Let's be honest...Christmas ain't all that.
I read back my last post and I had to laugh, I was at a stage where I was under pressure but I was coping. I sat down to write this post tonight and I'll be honest it's hardly a pick-me-up feel good, 'everything's going to be alright' post. I went on my little break away with every intention of coming back, starting fresh and making sure I implemented my self-care plan.
It wasn't to be.
I lost a family member right after I came back from my trip. I've had wonderful support and I have cried and grieved and been involved in the funeral plans. But, being who I am, I have carried on with everything else that needs done. I lost 4 days at work and I fell behind. This, is something that I need to work through, my utter refusal to let work go is entirely unhealthy. Part of it is because the Christmas break is coming up and every single person wants something done and finished before then. Our office feels like Armageddon is coming, we're so slammed that no one is even emptying the dishwasher.
Christmas is meant to be a wonderful time, a time to relax and be happy but, most years I fail to see it. I always have. I get to Christmas day and it fills me with sadness for all the people spending it alone, cold or hungry. And now, for all the people I now know who's depression and anxiety is heightened by the stupid notion of having to spend insane amounts of money on meaningless gifts. The parents who's kids don't and can't be spoiled as like they would like to because it's a real stretch to the wallet. The elderly who have no family and even ex-pats like me who often feel quite disconnected on the day. The roads are empty, the shops are closed and there is always for me a real sense of melancholy in the air. I'm not a fan. Every year I tell myself I'm going to volunteer and every year I get so busy I'm too late to register to do so. Work ramps up for most and people drive like maniacs and just overall it's a crap time of year. Not going to sugar-coat it, I just don't find any of it that enjoyable. I'm sure deep down a lot of people would agree with me, silently, but they would. So let's get real and let's talk about this honestly. Christmas can cause an increase in depression and we need to take that fact seriously:
- First, if you find that you have increased levels of depression and they are serious (suicide ideation, self-harm) seek out the help of a qualified mental health professional. Check out my S.O.S page for services.
- Set personal boundaries regarding the money spent on gifts and the number of social events. Start saying 'No' to both the events and excess alcohol, we all have the strength to do this, we just need to let go of the shame and perception of 'missing out'.
- Don't accept any "perfect" representation of Christmas that the media, institutions or other people try to make you believe. Lower your expectations as to what it should look like; be present and enjoy each moment as best you can. If you don't even have time to put up your tree (I don't) who cares. Leave it. Breathe.
- Become involved in giving in a non-monetary way through charities and worthwhile causes that help less fortunate people. This is a note to myself, I'm too late this year again but I will be buying gifts to go to the needy first and foremost before anyone else.
- Be grateful for what you have in your life, rather than focusing on what you don't have. It's tough I know but depression cannot be present at the same time as gratitude, it just cannot.
- Focus your thoughts on all the good things about Christmas - the opportunity to engage in kindness, for yourself and others. Last year I bought groceries for a woman who did not have enough money to pay at the check out. I did it without even blinking, whether it was Christmas or not, kindness goes a long way for everyone.
Some years I don't mind Christmas, others like this one it just feels like a drain on my teetering fragile state. I'm not beating myself up, I actually refuse to. I won't. I'll say no, I wont send Christmas cards, I'll buy modest presents, I'll delete the Christmas playlist from spotify if I have to and I won't over-indulge in alcohol, I might not even drink at all this time around, again. If anything, my self-awareness is my saviour. I know what works and I know what doesn't and I'll be damned if I compromise it for anybody else's enjoyment.
I made it though, I made it another year without collapsing under the pressure and Sergeant Calm is alive and kicking. I may have abandoned it too much in the last few weeks but it's still here and I still have major plans for it next year. My anxiety is rumbling and I've done nothing to help myself recently and I feel I'm clutching at straws to give advice for the silly season and I'm mindful of not trying to sound preachy. So, if you're doing more harm than good to your body because of excess alcohol, starchy food and no exercise. It's ok, you're ok. You are doing the very best you can given the circumstances and there will be calmer, clearer days eventually. You can always get back to doing what makes you feel ok and right now if the bad stuff allows you to haul ass into the holidays, do it. Just know that you are never ever alone.
At ease soldiers xx