Once again "it's the most wonderful time of the year". For many this may be the case, but for an awful lot of people it isn't. Here are some tips, tricks and words of advice which may be helpful to some of you, or people you know, this festive season.
Before we begin: TW/CW as this post will mention subjects of mental health/illness, suicide, eating disorders, grief, homelessness and consent.
Mental health problems & illness still exist at Christmas!
Believe it or not, much like people who get their yearly Christmas flu, people still get unwell mentally this time of year too. In fact, Christmas is a triggering time for a lot of people. Winter can have an impact on anyone's mental health, it's no secret that a bit of sunshine and longer days can make us feel better, but it's not just the cold dark nights which can effect us. There are many people who feel lonely this time of year, people struggling with money, people grieving, and people who are unable to be with their loved ones. Of course these feelings happen to many all year round, but there is such a pressure to be happy and content at Christmas that emotions can intensify.
So, here are a few tips from me.
1. Keep talking, keep listening, keep supporting.
Just because it's Christmas does not mean we can't talk about emotions, problems, or negative subjects. It's still VERY important and might actually make someone's Christmas better, or even save a life.
2. Don't force yourself, or others, to have fun.
It's simple, if someone wants time to themselves and isn't in the mood to join in then leave them be. Yes, make sure they're okay, but don't force fun on people. It's okay to give yourself time away from everything and everyone, self-care is always important.
3. Anxiety is REAL and very serious.
Parties, social events, drinking, meals...you know how it is.
If you can't face it, you don't have to go and you don't have to justify it to anyone! Just talk as and/or when you feel like it.
4. They don't owe you a kiss or a cuddle.
Just going to keep this one simple really. If someone, no matter what age or gender, says NO to being cuddled or kissed...DON'T.DO.IT!!
5. "Aren't you going to eat that"? "Wow, you've eaten a lot haven't you"?
Stop commenting on people's eating habits! Some of you may be diagnosed with an eating disorder, some of you may have family members diagnosed with an eating disorder, many of us know people who have an eating disorder but we're still unaware of it.
Don't comment on eating habits, be supportive and compassionate and understand that having to sit down for meals, or be surrounded by food can create a lot of anxiety and triggers. Yes, food plays a big role in Christmas celebrations, but it shouldn't.
If you are diagnosed, whether in recovery or not, please look after yourself and talk to people if you need to. You're not alone.
6. "You're not drinking, you pregnant or something?"
Maybe they don't want a drink, or can't drink for other reasons. As previously mentioned, stop forcing things on people. If you are going to enjoy some drinks this holiday, I hope you take care of yourselves, look out for one another, and have fun!
Giving doesn't mean spending a load of money.
1. Presence over presents.
Receiving Christmas gifts is always fun and giving them feels great, but never let people make you feel like you have to buy them something. Sometimes just being there yourself can be the best gift for friends and family.
If you do want to spend/give there's always alternatives. Craft something, up-cycle, print photos, buy from charity shops or from small, local businesses.
2. Why not give to those in need?
Not everyone has the luxury of a being in a warm place, surrounded by family, eating large amounts of food. There are so many campaigns and charities looking for donations, be it money, food, toys, or even your time.
3. Adopt, don't shop.
Of course we can't forget the animals. Many shelters this time of year are asking for donations in the form of food, toys, bedding, etc, but most of all they're looking to re-home pets, and sadly there's still far too many of them needing homes. Please, PLEASE, consider adopting and not shopping.
4. What a waste!
We waste SO much food on a daily basis in this country but this time of year we tend to throw away even more because we buy much more. If you do find yourself with a lot of leftover and unwanted food, please consider donating it to food banks, or checking with supermarkets and local charities to see if they could use it. Ideally, try not to over do it on the food shops.
My Christmas message to you.
What I'm trying to say in a long winded way is, please try to be considerate this Christmas (& every day after that). It's not a case of not enjoying yourself, but simply being aware of yourself and of others and remembering that it's not always a wonderful time of year for many people.
I understand that this post may rub people up the wrong way, but it's simply my thoughts and advice, and things I hope people will consider.
I want to wish you all a safe Christmas and hope the new year brings you what you wish for. The new year doesn't have to be a happy one, I for one am never that fussed by it as I feel too pressured to be drunk and enjoying myself with a beaming smile.
This Christmas and New Year I will be grateful. Grateful for everything from 2018, grateful for seeing my life slowly start to come together again. Grateful for my amazing family, friends, boyfriend and all that I am lucky enough to have.
As always I am happy to listen and support anyone who needs to reach ouch.
Take care of yourselves and each other.