The festive season is often celebrated as a time of joy, spent with loved ones, yet it can equally be a challenging and isolating period. Amidst the holidays, the expectation to project happiness can become daunting, particularly for those grappling with mental health challenges and emotional struggles. Christmas, in particular, can present a variety of additional stressors—from travel demands and indulgent feasts to heightened alcohol consumption, familial tensions, financial strains, and an increase in household responsibilities.
During my upbringing, Christmas represented a period marked by disappointment, loss, and conflict. However, I've reached a stage in my healing journey where it now starting to symbolise happiness and warmth. I share this reflection because, if you're dealing with grief (in all its wonderful forms), during the festive season, know that you're not alone, and things can change and improve. I won't promise perpetual bliss, as healing is a complex journey with its ups and downs, but I stand as living proof that feelings and experiences can evolve over time.
Several years ago, amid the depths of my grieving process, I wrote a blog on protceting your mental health during the festive season. I've revamped and updated it to align with the current context. If you're a sensitive soul like me, seeking a bit of assistance to navigate this time while staying true to yourself, I invite you to give it a read below. Here are some tips...
Accept your feelings: If you find yourself separated from loved ones or dealing with loss, acknowledge and honour your feelings. Give yourself the space to grieve, and consider discussing your emotions with a friend, family member, or a professional. Remember that there is no ‘right’ way to feel. It is not uncommon to feel angry/upset or disappointed around this time of year. All emotions are a sign you are human and reflect where you are in your healing process.
Be gentle with others: Release the pressure of unrealistic Christmas expectations that can inadvertently extend to others. If someone didn't send a Christmas card, refrain from assuming they don't care. People might be contending with overwhelming schedules, financial constraints, or simply choosing to diverge from traditions. During this potentially stressful time, extend compassion and kindness, understanding that everyone has their battles. Responding with empathy not only takes the high road but also diminishes long-term stress.
Allocate Time for Yourself: Dedicate a day or half a day solely to your well-being. Reflect on what genuinely brings you joy—whether it's preparing a meal, taking a leisurely walk, or enjoying brunch. Recognise that you are the most important person in your life, and prioritise activities that bring happiness. Your obligations can wait; self-care is paramount.
Learn to Say 'No': Learn to decline commitments when necessary, preventing resentment and overwhelm. Cultivate the skill of saying 'no' gracefully with responses like, "I wish I could, but..." or "I'm fully booked for new projects right now." If declining is not possible, consider reallocating time by removing other commitments. Keep phrases like "Let me get back to you on that" or "I'll check my diary and let you know" handy for unexpected requests.
Prioritise Physical Activity: Amidst a busy schedule, do not neglect the importance of exercise for both physical and mental well-being. Whether it's a brief five-minute routine or a more extended session, make movement a non-negotiable part of your routine. I've got some festive classes online coming up - schedule it in your diary as a visual reminder.
Navigate Family Gatherings Smoothly: Minimise potential conflicts by setting boundaries and diplomatically disengaging from triggering conversations. Politely decline involvement in discussions that drain your energy, redirecting the conversation to more neutral topics. Maintaining a sense of autonomy over your choices and personal information contributes to a more enjoyable holiday experience.
Focus on Meaningful Moments: Shift the focus from material aspects of Christmas to meaningful experiences. Accept imperfections, realising that there's no such thing as a perfect Christmas or family. Embrace the joy of the present, take each moment as it comes and relax. Before you know it, a new year will dawn.
As many of you are aware, I'm not one for toxic positivity. So, here's a sincere wish for a neutral Christmas. May your holiday be a time of balance, where you can simply savor the moment without overwhelming expectations. Take a breather, relax, and enjoy the essence of the season.
Lots of love,