‘its the most wonderful time of the year’
Sadly, this isn’t the case for everyone. And I would hazard a guess that it isn’t the most wonderful time, all the time, for anyone.
I posted on Instagram on Sunday about having an anxiety attack, a mini meltdown where I couldn’t cope and went very weird. I got angry, sad, worried, overwhelmed, scared, irritated… and eventually took myself out for a 7 mile run to clear my head and relax my body.
I was sent a lot of lovely comments, and a number of messages from followers saying that they too find Christmas a very stressful/anxiety inducing time of year. We’re expected to go out to Christmas parties, eat in excess, buy all the things for our loved ones and partake in festivities from the 1st December to 1st January. It’s all over social media, TV, magazines, shops, radio, Youtube etc of what our ‘holidays’ should be like, but very rarely does the reality meet these expectations. For those who have moved to a new place and haven’t developed a group of friends, who can’t afford to buy gifts, or those for whom a Christmas party is just all too much, mentally or physically.
Last night, I was thrilled to be asked to take part in a Women’s Mental Health talk at UN1T in Fulham. I spoke about my experience with anxiety, and the fact that it’s OK not to be OK. The other girls talked about their eating disorders, struggles with OCD and depression. It was eye opening, heart warming and thought provoking.
Growing up, I wanted to love Christmas. And I did.
However, growing up just my Mum and I, around Christmas time I was painfully aware that I didn’t have this big happy family around me. No siblings to open presents with, no Dad in the picture. I feel so lucky that my Mum has always done everything she can to make my life amazing, and we have spent many years with my extended family; cousins, aunts and uncles and grandparents to fill that void. But it isn’t quite the same and I always felt that there was something missing.
I’ll also admit to being a brat in the past about presents, and experiencing extreme jealousy of what my friends were getting vs what I was getting. Looking back, I can’t believe some of the things that I was given, let alone what my richer friends received… what 13 year old needs a Burberry scarf? There is so much consumerism around this holiday and worryingly it only seems to get more every year.
I have set such high expectations of Christmas, and how happy I should be around ‘silly season’, but the reality was I went into my overdraft trying to buy the perfect gift or outfit, had a hangover most days (including Christmas Day one year) and was consistently in a state of anxiety and stress.
When my Mum, step-dad and I went to the Magic Lantern festival at Chiswick House on Wednesday, I’d had a big row with my step-dad so we weren’t talking, and then discovered that the festival was a rather tacky disappointment…we had to laugh. You don’t see those moments on blogs and instagrams, the pictures are always perfect, their phone batteries haven’t died and they don’t get told that their hot chocolate order without marshmallows is boring!
So this year, I’m lowering my expectations, and focusing on the positives. Holding my friends and family close and looking forward to my first Christmas as a Farrant with Tom’s family.
Here’s a few reminders;
You don’t have to enjoy in excess – I have been thinking a lot recently about my alcohol habits, I say that I don’t drink that much but I’ve drunk a fair amount (and felt awful the following day) recently. I think there is still a stigma around drinking for both those that drink and those that don’t drink. I feel a lot of anxiety around it, and often feel judged by my choices either way. I know that drinking is not only a migraine trigger but doesn’t make me feel great mentally the day after. I am trying to focus on only drinking a happy amount, 1-2 to enjoy a drink but not enough to make me feel out of control or crappy the following day.
Similarly, we don’t have to eat all the things. You do not have to stuff yourself, or eat until you feel sick. Try a little of everything, a slice of Chrimbo cake (if you like them), a bit of my Skinny Yule log, canapés etc. And if you do overindulge, don’t feel guilty!
Presence over presents – We wrote this on our wedding invitations, and I feel like it should be written in Christmas cards too. I’d far rather catch up with someone over coffee (and cake!) than get a gift. Give your friend a call, spend some time chatting with your neighbour or postman. Reach
If you don’t want to go to the party, you don’t have to. In the past I’ve tried to go to every party, every gathering, every night out because I would be worried that if I didn’t go to that one night, I would be forgotten about. That I wouldn’t be invited to the next party or people would think I was boring. Nowadays, I love to go to party (most of the time) but I’m a fan of an arrive early, leave early approach. And if you don’t want to go, unless it’s your Granny’s 90th, then you do not have to go…. Your true friends aren’t going to forget about you or mind if a party isn’t your thing.
Be nice to yourself – this Christmas, give yourself a break. Stop being so hard on yourself, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have the perfect gifts for your family, or if the turkey is wonderfully moist. It’s about so much more than that. Plan something you enjoy; have a bath, make a cup of tea and put your feet up or go for a walk.
Have a think about those around you, or those that might find this time of year tough. Those that have lost loved ones, those who suffer from health problems (mental and physical), those in financial struggle, or that don’t have family around them. Christmas is about being together, however for some it can be the worst time of year.
I read this heart wrenching post by Pinch of Yum – A Holiday Survival Guide for Sad People , maybe you or someone you know will find this helpful.
Please know that however you’re feeling this Christmas time, it is Ok to feel that way. You are not alone and as my Mum reminds me ‘this too shall pass’. Sending so much love out there, as I sit on my sofa on a Friday evening with candles burning, giving myself permission not to go to the party, and to enjoy some alone time after a hectic week.