited about the whole season but there is that darker side to the season that we don’t really talk about and it happens to a lot more people than we would know. Just the other day I was speaking to someone about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and the effects that it can have on an individual and how un-Christmassy they were feeling because of it and I got to thinking.
Yes, I love the season and yes, I get into it but let’s be honest it stresses us out, have I bought the kids enough? Will my partner like this? How will I afford that? I often find myself scrolling through my social media pages thinking that I’m doing something wrong and how can they possibly be affording that when I work so hard and know that I couldn’t (be honest we have all done it) in these moments I have to stop and reflect and remember life is not a competition and then I ask myself what is more important to me. This time of year also brings the pressure of this attitude that we are all happy all the time, because tis the season…… the harsh reality is that 1 in 4 adults are effected by a mental health problem and this time of year can prove to be the hardest.
With all the festivities going on around it is easy for someone suffering with a mental health problem to feel disconnected from the joy and warmth – an individual can be left feeling like they are Scrooge left out in the cold looking in the window of the Cratchit family and the joy they have unable to take part – This societal expectation can increase the pressure on someone who has a mental health problem, and in many cases heighten the negative thoughts and feelings. So how do we combat these, well for me I use these techniques and like puppies they are not just for Christmas.
Firstly i acknowledge that all my thoughts are real…… yip 100% real and unique as a Christmas snowflake (see what I did there). The thoughts are real so say hi to them, next ask yourself are they factual, the mind is a wonderful thing and boy is it powerful, so is the thought factual? If the answer is yes and you can prove that it is then by all means carry on my wayward son, if the thought is not go ahead and shout STOP at it.
Next I take time out, this one I stumbled upon at a really bad time and it turned out to be what I needed but it comes in many forms at that time it was a weekend away but as I look back I realise that it included time away from social media and staying in when I was supposed to go out. Now I find myself taking 10 minutes out of my work day just to breathe and recharge.
Sleep – at this time of year late night prep and parties can steal our sleep from us and it is important to rest.
Exercise – I know at this time of year it is the last thing on most people’s mind but think of the endorphins you know the happy chemical. I know… I know but what if you took a little walk like walk for 15 minutes then turn back there 30-minute walk barely a sweat.
Relax – I know I laughed too, but breathing exercises, yoga or my new go to meditation. Yip recently I have zoned out so many times and it has been blissful.
Step away – like I said previously I have in the past taken a break from Social Media and it was good for the soul, I’m saying it is an excuse to avoid things but if mentally you are not feeling up to it then don’t force it. I have in the past avoided social events and in the end felt worse so now I fight the anxiety and go or invite people to the house because let’s remember the thoughts are real but not always factual.
It really is the most wonderful time of the year and it is sometimes lost because of the gifts but for me this time of year is about being together, for someone with a mental health problem that is one of the hardest parts but you my lovely people can make it easier, yip the wonder person that is you and I’m drawing on what I needed and wanted when I was at my worst.
Talk – Let someone know you are there for them and then leave it. I know this might seem harsh but daily reminders of I’m here if you want to talk really are stressful. Why? Well for me I didn’t always have the answers why I feel the way I do and the fact I am unable to explain it adds to the pressure. I am not saying don’t speak to the person far from it they need the conversation so be there even if you only talk of the weather.
Listen – try not to judge them on how they feel or think remember 100% real.
Spend time with them – meet up for a coffee, pop round to their house even for 5 minutes it can change the whole day for someone.
Don’t pressure them – so they don’t want to go on a night out, that’s ok you know and forcing them to go won’t make them feel good.
Don’t draw attention to them – one important thing to remember is that alcohol can heighten emotions and if your feeling low imagine the effects it will have maybe not that night but the next day when it wears off. So, if someone is not drinking keep it in mind and don’t single them out adding to the pressure just be happy, they made it.
Encourage them to take the time out – Not avoid, but step back and gather their thoughts and enable them to come back at it.
Let me leave you with this thought in the hope that you carry it and you smile just a little:
You are strong, passionate, courageous, more than capable and as unique as a Christmas snowflake and you know what…. That is just imperfectly perfect the way we should be, so be you send your energy into the world because it is amazing.
Sending you love and joy while wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas.