“Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year,” the saying goes. Or is it? For many it is actually a hugely stressful time even in the best of years. This can be especially so for people struggling with their mental health.
Whatever your situation Christmas can be a really strange time of year. There is often an expectation that everything will be perfect and that all those problems that are around during the rest of the year will magically disappear. This quest for perfection for one specific day can be so overwhelming that it can ultimately make Christmas a daunting and scary time of year. For people struggling with their mental health or grieving on top of this, this time of year can seem almost impossible to get through.
This quest for perfection for one specific day can be so overwhelming that it can ultimately make Christmas a daunting and scary time of year.
Changing my Christmas mindset
For years I stressed that I needed to make Christmas perfect - that I needed to enjoy every moment and be blissfully happy 24/7. I thought I needed to look perfect in every picture and embrace every second. I thought that because it was Christmas all my problems should be gone and, if they weren’t, I was a bad person who was ruining it for everybody else. I love Christmas - to be honest, it’s my favourite time of year - but my mental health issues made me lose my spark and love for the season by making me feel I had to have this picture-perfect time.
For most of us, we will not be having a standard or normal Christmas this year. For many this will add even more stress to an already stressful time. But the important thing to remember is that there is no such thing as a perfect Christmas. For many, just surviving the festive period is a success. And if that’s you, you should be so proud of yourself.
For many, just surviving the festive period is a success. And if that’s you, you should be so proud of yourself.
Not everyone is a ‘Christmas person’ and that is okay; hating Christmas does not make you a ‘bad’ person, but it may be worth thinking about why you hate it. For a while I thought I didn’t like Christmas but I realise now that it wasn’t Christmas that I hated – it was my expectations of Christmas. In reality, there’s no right way to spend the day.
What Christmas means to me
I think I have worked out what Christmas means for me, and that has helped me focus on the parts that matter to me. I’ve realised that part of what I love about Christmas is the security of being with my family and having uninterrupted time with those I love. The other parts don’t matter as much.
I have also come to accept that there are parts of the holiday that I don’t like and I try to not worry about those, because there is no such thing as a ‘perfect’ Christmas – and that’s okay. Accepting that life still goes on with all its ups and downs and that that is okay means I can accept when things go wrong or aren’t perfect and I can be kind to myself.
Life isn’t perfect, so why does Christmas have to be?
Focus on the present (not the presents!)
At Christmas I try to follow the same path I tread the rest of the year – focussing on the here and now, trying not to worry about tomorrow and letting go of the past and being willing to move on. Life isn’t perfect, so why does Christmas have to be?
I, like many others, am learning every day to cope with my mental health difficulties by focussing on today, looking for the positives, trying to be kind to myself and accepting that I am enough in all senses of the word. I think this experience means that I, and other people in my position, are in a stronger position to cope this ‘Covid Christmas’ than those who haven’t had the same difficulties. We know from trying to manage in our everyday life what is important to us. We also know that life can’t be controlled, and to cope you have to accept things as they are and adjust.
I am learning every day to cope with my mental health difficulties by focussing on today, looking for the positives, trying to be kind to myself and accepting that I am enough in all senses of the word.
I am not saying that any of this is easy, and I still don’t get it right all the time, but I now feel more equipped to enjoy this ‘wonderful time of the year’ and I really hope you can get there too. Take care everyone and Merry Christmas!
Where to get help
If you are struggling with your mental health, you're not alone. For tips, advice and information on where you can get support with whatever you're going through, have a look at our find help page.