Christmas is a time when it’s easy to think that everyone else is having a picture perfect Christmas and it’s just us who have challenges. It seems there are these happy families having a wonderful time and this is all reinforced by the world of social media.
This isn’t true. Every family has its challenges and no Christmas is perfect, so let’s remove that pressure straight away.
If you are supporting someone with a Mental Health Illness, Christmas can be even more challenging and dreaded by many. If you’re living with some one with Depression or Anxiety the whole process can feel overwhelming, stressful and frankly exhausting.
We would like to help you get through so here are our top tips.
- Turn off Social Media! It’s not real. People only post what they want you to see and believe, its not their truth.
- Feel your Emotions. Emotions are compounded and felt more deeply at Christmas time. Allow yourself to have them. Don’t ignore them. If you want to cry then go and cry, let yourself recognise how you are feeling and move through it. Supressing how you feel will likely create a perfect storm as we always layer Christmas stress on top.
- It’s not you. If you are living with someone who has a mental illness it’s very likely that they will struggle to get into the Christmas Spirit. Remember that this isn’t deliberate on their part and be kind to yourself, it’s not you and it’s not your family.
- Set boundaries. If you have guests in your home, then set the boundaries. Sometimes this is tough to do but if everyone knows what is expected of them then things can flow more easily. For example, if you want people to help themselves in the kitchen, tell them, or if you prefer that is your domain then share that they need to ask you for a cuppa.
- Find your Christmas. We all grow up with how our families do Christmas. If you are now in a family of your own, find your own Christmas. We can change Christmas to what works for our families and mix things up a bit. When parents or siblings come to stay introduce them to the way you do it in your home.
- What says “Christmas” to you? A friend told me this tip and I love it. Ask everyone who is with you over the Christmas period “what says Christmas to you”. For some it might be watching the Queens speech, for others it might be cold turkey. Find out and try and accommodate 1 or 2 things from each person.
Be careful though, don’t let this rule your day or stop you from finding your own Christmas. Your Christmas is the underlying theme here, it’s just about incorporating a few simple things from everyone, so they feel they have had their Christmas. It’s all about compromise.
- Get some space. Let’s face it, Christmas can be crowded, especially if you have people staying for a few days. This can be challenging at the best of times, however if you add to this the needs of someone with a Mental Illness this can be even harder. It’s okay to get some space, to take yourself to a quiet room to recharge. After all it’s only by taking care of ourselves can we take care of those we love.
- Take a group walk. Getting outside and brushing away the cobwebs is a great way to recharge everyone. For many the feeling of the outdoors, the fresh air, exercise and not being surrounded by 4 walls is an instant mood shifter.
- Plan ahead. Take the stress out by planning what you will be doing and when. What food you will be cooking, and when key things will happen. This will allow you to relax and enjoy the rest of the day without wondering whether the potatoes should be going in the oven.
- Be true to yours. Our family changes and evolves as we grow. When we were kids our family was our parents. When we grew up we may have married or made a commitment to a life partner and family became them, then we may have had children of our own.
A very wise person once said to me “your family is your husband and son”, they are the ones who you need to focus on. They are your family unit; it is their needs you need to put before the rest of the family.
Be true to yours, it’s okay to be.
From all of us at The RockPool we hope you find some joy during the Christmas Season and remember our community is here for you in those moments of struggle. Be kind to yourself, Christmas is about love, remember to love yourself too!