Newcastle Photographer and Content Creator, Mandy Charlton, Always on a quest for adventure, often seen on buses, trains and planes. On a quest to be happier and healthier. Lives in Newcastle with her 3 cats, Iris, Maggie and Arthur. Loves good vibes, musicals and cakes. Full time professional wedding photographer in the north east of england alongside content creator on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook

Thursday, December 06, 2018

How to survive Christmas with a mental health issue

Christmas is a joyful time of year, a time of togetherness, a time for love, for laughter and where family and friends gather around the fire to play festive games and drink eggnog...

Except, that's not what it's like at all is it?  The truth of the matter is that Christmas can be tough, for those who live with mental health issues on a daily basis, everything is amplified during the festive season.  If you're lonely, you feel lonelier, if you're depressed, Christmas can exacerbate that and heck, even the most joyous Christmas queens can be prone to meltdowns over the Christmas break.

Why?  Well the media doesn't help, Christmas movies show us a distorted perfection of the way we think our lives should be, those of us who are alone without families idealise what it would be like if we did have a big relative-filled get together but I think we're doing ourselves a massive disservice here because in all of my time on the internet, what I've witnessed on forums, in tweets and on Facebook is that for some of us, spending an extended break with family is actually like navigating the 7 levels of hell.

It's easy to believe we're not good enough just because we're not living that Insta-perfect life but just like Christmas movies, social media is a distorted view of the world.  Very few people are 100% honest on social media, feeds are curated to present the best of what we have, there's nothing wrong with that of course, I, myself love to post the best of my life in squares, pretty places, twinkly lights but at the same time, if you look deeper by following my stories or reading my blog I hope I'm much more real and down to earth.  I've certainly tried to give a first person account of a single mum who lives with bipolar and depression, who home educates, who tries her hardest to juggle multiple businesses.

Whilst I don't want this to become my own personal campaign for more realness on the internet and I'm not by any means a healthcare professional I wanted to give you my own top tips for coping with Christmas and all that it holds.

  1. Remember that Christmas isn't just 1 day - over the years I've come to notice that if I put all of my hopes, dreams and aspirations into just one day I end up having the biggest come down around Boxing Day, if you think of it more like a two week break with treats throughout you're more likely not to have that nosedive back to depression on Boxing Day and no day is so important that it should do that to you.
  2. Enjoy Twixtmas - Those days betwixt Christmas and New Year are some of the calmest quietest times of the whole year, time to read, to drink hot chocolates and mulled beverages, it's a time to look back at the highlights of the year past whilst planning for the new year, embrace this time and basque in it's specialness.
  3. Don't overdo things! - I can't stress this highly enough. A large proportion of the population will get the Boxing Day cold because they've drank for the whole of Christmas Day, suppressing their immune system and no wonder Boxing Day is a miserable existence. I've never been one for alcohol, I'm mostly allergic to it, sulphite free alcohol should stop the hangovers at least but also remember that alcohol is a depressant and if you have any kind of mental health issue and especially if you are taking anti-depressants or other medication, it's probably not a good idea to spend Christmas Day caning it!
  4. Overspending is the work of the devil! - I'd like to hold my hand up and say, guilty, guilty and more guilty. I do it mostly every year and being self employed I tend not to work for around three weeks over Christmas and it's really late February/early March by the time my income bounces back.  This year I have things in place to make sure this doesn't happen. Do you know I don't keep any money in my current account now?  I keep it all in my savings account and it helps me to spend less as I have to think about each transfer I make.   They won't miss my extraneous pile of crap I usually purchase at the last minute in guilt because I feel I'm not a good enough parent.
  5. Indulge in "Me Time" - It's easy to forget to look after yourself when you're so busy catering for guests, entertaining the family or friends that you forget to take time out, so here's what I suggest, run a bath, get a glass of wine and escape to the bath with all of your new products, even that 30 minutes out can make you feel like a whole new person, especially if you've got little ones, that is of course discounting them looking underneath the bathroom door shouting "Mammy, what you doing?"  (yes, lovelies, I have been there too).
  6. Don't be alone and lonely - There's a huge problem in our country with people feeling lonely and alone at Christmas. Maybe they don't have family or they feel isolated, you know what, no one should be alone at Christmas and whilst I can't invite you all for dinner this year I will be home for most of the festive season and even on Christmas evening so please, it's open house and I promise to do whatever I can to make you feel festive and fabulous.
  7. Don't worry about not feeling festive - Now I could never be accused of this but for some people, for very many reasons, they don't want to celebrate or they just don't feel festive at all and that's okay. You can spend the Christmas holidays however you want to and if that means watching a Harry Potter box set, then do it, no one is going to judge you.
  8. Make some time to get outdoors - spending two weeks cooped up inside your house isn't good for your soul so make some time to get outside, get some fresh air, I'm thankful I have Holly Bobbins to drag me out or I'd never go out, it's funny though because I always feel better afterwards, it's just the getting out there that's the hard part.
Whatever you do remember that it's your Christmas and you can do anything you want, I shall be doing what I did for a while during summer, turning my social media notifications off, and only going online to post occasional photos or you'll find me on Instagram which is my happy place on the internet, I need those two weeks off, I have much planning to do for next year and much reassessment of 2018.  It's been a pretty tough year over all and I need to make some decisions, tough decisions about where I go from here.

1 comment

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