Your Festive Survival Guide

During the season to be jolly, but there’s also a huge amount of pressure around being happy. The advertisements show people beaming, social media exclaims how many ‘sleeps’ are left until the 25th and every time you turn on the radio you’re greeted with merry festive songs.

But if, like me, you suffer from anxiety and depression, or if you’ve just had a particularly tough time of it in 2016, the pressure to enjoy yourself can be really difficult to get through.

At a time of ‘coming together’, it’s strange to feel like you don’t want to be around anyone. The idea of togetherness and the concept that at Christmas everything should be perfect (I blame Richard Curtis and Love Actually, wholly), actually means that those who aren’t approaching the 25th with the energy of a six-year-old full of ‘Christmas spirit’, end up feeling isolated, numb and often cold-hearted in comparison with others.

Getting out more might be better

Forcing yourself out of your comfort zone and spending time with friends and family might seem like the last thing that you want to do, but it could be the most effective way to boost your mood. Even something as small as going for a coffee one afternoon could help.

When you’re suffering from depression or anxiety, staying where things are ‘safe’ and comfortable can often make things worse and can amplify the feeling of isolation and increase the tendency to overthink.

Not only does the physical experience of going out encourage mindful thoughts and increase endorphin levels, but social interaction can boost your self-esteem and confidence which in turn can mean you experience fewer symptoms of low mood.

If it all gets too much, plan an escape route; somewhere you can go and escape the hustle and bustle of the kitchen. Go for a walk (too many pigs-in-blankets is a good excuse!) or take a lie down upstairs for some time out. Knowing you have a way out can make things easier to get through.

Don’t believe the hype

Although the image of the ‘perfect Christmas’ seems to be relentless, it is important to remember the following when you find yourself comparing your Christmas to someone else’s; TV Christmases’ are not real, people are only sharing the best moments on social media and everyone has stuff going on behind-the-scenes too.

Even though year on year, corporations will try to convince us otherwise, there’s no such thing as the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Do what you want, eat what you want and see who you want to. You can always plan something for after Christmas in order to get through it, whether it’s something big or small.

Be honest

One of the worst things you can do is try and hide how you’re feeling by slapping a smile on your face. If you feel like you need it – ask for help and be honest with others if you’re finding things overwhelming or if you simply just don’t feel like you want to get involved.

Prioritise your needs; it’s totally okay to say ‘No’. Remember, this is your holiday too. Try to let go of any stresses, pamper yourself, practice self-care, maybe book in something to look forward to and concentrate on some of the elements of Christmas you don’t get at other times of the year, like being with those you love, the homely cosiness you get with a Christmas tree and everything mulled-wine-scented.

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