Ho, ho, ho! It’s Christmas time, a time to be ‘jolly’. But what if you’re not?
Do you beat yourself up for it? I know I used to! Especially when other people ask you why you’re not all merry and when they expect you to be. But guess what, mental illness doesn’t take a break for Christmas holidays or any holidays for that matter. If you or others around you expect you to be more jolly, unfortunately, that can have the opposite effect on your mental health.
I wrote myself a little survival guide for this time, things that I need to remember to do, to keep myself sane through this period. It’s personal to me, however, it might help you or give you some ideas what you could do to make this time a little bit easier.
- Eat healthier, In the past months, I’ve got myself a little bit in a bad cycle of not bothering with ‘proper’ good food, being too lazy to cook, getting more takeaways, then feeling more sluggish and tired because I’ve not eaten well. There are a lot more studies out there now that show the brain-gut connection. So, no wonder when you eat something ‘bad’ it can leave you feeling sluggish for hours or even days after you’ve eaten it! Also, our immune system needs so much more nutrients in the cold weather. It’s so important to listen to your body and notice how you feel after eating and eat more of what makes you feel good and fuels your mind & body!
- Get up early (ideally about an hour before sunrise), This is something I’ve been trying really hard to do! As the days are still so short, I do try to get the most I can from the daylight. And as it gets dark so early I don’t feel like I am as productive as I was in summer, that’s why I try to get all the important things done in the morning/ afternoon. Though believe me, I know how hard it is to actually get myself out of the bed in the dark, cold mornings, BUT it’s SO WORTH it (I tell myself)!
- Breathing exercises, meditation, One of the most important things I’ve learned this year is how extremely important good breathing is! For someone who used to have extremely intense panic attacks AT LEAST once a day, to barely having any (at least when I don’t challenge myself too much, I used to get them every day even if I was just at home not doing much, though) now I am able to get grounded so much quicker and even prevent one from happening. A lot of that is thanks to my breathing/meditation practice. It definitely takes time and regular practice, I’m not always great at it, my mind still wanders off, but that’s okay. Every day is different, and each time you do breathing/meditation your experience will be different. I will leave you with some great resources now: Kelly, she’s my wonderful friend and a yoga teacher, she has taught me SO MUCH. She’s been my guide, my angel and she continue to inspire me every single day. You can find her on YouTube channel where she has simple breathing exercise and gentle yoga videos & she also does Facebook Live and will be doing breathing exercises leading up to Christmas and on Christmas day! Definitely, go and check her out. I also recommend the app Calm to everyone too, which is great for mindfulness and guided meditation.
- Move your body, For me, that’s doing yoga daily and when I want to challenge my body more I put Yoga with Adriene on. She’s actually great for anyone, whether you’ve never done yoga before or you’ve been doing yoga for years, she has videos for you! Sometimes I do have days, weeks where I prefer a softer, more gentle practise. But I still need to let my energy out somehow, so I usually dance or do some HIIT workouts. Moving my body really helps, it releases stress hormones and for me when I don’t get it out by exercising, it would usually come out as a big panic attack. So it’s extremely important to release that energy in a healthy way.
- Spend time outside, Another one that I struggle quite a bit with at this time of year. It’s much more appealing to stay inside, snuggle up in a big jumper and under a blanket, but unfortunately, that’s not how the magic happens (not for me anyway). Every time I force myself to get out, even just for a few minutes, it leaves me feeling so much calmer, refreshed and just better overall. Fresh air can do wonders!
- Have a nice, chilled evening routine, This one is something I’ve been trying to focus on more recently. I’ve never really been great with night routines. Especially when I can go a whole day feeling so tired and start feeling more alive in the evening, which can be good sometimes, but I’ve had so many late nights because I get myself so pumped up after replying to one email, then another, then working on something else and so on.. So the plan for this is not to do anything too ‘important’ after 6 pm. And then switch offline about 8 pm (or mostly offline). This is especially important for me to get the early mornings. The more chilled, earlier night I can get, the more chance for me to actually get up early and not be too tired the next day.
- Being offline, I had to mention this one of course! On my twitter, I’ve said countless times how switching off really helps me. I’ve tried doing offline weekends which were great but usually would mean that I’d overdo on the internet on the weekdays and I’d really look forward to the offline weekends. However, that hasn’t necessary made things better. It’s that concept of balance.. which still proves to be challenging. But that also made me realise that I actually do need to take more, proper time offline. Online world really is amazing, most people are wonderful, and there are countless opportunities, but as the blog and all my social media have been growing so has a number of emails I get, the amount of people I try to help, and of course the amount of mean things and not so nice people. All those things together can make me forgot that I am also still in recovery myself. This year has been extremely challenging, and I’ve grown so much during all those challenges, but I still need time to heal. Believe me, I would much rather look after and take care of everyone else. But I have some wonderful people around me who remind me that I too need to take care of myself (Ahhh, every time I write something like this it makes me cringe, taking care of yourself can be really damn hard!). AND LASTLY,
- Be kind to yourself, Listen to yourself to your body, find what works for you, allow yourself to feel whatever you feel. It’s okay not to be okay. If you don’t feel all happy and excited for Christmas or New Year, that’s absolutely okay, because whatever you’re feeling it’s valid! Allow yourself to feel it. But, also don’t forget to look after yourself and have fun!
I feel like each year, the Christmassy feeling is more and more non-existent for me and it used to really bother me because I thought I HAD to feel like that. But I don’t. I really, really don’t feel Christmassy, and that’s OKAY. Thinking of it as, it’s just another day, apart from spending more time gathered around food and giving/opening presents, pretty normal day really, eh?
I hope this was even a little bit helpful for you, let me know what helps you to get through Christmas time!
I wish you all a magical Christmas!
Lots of love,
P.S We have been nominated for the UK Blog Awards!!! Last year we won highly commended. This year the MH Stories team has expanded and we are now in the company entrants!