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Surviving Santa

So, the decorations are going up in the shops, the Christmas lights are beginning to be switched on and Santa is even opening grotto’s, which only means one thing – Christmas is coming.  For me the few things I love about Christmas is a large Starbucks Eggnog Latte, the Channel 5 cheesy afternoon films, the songs and seeing the wonder in the eyes of the children.

Of course there are things which I don’t like and one of those is the high end advertising.  Take the John Lewis ad for example, it always has that ability to tug at our heart strings doesn’t it? But the ads are filled with people exchanging expensive gifts, in luxurious surroundings and getting along like a house on fire.

The advertisers perpetuate this damaging myth that having a large happy, close nit family and financial stability is actually the norm.  But In reality, for many of us, it isn’t.  For many, this constant reminder of the perfect Christmas exacerbates our inadequacies, our loneliness and our financial worries.

For some, Christmas is certainly the most magical time of the year, but for others Christmas can be a reminder of those who we have lost, or indeed our past unhappy childhood memories, which in turn may leave us with extra pressure to make this one awesome. And if it’s not awesome do we feel failures? guilty? angry?

Social media plays its part too, with the perfect happy photos and pictures of the many gifts we give or receive, sometimes though this scene is not what it is like in reality.  A bit like the John Lewis ad.

With Schools closing it means parents have more to juggle and then there’s the pressure of travelling to visit family and friends, or even entertaining at home.  We may not even actually like these people, but we feel obliged!

And do all of us have time off work to spend with the ones we love? Not all and the responsibility of having to work to keep the family afloat, is also an added pressure.

In fact, scary figures released by mind a few years back suggested 36 percent of people who suffer with mental health problems have self-harmed, with a high percentage of people thinking about taking their own lives during this time.

This all sounds like one huge pressure cooker ready to blow.

So what can we do?

Plan ahead – leaving our preparations until the last minute can cause huge amounts of stress.  Planning ahead saves us time and sticking to a budget saves us money.

Shop online – this can save you even more money with Black Friday and other sales, as well as avoiding the stress and crowds at the shops.

Be unique, be you – whatever we do, do it because we want to, don’t feel forced to go somewhere, see someone or do something that you aren’t comfortable with.  Celebrate our uniqueness!!!!  You don’t like turkey?  Don’t have turkey.  You want to sit about all day in your pjs?  then sit about all day with your pjs.  Some of us make people laugh, others are born cooks and some of us are soooo creative, so use your flare, get ideas together with your close ones and enjoy what you do.

Drink sensibly – Alcohol is actually a depressant and drinking too much can cause low mood, irritability or aggressive behaviour.

Go see the ones you love – human to human contact is proven to cause the release of Oxytocin – that bonding hormone that we get from bonding with our babies.  Great for our immune system, heart and of course our mental health.

Give back – helplines, cooking meals for the homeless, visiting a care home or getting together with your local community to help those around you – there are endless ways to help out during this period.

Count to 10 – If one of your rellies is driving you up the wall, put on the brakes, pause before you decide whether to give them back their fluffy socks or not.

Stay active – getting outside is not only good for a change of scenery, it’s great for our mental health.  Whatever you do whether it’s to walk off a Christmas dinner, to get away from that person who is driving you mad, or just to get some fresh air – it’s all good.

Share your stuff – if you have coping mechanisms, then practice these with someone you trust.  That someone could also be your sounding board for any worries that come up.

Time out – no, not for the kids, for us! Taking ourselves out of the situation and doing something else like washing up, playing with the children, going to the toilet, or just stepping away for a bit really does help.

But whatever you do (or don’t do), I wish you all the very best!!!! Merry Xmas and a happy, healthy New Year.