Mental Health in the Festive Season

 Guest Contributor: Emma Furnival

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or so everyone seems so keen on telling me. What’s not to love about Christmas; the parties, the presents, the food (oh my goodness, the FOOD) and just the general feeling of magic, happiness, coziness, and being with the ones you love. I adore it. Well, that’s the case most of the time anyway. Because the truth is, while Christmas does bring lovely, happy moments, it’s also one of the most difficult times of the year for many.

From being a child, although I have always loved Christmas, I’ve always found it to be a bit, well, “much”. There is so much demand to “HAVE A BRILLIANT TIME, OR ELSE!!!”, that it becomes very overwhelming. I find that I become very worried about giving off any indication that I might not be feeling particularly wonderful at any time, for fear of upsetting other people, or ruining “their” Christmas.

The UK mental health charity Mind say the apparent “duty” to socialize with friends and family, as well as pressure to spend lots of money are just a couple of the reasons people struggle around Christmas time. On top of this, the temptation to go too crazy with the festive treats, and not getting enough sleep in amongst all the festive excitement can also make us feel pretty rubbish. 

Another factor that has come into play in more recent years is the rise of good old Social Media. While it can be a really useful tool in getting in touch with, and arranging get-togethers with friends and family who you haven’t seen all year, it can also have it’s negative side. Feeling like you’re watching everyone else around you having “The Best Time Ever” can lead to crippling feelings of isolation and Fear Of Missing Out (when really, you’re just seeing a minor, carefully selected snapshot of someone’s life).

   So, how do we tackle all this? I chatted to some friends to find out their different coping strategies, and wanted to share them with you;

  • Pace yourself. Don’t do anything because you’re “expected” to. Have quiet, alone time.
  • Off the back of that, set realistic expectations of yourself. Give yourself permission to take some “quiet time” if you need to.
  • Make sure people around you are aware that you’re struggling. Agree that you can retreat sometimes.
  • Limit social media time to avoid FOMO. Say no to anything that’s going to put you in an anxious situation.
  • Keep taking one day at a time.
   Christmas is a rough time to feel low, so make sure you have a healthy outlet for your feelings. This could be talking to a trusted friend or family member, or just writing it down to “get it all out”. Finally, don’t feel bad if the festive season makes you feel overwhelmed. After all, Christmas is meant to be a time for sharing and looking after people – don’t worry about letting yourself be looked after. Merry Christmas!