Make room for your mental health this Christmas
Cast your minds back to this time last year, where were you? How were you feeling? What plans had you had put on hold due to the pandemic?
No – we haven’t moved on entirely from the situation that Covid-19 put us in last Christmas but, we have made steps in the right direction to allow us to spend the season with our loved ones.
Yes – further restrictions have come into place since this time last month even, but we are nowhere near where we were this time in 2020.
So, with that in mind we’ve put our heads together to think about how you can manage the up-coming festivities, whether you’re looking forward to them, or looking forward to them being over.
TIP 1 – Remember to make yourself happy too
So many of us go out of our way to ensure everyone we love is happy at this time of year. But what about you? Remember, you? That person who keeps on going when they haven’t really got much left to give? Yes, you. Give yourself the time to be happy this year.
The conversations surrounding Christmas are very different this year compared to last, however our message is still very much the same. None of us know what tomorrow holds so don’t wait for it. Don’t say, ‘I’ll give myself ten minutes peace tomorrow’, have that relaxing bath, read the next chapter of your book, sit and really enjoy that cup of coffee. It’s so easy to fill up that moment with work or jobs, or someone else’s needs. This Christmas, whatever makes you happy, that’s the way roll.
TIP 2 – New traditions
Last year we were given the opportunity to reinvent our Christmas and introduce new traditions.
Whether you carry them all over from 2020, or just keep a taste, no one gets to say what your Christmas should look like. Whether you’re going big this year to catch up with loved ones you didn’t get to last year or staying small – you do you. Even if that means keeping it simple and fun with a carpet picnic on Christmas Day.
At a time of year which is already so hard to navigate, make sure you don’t forget to prioritise what you want, and what you need – for the sake of your mental health. Yes. That means putting yourself first for a change.
TIP 3 – Go all out
Many of you could be feeling even more excited than usual about the prospect of Christmas 2021. We know some of you won’t have seen any family or friends last year so there’s a lot of celebrating to catch up on.
From decking the halls with as much sparkle as possible, going all out with the lights and getting the biggest Christmas tree, wearing sequins and ballgowns on Christmas Day, doing ALL the Christmas crafts and baking with the kids – if you are going big this festive season enjoy every minute of it.
There is no right way to do the season, it is your choice – make it the most spectacular day – whatever spectacular means to you.
TIP 4 – Unexpected festive U-turn?
If you usually enjoy Christmas but are struggling to muster up the motivation this year there could be a good number of reasons.
Different emotions will be bubbling to the surface, from anxiety to stress, the pressures we feel at this time of year are very unique. But don’t forget how you celebrate and with whom is still your choice.
Even if you are usually the most Christmassy person, if this year it just isn’t for you, for whatever reason, just don’t do it. Don’t commit. Focus your energy and attention elsewhere. There is no wrong way to do Christmas, as long as you’re happy and comfortable with your choice.
TIP 5 – Factor in Fun
If this season is usually one that leave you feeling down, there are things we can all do to beat the blues and enjoy the festive season – whatever yours may look like.
Focus on what you enjoy and incorporate as much of that into day-to-day activities as possible. Get outside for a walk. Read a book. Get Christmas decorations up with the whole family joining in.
Head outside and play in the snow… fingers crossed. Stay in your PJ’s and watch crappy films – whatever makes you happy and comfortable, that’s the way roll.
TIP 6 – Dealing with Loneliness
Of course, the approaching season isn’t all fun and games. So many of us feel especially alone at this time of year. Loneliness and isolation were two overriding feelings during last year’s festivities, and they still will be this year. If you’ve found Christmas hard in the past and are dreading it once again this year there are numerous things you can do to make the experience easier depending on why you find it hard.
Of course, there could be many, many reasons for that such as bereavement, being in uncomfortable situations, having to spend time with people who make you uncomfortable, struggling to deal with the outside world. Being in any of the above situations is hard enough. Throw Christmas into the mix and they can feel intolerable, unimaginable.
When things get tough remember to be gentle, generous and patient – with yourself. It is ok to prioritise what’s best for you, so think about what you need that will help and how you can access it. And don’t forget talking to people you trust will usually make a difference.
TIP 7 – Fretting Over Finances?
Effectively managing finances is one of the most predominant issues at Christmas time. There is so much pressure to spend money but try and be realistic – January and February will be tough months if you don’t plan ahead.
Planning ahead can take some effort but in the long run it will help to defuse many situations that can result in you struggling now. If you’re going to be staying away from home during the Christmas break, try and pre-plan what you take with you so that you have your go-to comforts to hand.
Ask yourself one question – do I really need to do, or buy, that? If the answer is ‘no’ then cross it off your list. For some this Christmas will be about excesses, for many it will be about the little things. You have no obligation to justify your decisions. To anyone. Period.
TIP 8 – Believe in Balance
Finding balance at any time of the year can be tricky, at Christmas even more so. Even if you do want to pull out all the stops there is a balance to be struck when it comes to how much you can actually do without burning yourself out.
Whether you realise it or not, this year past year coming out of the lockdown fog, has put a strain on all of us in different ways. Do not put additional pressure on yourself to perform if you are already feeling mildly strung out. Who cares what everyone else is doing, take it back to basics if need be.
Try and find some activities that you can do as a family, restore something altogether more wholesome this season. Baking is a great thing to do – even if you’re no baker. There are plenty of Christmas kits around or even DIY kits you can order to decorate.
TIP 9 – Introduce Time Limits
If you’re dreading the festive season this year, you don’t need to soldier on. Why not put in place a start and end time to your Christmas? That way you know exactly how long it will go on for and that it won’t last forever.
Set boundaries for yourself, and ‘feel’ your own feelings. Ride them out and have a tool kit in place to deal with them. Plan in some ‘time out’ away from Christmas, perhaps with a familiar and favourite book or film that is set at a different time of year.
Another great idea when it comes to focus, is to plan something for after the festive mayhem. Whether that’s a trip away, starting a project at home or learning a new hobby, giving yourself a realistic and achievable yet challenging goal will help get you through the festive season and give you something to look forward to once it’s over.
TIP 10 – Connect with Others
Remember, even this year the knock-on effect from last year’s ‘quiet Christmas’ will still be rife, with each and every household considering how it’s best to celebrate.
Many families will have had their first Christmas at home, not having to travel anywhere, and it may well be something that they want to stick to – if ever there was a year to forget family politics and put other’s wishes first, it’s now.
There are so many ways we can all get in touch now, if loved ones want to stay home and enjoy their newly formed traditions, let them. People may be fed up with online platforms, but they do give us the flexibility to have fun with friends that we may not be seeing this year.
TIP 11 – Be Alcohol Aware
It’s the time of year to be jolly, possibly to say yes to another drink when you normally wouldn’t. But if you are struggling, that may not be the best idea.
As far as alcohol is concerned, be aware of how much you are actually drinking. It is easy at the moment to lose track and drink more than you normally would.
If you are worried about your consumption, keep a record as this can help you to see how and when you are drinking and make decisions about it.
TIP 12 – Reach Out
Remember, as always, reach out if you’re struggling. It is really hard to ask for help but help is available. It may feel like the hardest thing to do, but there is no shame what-so-ever in asking for help.
Reach out to those around you who you can rely on and talk to them about your struggles. You could join an online community – Fortis in fact has two on Facebook, our main page as well as The F Word, a private all-inclusive Facebook group, and The Westerly Club, a men’s mental health community group.
TIP 13 – Scared of Support Being Scarce?
For those that are embracing the extravagance, there are those – more we’d argue – who will struggle, who are already struggling. Extra pressure to be seen to be enjoying yourself, to be going over and above to make this one memorable for the right reasons following a year of not being allowed to do everything we wanted. Fear of being alone or isolated. Worry about finances or being able to access vital services such as foodbanks – this one in particular raising cause for concern.
This year we have continued to see a rise in people needing to access support. If you can donate to any local causes, charities, foodbanks, shelters, this year it will be very gratefully received.
TIP 14 – A very Merry Christmas, everyone!
To everyone that has supported us this year, taken the time to use any of our services, joined #TheWesterlyClub or came into the group as a speaker, became and F-Worder, left us a comment, like or share on social media, no action has gone unnoticed.
Take care of yourselves over Christmas, clients – remember your tool kits. But all of you, enjoy Christmas – whatever yours may look like. Give yourselves a break and enjoy any time you do get to spend with others. Let it be joyful.
Help lines and further services you can access
Shout mental health text service – text SHOUT to 85258, 24/7 service where trained volunteers are available to talk day and night.
Beat offers support, information and advice on eating disorders and runs a supportive online community. Adults 0808 801 0677; youth line 0808 801 0711; student line 08088010811.
CALM – Campaign Against Living Miserably – provides listening services, information and support for anyone who needs to talk, including web chat. Call 0800 58 58 58.
Cruse Bereavement Care provides information and support after bereavement. Call 0808 808 1677.
LGBT Foundation is there to give advice, support and information for people identifying as LGBTQ+ call 0345 3 30 30 30.
Men’s Advice Line, is a service offering confidential support for men experiencing domestic violence and abuse by current, or ex-partner or family member. Call 0808 801 0327.
Money Advice Service provides free and impartial money advice. Call 0800 138 7777.
National Domestic Abuse Helpline is a free, 24-hour helpline for women who have experience domestic abuse, run by domestic violence charity Refuge. It is run by female advisors. Call 0808 2000 247.
Relate provides help and support with relationships, including counselling, telephone counselling and anonymous live chat. Call 0300 003 0396.
The Silver Line provides support, information, friendship and advice for those over 55 who may feel lonely or isolated. Call 0800 470 80 90.
Stand Alone is a charity that supports adults who are estranged (not in contact) from the family. Visit standalone.org.uk
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide (SOBS) offers emotional and practical support and local groups for anyone bereaved or affected by suicide. Call 0300 111 5065.
Switchboard is a listening service and source of information and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Call 0300 330 0630.
Tommy’s offers information and support to people affected by stillbirth, miscarriage and premature birth. Visit tommys.org
The Trussell Trust offers emergency food and support for people in need. The website has a searchable list of food banks trusselltrust.org