JKG | jkgphotography.co.uk
Location: Wandsworth, London
As I type this I'm surrounded by shortbread, wrapping paper and to do lists. The festive rush is well and truly upon us as we prepare for the big day which can you even believe, is less than a week away?
Although I love Christmas and definitely enjoy all the festivities and delights that are common during this time. Y'know, things like watching back to back Christmas films whilst devouring a Terry's Chocolate Orange and placing another little ASOS order because WHY NOT ITS CHRISTMAS lol. I do however tend to feel drained, tired and pretty overwhelmed.
I had a huge cry today because I just felt like the world was on top of me. I wanted to be productive and happy and yay its Christmas, and although I am looking forward to going home for Christmas, I would be lying if I said I found this time of year easy. On the surface I do, but deep down all the socialising and heavy workload often makes me want to runaway and hide until the new year. (how I feel right now lol)
Last year was my first Christmas since starting therapy and it was the first time I really understood my feelings. Years before that, I would just suppress how I felt and pretend that everything was fine. And whilst that is sometimes the easiest route, it can also be the route that leaves you full of resentment and anger - and pent up feelings are not part of self care lol.
Anyway.. I feel like I now have the tools and knowledge to manage my mental health, especially around the Christmas time. Last year was a success so this year I'm sharing what I did, and also what I've learnt since.
If you would like to read specifically about managing disordered eating at Christmas, then you can read this post which I published last year.
Try To Still Have A Routine
As soon as I'm out of a routine, I begin to feel triggered and all over the place. My mind feels fuzzy and confused so for me, sticking to a routine is essential in not only getting through Christmas, but to also enjoy it too! Your normal day to day routine shouldn't be strict and suffocating, it should be about kindness to yourself and managing life with balance - that should continue throughout the festive period. Obviously a late night here and there is fine, and having chocolate for breakfast isn't going to do you any harm. But overall, I think having some sort of routine, whether thats waking up at the same time or meditating before you sleep, is beneficial for everyone.
Create Your Escape Plan
This is the best thing I've ever done and something I use regularly. Most humans have a fight or flight mode when they experience something traumatic or a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable. At Christmas, you might find yourself in a place that either makes you want to scream at a family member, or runaway from home forever. This is why you need to plan your escape route. When the fight or flight feeling arrives or you feel emotional or sad, here are some little one liners to get you out of a tricky spot..
- I just need to go to the toilet. Brb!
- I'm just going into the garden for some fresh air.
- Does anyone need anything from the shop? I'm popping out to get something.
- I'm going on a festive walk. (you can invite someone if you want)
- I'm just off to get a drink. (drinking and eating genuinely regulates your breathing so you could actually do this lol)
All of these will give you a few moments to breathe, compose yourself and process your thoughts. Another great escape plan would be that you're going to bed early for whatever reason you decide to. Getting in a duvet and watching a film is comfort in itself.
Lean On People You Trust
I think we often feel like we shouldn't reach out to our support network during the festive period because its a time for family. However, friends are the family we choose and I will always be here for my mates - especially the ones who find Christmas difficult. I also know they'd do the same for me. Whether its IRL friends, or your internet community. Reach out and let them know you're struggling. You're not a burden, you're just human.
Make Time For You
I think its fair to say that I'm one of the biggest advocates for self care. It is honestly one of my greatest discoveries and the thing I lean on the most - especially when I feel triggered or wobbly. Even at Christmas, try and make time for you! I know its the season of giving to others, but in my mind, its also about giving to yourself too. Buy yourself a present, have a lush bath, sleep in, go for a walk, say no to going to parties, say yes to spending time with friends. Watch your favourite film, eat your favourite food, stay in your pjs all day and listen to music. Whatever YOU want to do, do it. You are deserving.
Seek Outside Support
I understand some people don't have anyone, so Christmas is even more isolating and depressing. My heart goes out to anyone reading this who feels alone when it appears like the rest of the world is having a joyous time. There are many charities and helplines available - even on Christmas Day, for support and advice and maybe just a chat. The Samaritans have helped me in times of need - use them if you need to. Call here.