Supporting yourself & others this Christmas

I have a funny ol’ relationship with Christmas. As a kid, predictably, I loved it. Presents, food, fairy-lights, days off school – what kid wouldn’t? I don’t have any siblings and my family aren’t particularly close so even as a kid, Christmas was always a quiet affair. There was no huge parties or having dozens of people round. It was usually just my parents and my grandparents on my mum’s side who spent Christmas day at our house; my dad would take my Granddad to the Royal British Legion for a few hours (something he still does) and my mum, Nan and I would stay in, watch some crappy Christmas day TV, drink tea and eat chocolate. That was just Christmas to me. I never knew any different.

But when my Nan died when I was in Year 8 (I think) of Secondary School, that was one less person to join in with our already minuscule Christmas. From then on, Christmas Day was pretty boring for me, being sibling-less and all my friends had wider families who actually spent time together so spending any time with them over the Christmas Day or Boxing Day was pretty much impossible. As I’ve entered my 20’s, I’ve tried really really hard to learn to like Christmas again. More-so since I started blogging where Christmas is thrust upon me everywhere I look and I’m bombarded with happy, Christmassy posts on social media every day from November 1st onwards.

I want to enjoy Christmas. I want to make the most of it and be festive, merry and happy. But no matter how much I try and enjoy it, I know deep down within me, I don’t. My personal experience isn’t the only thing that gets me down this time of year either. I often find I think more around Christmas and I become even more aware of all the trauma, the hurt and the injustices in the world. I get more sensitive towards charities and I feel a stronger need to help people in any small way. I hate knowing there are homeless people sleeping on the street at Christmas, that there are pets which will be discarded after the Christmas frenzy has worn off or that elderly people don’t have anyone to spend their Christmas Day with.

I felt that since November, I’ve been putting on this fake persona of someone who’s getting organised for Christmas because they enjoy it, writing Christmas cards before Bonfire Night has even finished, buying everyone’s presents before we’ve even seen 1st December and pestering my mum to get the Christmas tree down from the loft 3 weeks before anyone else has theirs up – why? To try and force myself to be festive and to enjoy this time of year. Christmas can be difficult for so many people, for so many reasons. Mentally, physically and emotionally. I’m going to continue to try and enjoy this period. If I fail, I fail. But at least I tried. But I also want to acknowledge the fact that Christmas is and can be hard and offer a few pointers in how you can support yourself and others this Christmas.

Yourself

1. Be mindful of social media: If you’re affected by seeing so many happy, Christmassy posts then consider limiting your social media usage until the New Year, if that’s possible.

2. Concentrate on the New Year: Yes, it’s cliché and no, we don’t need a brand new year in order to “start again” but if you’re negatively affected by Christmas, then try and focus on the New Year instead. Set some goals, make some plans and look to the future.

3. Do what you gotta do: There can be so many expectations on people around Christmas in so many aspects of life. Work, food, social – you name it. But they are just societies expectations. You don’t need to eat a huge Christmas dinner if you can’t. You don’t need to attend every Christmas party you’re invited to if you can’t. You don’t need to do anything, just because it’s Christmas. Remember that.

4. Don’t neglect yourself: When you’re so wrapped up (literally) in buying presents for people, writing cards and getting organised it can be so easy to let yourself slip and forget to take care of number 1. Just put the wrapping paper and preparations down for one evening and have a goddamn bath with a candle, a bath bomb and a book (or whatever you do to practice self-care!)

5. Out with the old, in with the new: I find Christmas / December a great time to have a massive clear-out. This is particularly prevalent if, like me, you find Christmas difficult. The act of going through your stuff, getting rid of everything you don’t use or need and having an – almost – clean slate for the start of a new year can work wonders.

Others

1. Don’t force Christmas upon people: You don’t really know how Christmas affects the majority of people you know. So if they don’t want to go to a Christmas party, watch a Christmas film, exchange gifts, don’t force them. And please, don’t call someone a Scrooge unless you know they’re 100% okay with it.

2. Don’t comment on others food habits: Christmas can be an extremely difficult time for anyone suffering with / have suffered with an eating disorder or any form of disordered eating. I know, I’ve been there. When 2 mouthfuls of my Christmas dinner was enough because I’d dreaded having to eat it all day long. Don’t comment on what people are eating / not eating.

3. But look out for people: But if you’re concerned about a friend or family member this time of year and feel they’re not being themselves, are getting mentally unwell or need some help, reach out to them. Don’t leave them alone in the dark at a time when they probably feel more isolated than ever.

4. Donate to charity: If you’re like me and think a lot about sad things this time of year, then it’s the perfect time to donate to a charity or do something for someone less fortunate than yourself. Donate food to food banks, clothes to clothing banks or even volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen if you have time.

5. Check on the elderly: As I mentioned above, the thought of elderly people being alone or lonely on Christmas truly breaks my heart. I know it’s not possible to do all of these things for everyone but checking on the elderly people you know this time of year, if you’re able to safely do so could be a huge help. Even just giving a neighbor a call or a small gift.

If you have any other tips or advice you’d add to this list I’d absolutely love to hear it. I’d also love to hear about your experiences with Christmas: Love it or hate it? The comment section is a safe space for you to share your stories.

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48 thoughts on “Supporting yourself & others this Christmas

  1. It’s so sad to lose a loved one at any time of year, but it’s understandable to miss them even more at Christmas. My father in law passed away in the new year year and we miss him terribly. Being kind to yourself and others is definitely the way forward.

  2. A large amount of people hate this time of year so it’s really thoughtful of you to share some tips and show they are not alone.

    In regards to the elderly there is an organisation https://communitychristmas.org.uk which is all about inviting someone round for christmas dinner or popping in on the holidays, if you are interested.

    I think you have to make Christmas what you want it to be, if it is distressing I would say to just see if as a long bank holiday, we don’t get many in the UK in winter. I am doing a clear out this year and i get so stressed about gift giving. I have to be honest I can’t hack being given unannounced gifts. I get my excitement from the solstice- the darker days are going to get shorter and it’s a time to just reboot, rest and be glad you made it through another year despite any difficulties.

    Great post 🙂

  3. For me, it is no big deal if i turn social media off, and I have the choice because I live in Israel. This is not as big an event, we can go to work on the 1st, and most of us do. I wish you a better feeling this year.

  4. These are really great tips and it’s so important for people to remember that they need to makes sure they are taking care of their own basic needs.

    I lost my auntie in December of last year and her funeral was on the 23rd of December. It’s was hard coming up to the anniversary of her death and it’s hard looking to the anniversary of her funeral. It almost seems like we have to get past that first before we can properly get excited about Christmas (if that makes sense).

    I suffer with a chronic illness and I find Christmas especially difficult both in terms of my anxiety and flare ups. I have decide to take a break from Social Media over the festive season and I think it will do me the world of good.

  5. I find Christmas quite hard, between depression and anxiety symptoms (with a little SAD thrown in). I also always seem to get ill at Christmas- flu, chest infections, you name it.
    Childhood Christmases at my grandparents were the best – even with the whole family squeezed in their tiny house.
    Now I live with a man who loves Christmas and wants all the lights and food and presents, but he does at least understand my reticence.
    I hope you can enjoy the bits you like this year.

  6. As an only child too, I know exactly what you mean. I used to feel so sad when my grandparents died and it was just me and my parents on Christmas Day when everyone else seemed to be having big family gatherings. I enjoy it much more now that I’m married so we celebrate with my husband too but I do miss the big family occasion it was when I was young. I feel so sorry for anyone feeling lonely and struggling to afford Christmas. I’m just writing a post about it too because it’s been something I’ve been thinking about a lot over these last few days x

    Jenny | LuxeStyle

  7. Christmas has become more and more comercialised over the years. Whether it’s about having the latest gadget, outfit, or toy, it’s all pressure that we really don’t need. The media doesn’t help either by always portraying the perfect Christmas family, outing, or trip away. You’re absolutely right that it should be a time of reflection and looking out for those who aren’t as fortunate as us. Thank you for sharing your feelings and tips, I really hope you manage to have to have a peaceful time with your family, you absolutely deserve it. X

    Lisa | http://www.lisasnotebook.com

  8. I really appreciate this. I’m also an only child with a very small family so I find Christmas doesn’t feel like that much of a big deal. I’m not naturally a very festive person and I’ve definitely been feeling the pressure to pretend to be online so this post is really helpful x

    Sophie
    http://www.glowsteady.co.uk

  9. Totally mindful! I took part in the Shoebox Appeal this year. Hopefully I’ve made a difference to a child this Christmas who is less fortunate. Charity is a great one x

    Vanessa x

  10. What a fab post! Society puts so many pressures on us over the Christmas period, it’s no wonder some of us really struggle to enjoy this time of year. I have found my MH deteriorating in the run-up to Christmas and, having got all my cards written and presents wrapped, am taking this week for me. Shopping for me, reading for me, having long hot baths for me. And not worrying about anything or anyone else!

  11. Good post, and good reminders aswell !

    my dad has a family of 13 (!!) and we were alot of kids at the same time, me being the youngest of my “generation” of kids – another girl and a boy, all of us being 23 now. Up until we moved out of town when I was 12, we would reunite will ALL of that side of my family (or most, anyway) at my grandparents and we would have a supper, where there would be 2 separate tables and kids would eat in the living room; then chatting and opening gifts and all that stuff. Now that we are all growned up, nobody goes there anymore – no party nor anything. We just stay at home, me and my parents; as im also a single child, and we just drink, watch christmas movies until midnight when we open gifts and that’s it ! Done, two days later you have my birthday; usually having a snow storm, and repeated for new years ! Now I do am working, it doesn’t even feel any different than any other time at all .. No breaks, no “fun”, no party .. only having survived yet another year 😅​

    I wish you a happy holiday season, xx

  12. This is a thoughtful and lovely post. I’m sorry to hear of your loss, it never gets easier. I lost my mom seven years ago, and the Christmas season is still really hard without her. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Pingback: Blogmas Day 22 – 22 of my Favourite Blogmas/Christmas Posts. – Just Zoe

  14. One year I volunteered at the Salvation Army for a few hours on Christmas Day. They brought together the elderly and homeless in our area for some carols, a Christmas lunch and gift sharing. It was really wonderful and sounds like something you would really enjoy doing too – I really recommend looking into it! xx

  15. I get what you’re saying here, I’ve always found Christmas and birthdays stressful. I think too hard about sad scary things for some reason, and also the fact that my dad isn’t here (he died 14 years ago) is always in the back of my mind. I try and be cheerful but I find a nap in a quiet dark room is what I need come Christmas day afternoon. Self care, basically, and care for others, as you said.

  16. You need to be at my house tomorrow morning. It’s nothing fancy just me and the hub’s and the fur babies. I guarantee it would make you smile. As a matter of fact, I’m going to send you a video tomorrow to watch. My Christmas gift to you and all I want in return, is for you to watch it. Merry Christmas hon!

  17. Pingback: My Blogmas 2017 Review – Blogmas Day 25 – Alys Journals

  18. Pingback: What I got for Christmas haul! | Jenny in Neverland

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