The holiday period is one we are expected to be happy at. We are constantly being
told to be merry, have lots of amazing parties with our friends and love our families
during this time and we are also sold the idea of Christmas as a time of happiness
Of course, this isn’t the case in reality and quite often Christmas (and the idea of
Christmas) can fuel existing depression and anxiety that many of us struggle with. By
forcing us to spend more time with family, socialise with friends or work colleagues,
while also getting us to think about what we’ve done this past year, the holiday
period can send us spiralling into even worse feelings of depression and misery.
I know it does for me and I know it does for so many other people out there too.
Recently I wrote a guest post for another blog about surviving the holiday period with
a mental illness and my advice centred around: understanding it’s ok to have time to
yourself; knowing that you can say no to people and volunteering for a charity to try
and give back or support a cause you believe in.
But am I taking my own advice and if so, am I feeling the benefits? I am doing this
more or at least trying to do this more. By writing this post and my previous one I am
engaging more with the sentiment of looking after you at Christmas and not putting
too much pressure on yourself. I am also beginning to evaluate my time more and
say no to a few things that I can’t go too either because I’m busy with work or
because I am feeling mentally tired. Regarding volunteering as well, I’m not
specifically doing any for the Christmas period, however I will be writing posts for my
local mental health charity and writing out cards of encouragement for people in my
city as part of the #CareLetters campaign online.
But regardless of all this, the period still doesn’t feel easy and perhaps it never will be
considering my past. I remember as a kid I went from loving Christmas, to feeling no
love for it at all. I struggled with social anxiety and depression undiagnosed for years
and when Christmas rolled around, I always found it disappointing and just another
My dad passed away exactly a month before Christmas back in 2013, so what was
already a tough period then became even worse. My dad was always the big kid at
Christmas, getting up at 6 in the morning and getting the rest of us up to open
presents! He was a very giving person as while he loved getting presents, he always
put so much thought and effort into his presents and didn’t expect as much in return.
Maybe then this explains why I ignored Christmas as best I could since he died as I
felt like there was a hole at Christmas, a place at the table that should have been set
but wasn’t. I also felt like in terms of honouring him I tended to ignore it for fear of his
death bringing out too many bad memories, which I now realise was down to being afraid of crying and feeling sad. Now that I’m in a better place emotionally, I’m better
at saying I miss him and honouring his memory. With this, I have started to see this
year’s Christmas as something not to be too afraid of.
Sure, I am still very anxious about being around people and being in situations with
lots of people, having to talk about how you’re doing and the year’s gone but now I
have more self-confidence thanks to a new job and I know there are people out there
in my Twitter feed and through the Time to Change work who understand what so
many of us go through at Christmas.
My advice from my previous post remains and while I never do resolutions at New
Year as I think they put too much pressure on us, I am sticking with these as they
are for my benefit mentally and can help me get through this Christmas period. This
is probably the most positive I’ve felt around the period in years, certainly since my
dad passed away and I credit: understanding my mental health more, having a
support network who gets me in place, and having confidence in my abilities as a
person with my positivity.
So this Christmas, don’t put any pressure on yourself to be happy and fit in. If you
aren’t that’s fine and you certainly aren’t alone. Better to know that there are others
like you struggling then believe you’re on your own I think. Most of all be kind to
yourself and never forget nothing is more important than your health.
Thank you so much for sharing Peter and for offering such great advice. We could all do with remembering that we need to put less pressure on ourselves over the holidays.