Chanukah, Christmas and my anxiety.
Digital team's blog
Christmas time always seems so jolly, happy and twinkly. The fairy lights, tinsel, Santas presents, the ‘Coca Cola Holidays are coming’ theme tune, Carol services and lets not forget, the John Lewis Advert. However, what if this time of year provokes more anxiety in you than happiness? If you dread spending the days over Christmas alone or with your family and friends?
If you are feeling the effects of seasonal depression, general depression and other mental illnesses, Christmas can be a major challenge. So what can help?
Well firstly, let me start as someone of a different faith living in the UK. I am Jewish and observe Chanukah, which this year falls on Christmas Eve. As well as Chanukah, which we celebrate for 8 days, light candles and remember a past miracle, eat doughnuts and latkes, and have a joyoustime, we also have festivals throughout the year. At these festivals, gatherings of people and socialising are key.
If you suffer with mental ill health whatever faith you are, this can be overwhelming. So here are my tips for getting through the festive season the best way you can.
1) Combat loneliness- If you feel desperately alone over the Holiday season and don’t have much family or friends, the most important thing you can do is reach out to those you do love and care about. Giving them a phone call if up to it or sending a Christmas/ Chanukah/ Festive season card or text can really brighten yours and their day.
If you are lucky enough to have a pet- cuddle up with your pet. Having an animal that loves you around is excellent for relaxation if feeling stressed.
If you have a family or partner- tell your partner how you are feeling and see if they can support you through it.
2) If you can’t socialise its ok- There have been times when I simply couldn’t socialise due to anxiety and would spend the day quietly reading or watching a film in order to make myself feel better. Now, yes there is a stigma to anxiety so if you are cancelling on family at Christmas they may not understand. But you must remember how important your health is. Look at it like a broken leg- in this case a broken head.
3) If you need space to yourself and time for self care that’s fine too- whether escaping to your room for an hour, crying your eyes out and then having a warm bath, journalling about your feelings or ringing someone that makes you smile- take all the time you need.
4) But what if I am expected to go to Church/ Synagogue? – If you are feeling depressed or anxious and you can’t get to your religious service, pray at home and join your family for a meal. Don’t push yourself too hard If you are feeling unwell.
5) Take medication on time- make sure you continue taking any psychiatric medication. Very important at keeping moods stable.
6) Enjoy yourself! Ok so you might be feeling blue over the holiday season. But everyone is off work and its family or friends time. Do what you want to do, go for a long walk, eat your favourite foods, do whatever puts a smile on your face.
If you are really struggling and feeling acutely depressed or suicidal/ self harm thoughts- which can happen at this time of year please tell people- whether it’s a help line, your family, psychiatrist, therapist…..don’t keep it in. Recovery is so important.
Most importantly be safe, don’t be hard on yourself and know that illness can and will pass and get easier.
Happy Festive Season!
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Eleanor also writes for The Huffington Post and you can find all her articles here.