Another festive season has crept upon us and for many it is a time of fun, laughter and merriment. One of the traditions we have in my family is to decorate a real Christmas tree. I grew up in rural England and the smell of the Norway spruce Christmas tree is etched in my memory and when my kids were young, I decided that this was a tradition I wanted my children to experience too.
As my daughter and I were putting the lights in-between the branches of our tree this year she reflected, “Christmas is my favourite time of year Mum, even more so than my birthday.” I asked her why and her response was “because everyone gets to celebrate and have fun together, it is not just about one person.” Of course, I loved hearing this and knowing that this is my daughter’s experience of Christmas.
On the flip side though this notion of collective celebration can be potentially challenging for some people, because if you are not feeling happy or merry then this collective jollity can be quite unsettling. It can intensify thoughts of ‘what is wrong with me?’ or ‘why can’t I be happy like everyone else?’ There can be a heightened sense of felt difference that can make this time of year particularly hard for some people. Also, for those who struggle with food, body image, drugs, alcohol and other addictions this time of year can become a minefield of potentially risky situations.
This is also a time of year that encourages reflection and introspection. As a result, we tend to be more aware of what and who we do or do not have, what we have and have not achieved, which can increase feelings of loss, financial and social anxiety and the pressure to be invited to lots of events.
Here are my top three tips to help maintain good mind health this Christmas Season:
Although not everyone likes planning, it is a great way of creating a routine that works for you. This can help you feel safe and contained if you find this time of year stressful.
If your thoughts and feeling become unhelpful or unhealthy during certain festive events then we often don’t make the best decisions for ourselves in these moments, but having a plan helps you manage these tricky times. Having a plan also allows you to focus on how to best support yourself at times you know to be hard.
Consider what type of connection is healthy for you.
Consider what type of connection is healthy for you – If you are an extrovert by nature then the parties and socialising at this time of year may suit you well. On the other hand, if you are an introvert by nature then you may choose to go to fewer parties and meet up with one or two people in less party focused settings.
A simple guide to the difference is an extrovert recharges in social settings, whereas an introvert recharges in their own company. Remember we are hard wired to connect so even if you find this time of year hard, try and find meaningful ways to connect with others.
“What is the kindest, most loving thing I can do for myself in this moment?”
A go to phrase that many of the people I work with learn to use. I encourage you to place a hand over your heart when you say this phrase and to use it in times of stress/anxiety/scared/know-you-are-in-a-risky-situation – Sometimes we just need to pause and take a moment to work out what we need to do in any given moment and this is a beautiful way of practising self-care and self-compassion.