How I cope with Christmas
I like Christmas, but the whole period can be very overwhelming and stressful for me, so I have to be careful about how I spend my time, protect my boundaries and self care.
These things below help me cope, so maybe they might be helpful to you too.
Have a buddy
When things get stressful I tend to cut myself off, however this can make me feel very isolated, especially at this time of year. Connecting with people on my terms helps me to feel less lonely. I have a friend who also finds Christmas day overwhelming, and we stay in contact on the day itself and call each other if we need support. It also helps to have my dog close by too!
Spend time meaningfully
I like to clear out my stuff at Christmas and give lots away to charities. Not only does this feel good for me, it does good for the local community too. Doing things like this gives me a sense of purpose and feels uplifting. My friend volunteers on Christmas day, as well as enjoying this he says it gives him a good reason not to be at a tense family dinner.
Confront the tough stuff
This year will be the first Christmas without my Grandma, and I’m feeling a lot of conflicted emotion and pain. Me and my brothers have found it helpful to talk a lot about her and our happy memories. We’ve also decided to start a new tradition; we’re going to light lanterns to release into the sky on Christmas and keep her in our celebrations.
Take a break
When I feel myself getting increasingly stressed, I take time out. Last year on Christmas day, I felt myself getting panicked and overwhelmed, so I had a bath and watched the Simpsons. That hour to myself helped me feel calmer. This year I have also let my Mum know I might need to take a break, so if I am in need she won’t create a fuss and I won’t need to explain. I also try to plan ahead, to schedule in time for me!
I also think about an escape plan for stressful situations. I can find parties quite anxiety provoking, but it makes it easier to go to events, knowing I have a get out plan for when I’ve had enough.
Avoid self destruction
I do get tempted to binge eat or drink when I’m struggling to cope, but this only gets more difficult when I don’t give my body the right nutrients. I can also get sucked into social media, torturing myself by looking at other people’s ‘ideal lives’, which is really damaging for how I feel. I try to limit the booze, actually eat my sprouts, log out of social media and get outdoors when I can.
It’s okay to say no
I feel extremely obliged to please everyone and do everything, especially at Christmas, so saying ‘no’ can be very difficult. I set limitations for myself and I’m strict to stick to them, even having a little script to help me stay on track. I need to ensure my self-care needs are being met, sleep is a big one for me. It’s important to look after my own wellbeing, I don’t need to feel guilty about this, I can’t give from an empty well!
Do things I enjoy
For me, Christmas Day is largely out of my control, but I make Christmas Eve or Boxing Day my own to do whatever I please, whether this is chilling out at home or seeing friends.
Be honest with myself
I love my family, but sometimes spending time with them can be very stressful for me, particularly Christmas. It took me a while to realise this, but now I am able to manage my expectations better and find ways to cope.
Get help if I need it
I know I don’t need to wait for things to get really bad for me to reach out. In the past I have found the support of Dial House and Connect really helpful. I’ve also checked the times my key workers and mental health services are open / closed so I won’t be left hanging if in need.
Hang in there – I try to remind myself that Christmas doesn’t last for ever, so for now I try to find enjoyment where I can, reassuring myself that things will settle down again soon.
Other things I’ve found useful
- Coping with Christmas and bereavement – https://www.cruse.org.uk/about-grief/christmas
- Understanding why Christmas might be difficult for you and your family – http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/hi/find_out/guides/misc/coping_with_christmas/newsid_3344000/3344499.stm
- Learn about Caitlyn’s struggle at Christmas and how she copes – https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/coping-with-christmas/
- Some tips on looking after yourself, including relaxation – https://www.mindmate.org.uk/im-a-young-person/top-tips-on-feeling-good/
- Help with who to talk to, and how – https://www.mindmate.org.uk/im-a-young-person/top-tips-on-feeling-good/starting-conversations/