You and the Festive Period

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The festive period can be the hardest time mentally of the for me. As soon as December steamrolls in, a sadness seeps in that’s uncontrollable.  

It’s a mixture of several things. I look back at the year and the negatives stand out more than what you have achieved, an unfortunate side effect of anxiety. There’s also an amplification of everything that is wrong and upsetting in the world. Those that are homeless, the elderly being alone at home, poverty and war across the world, relationships that failed with friends and family, parents pushing themselves to polar points of stress and debt to provide for their children and more. For some reason, your bubble becomes smaller and you can’t see beyond this dark room and pinhole view of neverending disappointment.

Over the last couple of years, I have tried different things to alleviate some of the mental burden.

Volunteering

This has been one of the biggest contributions to my mental health not just at Christmas, but all year round. There’s sometimes a guilt that people get over the festive period which makes them donate more. People also have more time to think and it makes way for those that are less fortunate entering our thoughts. Volunteering or fundraising at this time of year is incredible. Not only do you feel a sense of achievement, but it can also contribute to balancing unnecessary spending on others. Instead of buying that new item for something that may be used once or twice, why not offer a donation in their name. Volunteering itself and giving someone your time is one of the most valuable things you can offer. Volunteering and donations can be made and done via different methods whether it be donation to food banks, monetary donations. In terms of donating your time there are different organisations. A few in Glasgow and Scotland are listed below (please take time to look in your own area, this can be done simply via an internet search)

http://www.volunteerglasgow.org (also send out a newsletter of upcoming opportunities)

https://www.volunteerscotland.net

https://www.projectscotland.co.uk

I also grew up in a residential home for the elderly (my parents owned one) and we would have people volunteer their time to come and sit with the residents and speak to them about their lives, play music for them and more. You can always contact local homes to find out if they are looking for people to come in and do this.

Exercise

This is probably the biggest contribution to improving my mental health especially at this time of year. The thought of embarking on any form of exercise each day can be difficult (trust me I know), but if you achieve it, not matter how small, it is such an incredible feeling. Walking is probably the best thing to do. It costs nothing and the fresh air alone will help lift a lot of negative thoughts. If you are prone to agoraphobia then start by putting your head out of the door or window. Then perhaps walking outside the door and standing for a few minutes. Then why not walk down to the end of the road. Do these things as many times as you want until you feel comfortable enough to move onto the next step. Then why not build up your times outside. Try not to concentrate on your thoughts, but look at what is happening in the world. Look at the buildings, trees, the sky and try and appreciate that you have been brave enough to do this. I got reusable ice cubes that I sometimes take out with me to put on my wrists if my anxiety or panic starts to build to pull me out.

As your confidence builds then why not walk further. One of the best ways to improve your coping with anxiety and panic in particular is to push your heart rate. It makes you realise that although your heart is racing, this is for a good reason and not that something bad is going to happen to you.

Why not ask a family member or friend to go for a walk? It’s a really good way of taking time out over the festive period and just getting away from the stress of everything.

We also have our walking club (info here) and our next one is 29th December.

Vitamins

Winter is an arsehole. It’s simple. Living in the West of Scotland and any area with a similar weather/daylight can play havoc with your mental health. Vitamins have been imperative for me, especially vitamin D. I was diagnosed with a severe deficiency and given a high dosage. I now purchase and take vitamin D religiously. I also take a multi-vitamin just to help my immune system. It contributes to my mood, my joints and my health. You can find vitamin D tablets from around £2 upwards. It’s effectively sunshine in a bottle.

Water

This time of year brings food and drink. The cold weather also dries our your skin and it is really important to stay hydrated. I drink around 2-3 litres of water a day and it also helps me mentally. I get headaches if I don’t drink enough and my jaw tightens which can come from anxiety. Dehydration can affect your thoughts and it is incredible the clarity you can get from even just drinking enough water. If I know I am going to be out and about and potentially forget to drink water, I will drink a lot in the morning to set me up for the day.

Spending

I don’t have children so it is impossible for me to understand the overall pressures for parents at this time of year. My partner and I agreed a few years ago that we would stop buying for one another and just have days out together instead. It meant there was no pressure and we got to spend social time together. I have a niece and nephews, but I don’t go overboard and neither do their parents. It has become more about letting them appreciate and experience more as opposed to having a lot of materialism. I see the pressures that friends and indeed those I speak to randomly put on themselves. One person I know got themselves into so much debt from spending on credit cards that it led to bankruptcy. That’s no life. There seems to be this phrase “showing face”, but this is all down to comparison. Comparing kids to others at school and other children you know. Granted, you want to give them the world and indeed your families and friends, but for the cost of what? I saw a really wonderful post online from someone that said from their childhood they didn’t really remember much of the material items, but the time spent with families. The games they played together, sitting as a family and more. It’s that time spent with those you know and love. That is what contributes to better mental health and that interaction is priceless. This also applies to buying for adults!

Family

It can be a really complicated time at Christmas. There are a lot of broken families, but there is also an expectation to spend time with family. I no longer have my father in my life through choice and I think that’s why I find this time of year especially hard. As much as I don’t want to see him, I can’t bear thinking about him if he is alone at this time of year. I find it horrific to think about, but for my own mental health I know that I cannot see him. If someone compromises your mental health then don’t feel you have to see them just because they are family. It’s bloody difficult to make that choice, but this is where you can be selfish in order to make sure your wellbeing is being thought of.

For those that have connected families, but sometimes don’t spend enough time with them, just check in. A phone call, a short visit if you need to go somewhere. That one visit or call can make all the difference and we don’t know how each other is coping mentally a lot of the time so you don’t realise how much of an impact those small things make.

Drink

A renowned time of year for people to push the boat out in terms of eating and drinking. No one is telling you not to enjoy yourself. You deserve to be treated. Alcohol can become especially excessive at this time of year and unfortunately, it can amplify feelings of sadness and indeed depression. Try not to overdo it. Try not to use alcohol to suppress any feelings and thoughts you want to block out. It will make them worse. Moderation is key and your wellbeing and safety is important.

You

All of this is about you. You matter. Take time for you and did it on your terms.

 Further Help

If you are feeling vulnerable over this period:

Breathing Space: 0800 83 85 87
Samaritans: 116 123
Childline: 0800 11 11
NHS 24: 111

We have a list of useful links on our page: https://www.therespiteroom.com/usefullinks

You can also call and message myself and The Respite Room. My number is 07943104257 and if you are struggling then drop me a text or call. You can also email us respiteroom@gmail.com or drop a DM on Twitter, Facebook etc. We are available each day.

Much love

Halina x

Halina Rifai