Sometimes Christmas is great – the break from studying or work is much needed and it is a great time to catch up with people. However, this season can be hard for some people. It sometimes doesn’t live up to the hype or our expectations. It can be knackering and then it leads to the January blues. So we thought we’d have a little rant about Christmas and give you some tips for coping with this season…
Rant number 1: Media perception of Christmas:
The media’s perception of Christmas has become ingrained: a conventionally attractive family, huddled happily on a sofa; a Christmas tree with gently glowing lights; smiles and ugly jumpers and carol singers warbling in the background. It’s as if the winter season is one of perfection.
These expectation of happiness-all-around can be a cause of stress, sending parents frantic over appearances, fearing each theoretical thing to criticise; but it doesn’t stop there. The media emphasises aspects of Christmas that can be toxic, especially to young people suffering negative metal health: from wealth to food to diet to culture to family. Especially family. This barrage of impossible standards can be difficult to deal with, causing guilt that you can’t meet perfection.
Considering the omnipresence of our media—and the culture surrounding Christmas—these issues cannot be cleared in a day, so you have to combat them by any way possible. Distracting yourself with the things that matter; having fun with friends; writing sarcastic articles pointing out the flaws…
Rant number 2: Family relationships:
Having poor family relationships is hard at any time of the year, but especially so at Christmas. The emphasis on spending time with your relatives can prove suffocating when they don’t act as relatives should. The younger you are, the more likely it is you will be forced to spend time with them, so it is important to develop techniques to get through it.
Resilience is something you will need to learn at this time of year, and it does not come naturally. The thoughts and opinions of your family members will often factor into conversations, and some may be less than pleasant to listen to; depending on your individual situation, this could lead to using resilience to correct ignorance—staying calm and collected, despite what you’re dealing with—or using resilience to stay silent. A family environment isn’t always a safe environment and in all situations, your safety—physical, mental and emotional—comes first.
With knowledge of the situations to come, it helps to plan things for you; even if they are small, they can be ways to offset the holiday stress. The occasional walk by yourself, listening to your favourite song, can be a relaxing way to get out of the house. Sometimes talking to a friend—over the internet, over the phone—can be a much-needed reminder of some of the good in the world. Venting is extremely cathartic.
Super tip – Challenge your ATS around these situations! What are ATs I hear, you say? Follow this link to find out…
Rant 3 – The need to keep up with an increase in social life.
At Christmas, your social life seems to increase quickly: friends want to meet to exchange gifts; parents and caregivers stress over perfecting their holidays; distant relatives arrive to celebrate with you.
This can easily prove too much. The rapidity of the increase can wear you out and this exhaustion can lead both to anxiety and lower moods: guilt over ‘lack of contribution’ and fear of seeming selfish, eagerness to please conflicting with being wholly drained.
The first thing to know here is that this is entirely normal. It is OK to get tired out, even after being with people you like; it doesn’t make you cruel, it doesn’t make you selfish or stupid, it is merely a sign that you deserve some time to yourself. Sometimes people need to recharge after intense periods of socialising, and that is OK.
The second thing to know here is your boundaries; how much you can take before the exhaustion entirely overtakes you. A way to enforce those boundaries is to allocate a day or two to yourself. This can be difficult to do during such a stressful time of year, but you must be firm and tell yourself that today, you are doing things only for you; and if you can’t do a day, do an hour. Any amount of time will help, even in the smallest way.
The last tip is, yes, the usual winter rise in your social life tires you out, naturally, but it is important not to let your exhaustion lead you in the wrong direction; it may feel easy to socialise less and less until you practically stop altogether, but there are consequences to this. Remember not to alienate yourself. A day or two of hiding is much needed but not seeing anyone for a week can make you feel alone.
Super tip – A warm shower or bath is like a warm hugs, and it has been said that they can release happy and calming chemicals in your brain. If you had a busy day jump in that shower and awwwww…… warm hug it out!
Rant number 4 – Severed family ties:
Occasionally, there will be people you have to cut out of your life and occasionally, you do; though this is rare when it comes to family members, it is especially painful. Their toxicity will have turned yourself against you, forcing you to believe that you were the one who did wrong, and in such a family-oriented season, this unremitting guilt can come back to haunt you.
But you are not at fault here; you need to tell yourself this over and over, to forgive yourself for the things you never did wrong. They were the bad influence, they were the one with harmful beliefs, they were the one at fault. There is always a reason for cutting someone out of your life and being certain of yours can be a way to combat your guilt.
Another way to combat your guilt is to reach out to the people around you. It’s important to have a support network of those who you can trust; those you can go to in your lower moments. I can never emphasise enough how cathartic venting is.
Super tip – Create a play list of song on you phone that is all about shaking out, ten song should do nicely. Then spend time listening to the next song and shake out that guilt, keep shaking all limbs right until the last song!
Rant number 5 – The low moods
Phew, it is exhausting managing low moods. For many people when the winter arrives, the day seems shorter, there the waking up the dark, going home in the dark, it is colder. All these things effect our mood. As well as this, there is people moaning about the winter all the time too, it can feel like a never ending doggy-paddle through depressive things!
But it does end – winter will end and during winter it is important to try and notice all the great things about winter. Like the excuse to wear all the baggy jumps you want, the reason to have duvet days and the excuse for more hot chocolate.
Super tip – The 20th Dec was the shortest day and longest night, meaning that it was the day there were the least amount of sunlight. That means that from now on, the days will get longer from here, sunlight will increase and the dark at night will shorten. Summer will arrive!
Rant number 6 Food and Christmas dinners:
Christmas emphasises family get-togethers, and these can traditionally happen over Christmas dinners; therefore, the season gives food an unnecessary prominence, which can lead to bringing up bad mindsets in relation to eating. This can be especially difficult for those in recovery.
Though coping strategies are completely individual, there are a few which could help lessen the tension of Christmas dinner; for instance, discussing the content of the meal beforehand with whoever makes it could prove helpful, because this avoids having to make on-the-spot decisions. It is also good to find a way to distract yourself from harmful thoughts during the meal by engaging in light conversation, however, as this is quite difficult, you could ask to put some music on while you eat. General background noise could be a helpful distraction.
If your family members are supportive, you could also acquire their aid; this may be difficult to do, but it will lessen the stress of dinner, even a little. You could ask if they could tell any other relatives to avoid weight or appearance related comments, and to avoid commenting on portion sizes; you could also ask to have someone you are closer to sit beside you, just as a source of support.
Super tip – At the end of the day, give yourself an unrelated reward. For example, dye your hair, or time out to write a song or a quiet walk or something else that is an act where you care for yourself.
Rant number 7: Diet culture and New Year:
Though this is less in relation to Christmas, it becomes increasingly relevant as the New Year approaches. Magazines, especially those aimed at women, love to capitalise on New Year’s Resolutions’, mostly those relating to weight or appearance; an unhealthy amount of content will be pumped onto the shelves about dieting tips, showcases Photoshopped models as their examples, and this too could prove triggering for someone in recovery.
Because of the unfortunate omnipresence of diet culture in the media—and the amount of magazines lining shop shelves—this sort of thing will be hard to avoid, so it’s important to develop your own coping mechanism when you see something like this. Humour, for example, can be helpful; looking at the magazine with a cynical eye and joking about what you see. Nevertheless, this doesn’t work for everyone, so you could go to distracting yourself. Planning out a fun moment in your day or doing one of your hobbies or talking to a friend; talking about something light and funny is always good to distract you. Nevertheless, sometimes ranting can be the answer. A lot of us, no matter what gender we identify as, have completely had it with such infuriating magazines.
Super tip – Put your energy in something else, like gaining new skills for a possible career. Check this website out for more information – www.barclayslifeskills.com
Rant number 8: Alcohol and partying:
As the winter season is often a time for celebration—finally being able to relax—it is natural to want to have parties, which makes alcohol consumption a lot more likely. This is fine. However, the frequency of these parties increases how much alcohol you will drink, and the consequences of drinking too much are often dire; it’s easy to fall into bit habits and to avoid this, you have to know your limits.
Knowing your limits is an entirely personal thing, which can vary from taking note of bad experiences to simply your own beliefs. This can involve getting opinions from friends or even family, but your own knowledge helps you just as much; with knowledge of your limits, you can allow yourself to drink, but you will know not to go too far.
Super tip – Have a day where you swap the drink for water and fruit juice – you’d be amazed by the different it can make on your mood!
Rant number 9: Socialising can lead to lots of partying, and too much can mess up sleep patterns:
The amount of partying that can occur in the winter often leads to memorable moments, but it can also mess up your sleeping patterns. You become used to going to bed late—or not at all—and when the holiday ends and you return to your routine, you’re tired a lot more frequently than you were.
Sleep has a big impact on your mood, not enough sleep will lead to grumpiness, and you will find it harder to enjoy things, as your body will be screaming to rest.
While it’s good to allow yourself to party sometimes, it again comes back to knowledge of your own boundaries. Your sleeping pattern gets affected by what you do much quicker than you realise, and once you feel exhaustion setting in; it’s important to be firm with yourself on what you can or cannot physically do. Occasionally, recruiting friends to remind you of this can help in getting you more sleep.
Super tip – Here another well cast video, this is all about sleep: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eLfn7Ewx_s
Rant number 10: Christmas consumerism:
A consumerist culture has been created around this winter season; companies will put out their best products but they’ll be at exorbitant prices. Christmas tradition tells you to spend as much money as possible for the perfect gift, forcing people in less fortunate financial brackets to go shopping even if it’s hard to afford.
Though consumerism is almost impossible to avoid, it’s good to find some way to distance yourself from it; humour, again, is a strategy to do so, making fun of the marketing put out by big businesses and making note of each exploitative strategy used. The importance of Christmas—of this winter season in general—has been said in countless television specials, but it rings as true as it rings cheesy. Though gifts may be nice, it’s the experience that counts.
Nevertheless, if you feel like giving something, sticking to a budget may be useful. Choose the amount you are willing to spend on each person in your life—making it quite similar—and work from there; something I have found that adds a touch of personality to your gifts is making a home-made card, using funny images of people that they like. Those who are more artistic could get more creative with their home-made items.
Super tip – The internet has so many ideas for handy home made gifts, check out these ideas on Pinterest – www.pinterest.com/loriclem/homemade-christmas-gifts/
We hope you enjoyed this read, look after yourself at Christmas and please do contact Off The Record (Bristol) for advice.
Lauren and Laura