For me, as much as I hate to say it, I need a routine. A steady routine keeps me in check. Otherwise, my mental health often goes haywire. For that alone, I find the festive season quite challenging mentally.
It turns out I’m not alone. Mind, the global mental health awareness charity, found that more than a third of people with mental health problems self-harmed to cope with Christmas. There’s the added stress, anxiety, financial strains and increased feeling of loneliness. 41% of people surveyed by Mind in 2015, reported going into depth during Christmas, 81% find Christmas stressful and nearly 60% experience panic attacks. What’s most disturbing is 83% find themselves feeling lonely. Another study found a 40% increase in suicides just after Christmas. While during Christmas in December suicide rates dip, there has been a spike in January year after year. Sadly, another study published in 2016 found that New Year’s Day is the day with the highest suicide rate of 17.6 per day.
On top of all that as someone having battled an array of eating disorders, Christmas is particularly difficult for me as much of is centred around food. NIWE has put together some helpful tips for those struggling this year. I found these three particularly beneficial:
- Go outside – it is tempting to ‘hibernate’, but getting outdoors even for a short while can help.
- Feel free to turn down invites but structure your day around things you enjoy.
- Imagine you’re your best friend. If you were, what would you tell yourself right now? Look in the mirror and say it.
Due to all these reasons, I’ve chosen this year to spend Christmas a little bit differently.
I will be on my own.
While at first instinct it sounds sad, it’s a calculated decision. I’ve been struggling lately with my depression and eating disorders and also coming to terms with other things happening in my family. I’ve decided that Christmas is the perfect time for me to get my head in order. While I intend to enjoy some festivities fully, I will be waking up on December 25th, treating it like any other day – I will do some work, work out, meditate, get myself out of the house to get some air and have a lovely dinner. Nothing more and nothing less – a pressure-free day, no expectations, no complications.
Gloves are coming off for New Years, though. I intend to paaaaarteyyy my worries away.
If you have a family member or partner struggling with depression this Christmas, please treat them with kindness. Mental Health Matters has an excellent resource for understanding your partner better; you can view it here.
If you’re struggling this festive period, I urge you to seek help.
Samaritans are always here when needed:
phone (free call) 116 123, text: 07725 90 90 90
Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year.
Stay safe and kind – I believe a little bit of kindness can save the world!