Tips for a happier, Covid-secure Christmas.
This time of year can be difficult for people living with mental illness, and 2020 is no exception. As we head into our first "social distanced Christmas", we asked our supporters how they will manage their wellbeing while being away from their family and loved ones during the festive period. This is what they told us:
“Keep in touch, despite the distance”
“In all honesty, Christmas is my favourite time of the year as 99% are festive happy and merry so it fills me with joy and happiness. But because of the pandemic, it could be a very dark time for most being isolated and lonely. That’s why we have to keep an eye out for our friends and loved ones much more this year, so I’m going to Facetiming grandparents with the kids and make it the best we can."
- Oli, 29, lives with bipolar disorder and depression.
“Take a break from routines, and find some joy”
“I'm very lucky to be able to celebrate Christmas with my loved ones, that is a present enough for me. I am slightly daunted by not having access to counselling during the holidays, but not being alone will be a great help. I will try to rest as much as possible and use this festive time as a chance to have a break from routines and have some joy and normalcy after the pandemic has had such prominence throughout the year.”
- Ida, who lives with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD).
“Breathe, stay in the moment and reflect on what’s important”
“So much is changing right now I do get totally overwhelmed sometimes, but my friends have been very much there for me, which has made a huge difference. I am trying my best to breathe, stay in the moment, and to survive the whirlwind that we are currently in. I’m making paintings as Christmas presents for loved ones. Making artwork is my happiest thing to do and creativity has been the only way I have found which helps at times of real difficulty for me. Since losing my job, I thought making stuff myself was cheaper, better for the environment and more interesting. "
- Alice, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder.
“Take time for yourself”
“I often find Christmas a very challenging time of year. Coming together with my family only highlights how isolating my brother's illness can be for him, whether he is spending Christmas alone in hospital, or struggling to cope with the family dynamics of spending the day with his siblings and parents. I find myself taking on a lot of the emotional burden this places not only on him, but also on my parents. It's not always easy to manage my own mental health, but there are few things that tend to help. Over the Christmas period, I tend to start the day with a long walk, which helps clear my head by connecting with the outdoors and getting my body moving. I also consciously take time to be alone, away from my family, even if it's just half an hour reading a good book or having a long bath, which helps me get a sense of perspective and refill my own well of resilience so I can better support my brother.”
- Theresa, a carer for her brother who lives with schizophrenia.
“Gifts aren’t just for others”
"Christmas is the "season of giving" to others but often we forget to give back to ourselves. I tend to do things like buy a small bunch of flowers for myself or light a scented candle in my home-especially if I'm feeling low, anxious or overwhelmed. 2020 has been such a difficult year so far and I'm not looking forward to the festive season at all. But I'm going to put time aside every day to do something just for me. It sometimes feels selfish or self-absorbed to do this but it is important to make sure we show the same love and kindness to ourselves that we tend to just reserve for other people in our lives."
- Jonny Benjamin, mental health campaigner.
“Remember happiness isn’t everyone’s default mode, and that’s ok”
"One thing that a lot of people underestimate is the extent to which those around us, the community we're part of, influence and affect our mood and mental state. We're incredibly social creatures, and that's how we operate. With this in mind, the Christmas period can be particularly hard going. It's a time of year when everyone expects happiness and joy. But you may have very valid reasons not to feel like that. It can mean the difference between your mental state and everyone else's is particularly stark, and this can result in you feeling even worse, that you're somehow 'wrong'. But this isn't the case; the calendar and other people's expectations don't dictate your feelings. Keeping that in mind can be useful when navigating through the season"
- Dr Dean Burnett, neuroscientist, author.
“Take breaks and try to adapt”
This year has been challenging, to say the least, beginning with me starting treatment for a mental health difficulty and ending with us entering month 10 of lockdowns and restrictions. As a student, I have a huge amount of work to get done over Christmas. I’m going to try and look after my mental health whilst managing my workload by taking breaks and scheduling in activities with friends and family where I can. I am lucky in that my family over Christmas is usually just 5- so we are not as affected by the restrictions as most! I will definitely miss seeing friends in big groups and going out for Christmas drinks/parties but will be trying to adapt and do what I can within the guidance!
- Katie, student and media volunteer.
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