It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?
In the lead up to Christmas, social media has become a strange cocktail of Christmas party highlights, lateral flow test results and positive affirmations. Most people that I’ve spoken to are wracking their brains for Christmas gifts different to last years, saying yes to all social gatherings, maxxing out Klarna payments and nervously thinking about how they’re going to navigate political conversations with family members they haven’t seen in two years over a roast Turkey. We’re collectively nervous for a somewhat, “normal” Christmas. But in these uncertain times, could this be an opportunity to reframe what Christmas really means to us?
“I just can’t wait for a break this Christmas” has become a mantra of the modern day. As though, Christmas is the only time we really have true permission to rest and slow down. A break that’s been earned through exhaustion, shopping marathons and over-productivity. Pandemic aside, life has many demands on our time and wellbeing, so should we be striking off the calendar to reserve time for ourselves to rest or spend time with our friends and families? As a nursing student and part time retail worker, I’ve come to realise this year how stress now seems to be a fundamental pillar of Christmas. Just as much as mulled wine spice, advent calendars and mince pies. At present, we’re processing a pandemic, so many people are navigating job losses and financial hardships, on the other hand some are working long, exhausting hours. These issues, really, were prevalent and deserved understanding and nourishment years before the pandemic fell upon us. This has led me to wonder, if stress is a pillar of Christmas, is this also an opportunity to promote a deeper sense of self care, not just at Christmas, but all year round?
One thing that the pandemic has provided us with, is the ability to bring focus to what is most important to us. Connection, our health, caring for ourselves and each other. It’s interrupted Christmas traditions and pushed us to be more creative, to slow down, to spend more time with our thoughts. As someone living with mental illness, I often think of those who may be struggling this time of year. Christmas often boasts many expectations and pressures to provide, to perform, to simply be “merry”. But mental illness doesn’t discriminate, even when Santa’s in town. So even more so, it’s a time of year to take extra care of ourselves and prioritise just “being”, especially if we’re not ‘simply having a wonderful Christmas time’.
As Christmas approaches and the new year nears closer, I hope that I can remind you that you do not have to be a “new you”. You do not have to join a gym; you do not have to “earn” your rest or your Christmas dinner. You’re doing amazingly just the way you are. If you simply must sip your mulled wine and get through this festive period, then you have done all you need to do. But just remember, no matter what Boris says, you don’t have to do so on your own.
Support Lines this Christmas
Beat UK: Free Helpline, Webchat and Email Support
Text ‘SHOUT’ 85258 for Free 24/7 Mental Health Support in the UK
CALM: Free Helpline and Webchat https://www.thecalmzone.net/help/helpline/
Refuge: Free Helpline and Webchat www.refuge.org.uk
Samaritans: Free Helpline and Webchat https://www.samaritans.org/
Words: Courtney Axford
Images: Courtesy of Google / Instagram / Michelle Lopez