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Tips For Coping With Christmas
Posted by Belle
13th Dec 2018

I understand myself how difficult Christmas can be when living with mental illness. There is the pressure of ‘painting on a happy face’, even when the black dog is smothering you, and having to socialise, despite wanting to hide beneath your quilt and shut the world away.

I can honestly say that I am, in a sense, dreading Christmas this year, due to the fluctuations in my mood, and an increase in anxiety. I know that I will be away from my home, my safe haven, for two nights, and that alone terrifies me. I know my brother, I know his home, but it isn’t mine, I won’t be sleeping in my own bed – it’s taking me well out of my comfort zone.

However, Christmas is coming, so I have compiled a list of coping mechanisms to make the festive season as smooth as possible.

Sleep – We all know the benefits of sleep, especially when living with chronic illness, both mental and physical. When I have to nap I have to nap, despite how many times I’m told to stay awake during the day because I won’t sleep at night. When anxiety is kicking your butt and you’re detached to the high heavens, your mind and body need the chance to recharge, and it’s best to listen to them both.

Reach out – I, myself, know how useless the crisis team can be, believe me. However, there are many other sources of support, including Sane, Mind, The Samaritans, Papyrus, The Sanctuary, and then, of course, A&E. There are also your loved ones there to lean on, whether that be friends or family. While I understand that there is the fear of, in a sense, ruining the festive spirit by sharing our feelings, in the long run, it may prevent us from reaching the point of crisis.

Christmas movies – Christmas is here, it’s happening, so why not get in the spirit and watch a few festive movies? A few of my favourites are: The Grinch, The Santa Clause 1, 2 and 3, Home Alone 2, Home Alone 4 (It’s that bad it’s good), The Holiday, and Mrs. Miracle (1 and 2). I’m sure you can think up a better list than I currently can, but I am writing this post off 2 hours sleep so I’m ready for a nap.

Christmas tunes – I don’t care what anyone says, you can’t beat a good bop around your kitchen, and it’s even better doing so while listening to All I Want For Christmas. My inability to sing will never stop me from aiming for those high notes, hitting them is a totally different story.

Decorating the tree and your home – I tried my hardest to postpone doing mine this year, but my brother was relentless, so I caved in on the 2nd and put my decorations up. My inner child was in her element as I was surrounded by a sea of glitter, tinsel, and bright colours. Whether you do it now or even on Christmas Eve, alone or with loved ones, try and give it a go, with music playing in the background – it will help.

Don’t be hard on yourself– If you have to cancel plans, then you have to cancel them, never let anyone make you feel guilty for putting your own mental health first. All I can suggest is that you don’t make plans that you know won’t be feasible, like I know that, as much as I would have loved to visit the Christmas markets, anxiety would have made it impossible. If it comes to Christmas day and you need a break away from the chaos, don’t apologise, simply explain how you’re feeling and take yourself off to your room for an hour or so, not the whole day, though.

And finally, Christmas comes but once a year, so try to enjoy it, and look forward to the new year ahead, a chance to start over.

Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year. X

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