How is the New Year just around the corner?!
With 2017 soon drawing to a close, there are a busy few weeks ahead. If you saw the last newsletter blog, you might have read some of the winter wellbeing tips. This month, we are focusing on the festive period and how to look after your mental health during what can sometimes be a stressful time! Some ‘how-tos’ for surviving and thriving!
How to survive Christmas parties if you’re anxious
Firstly, rest assured that you are definitely not the only anxious person at the Christmas party. You never know what emotions are hiding beneath those Santa hats. Also, feeling anxious sometimes is a totally normal response and not something to feel embarrassed or ashamed about! This doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t enjoy yourself and have some ways of managing.
I have only experienced anxiety in the past couple of years, but now understand how exhausting and all-encompassing it can be. For me, there are some simple things which can quieten noisy thoughts and help me relax.
We all work in different ways. I personally ‘fake it til I make it’ with confidence, but I really admire others that are honest and will say “I’m a bit anxious” at a party. After all, as I said above, it’s not unusual and you might find common ground with someone else in the room with your honesty.
Practising some mindfulness in whatever way suits you (breathing, eating, meditating, walking etc) just before the party can be great! As well as some uplifting music on in the background.
Plan ahead a bit. Obviously, there is some spontaneity with parties, but there are some things you can organise in advance to help relieve last minute stress: your outfit (something comfortable that makes you feel good); getting there/when you’ll arrive so you don’t have time to hang around at home and have the anxiety grow; what you might chat about to other party-goers; what you might say if the anxiety doesn’t subside and you feel you need to leave. Do whatever you need to help you enjoy yourself, not forgetting your basic well being like sleeping enough, eating well, drinking plenty of water and taking some stress-reducing exercise!
Take the evening a step at a time and try to remind yourself that the anxious feelings should get less and less as the evening goes on. Have a treat at home to reward yourself when you get back; you deserve it after facing a challenge!
How to survive stressful family situations/arguments
From my own experiences and social circle, I know it isn’t unusual to find family situations difficult – take some comfort in that! But for various reasons family time could be stressful, so here are some tips on how to survive it.
If the dynamics in your family are sometimes difficult, suggest a Christmas walk. The fresh air, exercise and environment can be relaxing and walking side-by-side can be a gentle way to spend time together.
If you are a family member of a person whose drinking has or does affect you, there are some online support pages, helplines to call and local meetings you can attend. Talking to somebody about your feelings might be helpful, for instance through counselling. Connecting with other young people experiencing similar things – such as a group for Young Carers or for families of alcoholics – can make you feel less isolated and actually be quite liberating.
If you are a young person who cares for a family member with physical or mental support needs, there is support available for you (linked below). Take some time out on Christmas to be a kid again and do something playful: unearth your favourite childhood Christmas film/books, eat a bunch of sweets, play silly games, enjoy old family traditions you grew up with, whatever makes you happy!
For families and friends of alcoholics: Al-anon & Alateen
Young carers wellbeing event on 14th December
How to survive Christmas meals if you are experiencing an eating disorder
A friend who has experienced disordered eating explained to me that being involved in the choosing, preparation and cooking of a Christmas meal is helpful for their feelings of anxiety around food; it aids them in feeling better connected to what’s going on the plate.
They have also unfollowed Instagram accounts that can make them feel bad about their own body, instead focusing on body positive accounts which shift focus to self-appreciation and acceptance, helping them with their body dysmorphic thoughts. Everybody is different, though, and what might work for my friend, might not for somebody else experiencing or recovering from an eating disorder.
There are many resources online for support and tips around surviving Christmas meals, as well as helplines which you can call on the day (linked below). If there is a friend or family member you can reach out to for support, to help distract you with conversation or a silly photo in tough moments then do!
Finally, be so proud of every achievement – however seemingly small – you make at this time. And be proud of knowing when you are not ready to do something just yet.
BEAT Youthline: 0808 801 0711 (normal opening hours: 3pm-10pm) 23rd December: Normal hours, Christmas Eve: Normal hours, Christmas Day: 6pm -10pm, Boxing Day: 6pm -10pm, 27th December: Normal hours.
hARMED: Off The Record support group workshops, meeting once a week every week for six weeks and have around eight young people. Workshops run regularly every few months.
How to survive Christmas if you don’t celebrate it
Of course, we do not all celebrate Christmas for a variety of reasons! It can be tough to feel like you are not a part of something, but you are definitely not alone. It might be beneficial to socialise with other people who don’t ‘do’ Christmas either, whether that’s a peer or community.
If you are stuck for something to do on the day when all the shops are closed, there could be a local charity seeking volunteers for Christmas and you could get involved! Alternatively if you have work and won’t miss having the day off, you could earn some extra cash.
Try a new food or recipe while you have a few free days. It can feel really rewarding to make and share something you’ve made and you gain a new skill in doing so. Or get a Chinese takeaway.
Use the day to catch up – with friends and family, homework, reading, a walk – whatever you haven’t been able to do up until now.
Some more general tips, for Christmas and beyond…
Switch off! Take advantage of this time (where the world switches off) to stop checking emails or have some ‘phone-free days’. Do some journaling to help reflect on what you have achieved in the year behind you and what you hope for in the year ahead.
2018 jar! Keep a jar or money box by your bed and each time you have a positive memory, lesson learned, achievement or anything else you’d like to remember then write and pop it in the 2018 jar! As an exercise it will help you remember to take notice of the good stuff and you will accumulate a big pile of positivity to look through in a year’s time.
Learn a new skill! This might be a really exciting opportunity to start a new hobby, particularly if you just got a hand-me-down guitar from your Uncle or a watercolour palette from Christmas (or some cash you can go spend in the sale). Check out your local youth hubs or clubs, as they might be running music/creative workshops/activities! OTR have weekly creative drop-ins on Mondays 4pm-7pm, Saturdays 10am-1pm, Wednesdays 10am-11.30am and also board game meetup Connect More on Thursdays 4.30pm-6.30pm.
Bristol based SisterWorks are running professional-led workshops on January 13th which are 16+ women, trans and nonbinary inclusive. Full-day tickets for learning to DJ, graffiti, dance and more are £20 but there are certainly free activities in the city and surrounding areas too!
Do some research and write your own tips! After all these tips above, it still remains that you are the expert of you! So write some of your own ideas for ‘surviving Christmas’ to help plan ahead.
Some more resources…
The Sanctuary – out of hours service for people in emotional distress due to mental health (Telephone number) 011795429 (Mobile Telephone) 07709295661 (address) 1 New Street, St Jude’s, Bristol, BS2 9DX open 7pm-2am Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday
Wellbeing College – Winter warmer workshops in Bristol by Second Step