It’s Christmas Eve.
The carols are bangin out, the gingerbread’s hot, the snow is falling (on the mountains I can see from my window while I’m typin here)…and yes, it is most DEFINITELY beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But are we missing something?
The truth of the matter is, Christmas is actually not going to be the same this year; for a lot of people it may actually be a very painful time. I’m not trying to cramp the Christmas spirit – in fact this news should actually fill us with more! Seeing who is in need and finding good ways in which to help them is so important over Christmas, but also using a little self-help is extremely good for your own mental and physical well-being.
Lockdown has taken its toll on all of us for an enormous variety of reasons; everyone’s story is different. Maybe you lost a loved one to the virus, got really depressed from being on your own or you simply won’t be able to visit those you love at this special time of year. For my part, lockdown has had a bad effect on me in the way of my mentality; my mental health. I’m not sure if I have mentioned this to you before my friends, but these past three years I have been struggling with several different mental health issues: depression, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks and most of all anorexia nervosa, a devastatingly destructive eating disorder. I just want to put out there I am NOT telling you this to blow my own ‘poor me’ trumpet or try and grab any attention – not in the least!! I wanted to let you know about this so you can understand that I struggle with my mental wellbeing, often on a daily basis, and that if you have similar problems or are just having a rough day I know where you are coming from.
Lockdown was a struggle because I had never anticipated anything like that ever happening, especially not in my lifetime. It was doubly scary because though there have been pandemics before I had never been right in the middle of one, especially one so militant and easy to spread, and no one, not even my older friends and family, seemed to know what to expect. Different challenges came in different forms – in spite of my being introverted I love to see my friends and being unable to have contact with or even see them for an unprecedented time really brought me low; another challenge was masks. I sometimes have a bit of trouble remembering to breath when I’m anxious, and masks at first made me feel like I was suffocating, and if I forgot to put it on I felt very self-conscious and panicky. Social distancing wasn’t really a problem if it was people I wasn’t close to, since I’m not big on contact, so I guess this was more of an issue for more extroverted humans than me; and hand-washing I try and do most of the time anyway.
The imminence of another national lockdown in my country is a rather worrying prospect…but I feel like now I am more prepared because in spite of all the tough things this pandemic has thrown our way I do firmly believe we will see the other side of this, and I learned some really helpful things I want to share with you today that have massively helped me in overcoming my fears and learning to live a rather different, hopefully safer, life.
These tips aren’t just for Christmas, though; they are crucial to our daily lives wherever we are around the world and can help us at any time of the year. I know how hard Christmas can be for people with mental health, and for those with anorexia or other destructive eating disorders it can be very intimidating facing down all the chocolate, Christmas dinner and emphasis on family time. One thing is certain – mental health doesn’t take time out for Christmas, but we won’t either. In spite of everything, remember to stay strong.
Remember two things – light and space.
These are really important for everyone, not just those with mental health issues; take a breather. Go outside, throw back your head and look up at the wide open space of the sky and the natural light of the sun, even if its raining or cloudy. What do you see? Don’t keep your eyes on the ground; look up into the sky and remind yourself how big and wide it is, and tell your claustrophobia to back down. It’s not got a hold on your life. Light is doubly important – turn on lights, some candles, open the curtains and maybe even fairy lights if it’s dark outside. In this wintry time when light is only out and about for a short time, make sure you see as much of it as you can, artificial or not. It can drastically improve your mood, properly wake you up and remind you of beauty, especially in candles.
Tackle that food like a boss. There’s a reason that Christmas dinner is so different to our normal eating routines – it’s a special time of year and the food reminds us of that. You don’t have to rush through it to get it over with, but if you are feeling a bit icky try and pick up the pace a bit so it’s not all you have to think about. Engage in conversation to distract yourself, but also try your best to HAVE FUN in it!! This is a special day and no matter what happens, you won’t let anything stop you enjoying this precious time with your family – and if you do feel like you can’t go on, don’t feel bad about it: tell someone, not necessarily in front of everyone, and they can help you deal with the feelings. And if you don’t manage the whole meal, there’s no reason to feel discouraged; you did the best you could and you beat back that eating disorder even if the victory seems small.
Don’t spend time focussing on worry. We can all worry a bit on Christmas Eve about the food we’re having tomorrow, the reminders of other Christmases in our history that didn’t go so well, what clothes size we might get in our gifts and how that will make ourselves (and what we think others will) feel because of it. Try and wind down a little instead of staying up late; light some scented candles, read a short passage of a book, watch a bit of a celeb interview, doodle a little or just sit and daydream. These all help your brain to switch off for a bit, and if you feel those negative or anxious thoughts coming to the fore just push them gently away and focus on your breathing. Tell yourself that you can do this, you’ve coped with other situations before, and that no matter what you will eventually get through this, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.
Remember to take off your mask. I know this seems like a petty reminder, but I have a terribly bad habit of forgetting to take my mask OFF after Christmas shopping or at a cafe. It can make me feel smothered and anxious by not breathing freely, so it’s important to remember to remove it once you’re out a building. Take a few moments to slow your breathing back to normal, thinking ‘gold’ when you breathe in and ‘silver’ when you breath out; this change in different colours in your thoughts actually gives your brain enough time to figure out when to breathe in and when to breathe out, helping you stop panicking, Also, where you can, bring a bottle of water; when I am anxious I start feeling very hot and faint, so a cool swig of water really helps to calm myself and bring my temperature down.
I don’t have anything else to tell you except that I am rooting for all of you and I hope that, in spite of lockdowns and mental health issues and anything else that has made this Christmas hard for you, that you will have a really blessed time with those you love and that you will always remember that no matter what you are strong and you are braved. Have an incredible Christmas season and may the bells ring and the carollers sing!
If I do not see you before New Year, have an amazing beginning to 2021 – stay safe and protect each other like the smart human beings I know you are! All the best, x
2 thoughts on “lockdown, mentality, christmas…how does it all fit together?”
Thanks so much Abbie, this is exactly what I needed to hear. I know it isn’t easy to be vulnerable and share your struggles with the world, but when people do it helps me feel less discouraged in the middle of my own battles. Love you girl❤️ Have a beautiful Christmas!
Also can I just say, the GIFs are spot on today😆
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Thank you Becca! I had a wonderful Christmas in spite of the challenges, and I’m so glad this encouraged you x