Have yourself a mindful little Christmas

Cosy blanket and Christmas tree

Ah, Christmas. It's often described as the most wonderful time of the year, but it can be a different story if you're dealing with a mental health issue (or any other issue, be it money, relationships, job woes etc!). It can feel like there are huge expectations on everything to be picture perfect and filled with happy memories, each year better than the last.

But! It doesn't have to be this way. One not so commonly known fact about mental health is that even the most so called joyous and happy life events can be hard or triggering (I got really anxious after I got engaged, true story!), so it's about finding ways to mould it into something that means joy for you. So, how can you escape the pressure and have a more mindful Christmas?

Work out what Christmas means to you

Just like music or Marmite, people all have different ideas of what is great and what isn't. We all love different things about Christmas. Some people love the big family gatherings, and other people find them stressful especially if there are family tensions. Some people love to drink a lot over the holidays, whilst others may feel immense pressure to drink more than they'd like. Some people love the bustle of a busy town centre filled with lights; others may get panicky in crowds. Have a think about your ideal Christmas Day. What does it entail? A huge family all crowded around a table, or just your immediate loved ones having a quiet dinner? Big piles of presents, or small meaningful gifts?

Whatever Christmas means to you, try to incorporate as much of that into the festive period as you can. It can be hard trying to pander to other people's wishes and trying to fit in catch ups with family and friends, but this brings me on to the next tip...

Twinkly Christmas branch

Say no!

You don't have to see everyone and go to everything! I know Great Aunt Maud is visiting all the way from Scotland, and your work Christmas do promises to be a scream... but if you're someone who gets overwhelmed easily, say no to things that you know will trigger you. You can always go and see Great Aunt Maud in the Spring, and everyone's chatter about the Christmas do will soon be forgotten in the new year. 

I personally know that if I have too much of a packed social calendar, that I will start to feel frazzled and anxious because I absolutely need quiet time to relax in my own home to recharge. When I'm feeling mentally healthy, I'm pretty social and I really enjoy being out and about with people - but as soon as I start to feel frayed, it becomes really difficult and a huge trigger to try and paint on the "I'm fine" face.

The fear that you will let someone down can be tough, but I've turned down a few social engagements this holiday, and can honestly say that I ruined nobody's day. Make arrangements to see people when everything has died down, or perhaps suggest a quiet coffee or something less stressful. I think that a lot of people feel this way about Christmas... it's cold, dark and wet, and I think most people secretly want to be hunkered down at home but they feel like they have to pretend to be really up for a party!

Mistletoe and sparkly Christmas tree

Scale down on spending & give mindfully

Spending money can be a source of great anxiety over Christmas. The pressure of the 'perfect' present that makes their eyes light up can be tough too. Have a conversation with the people close to you in the run up to it, and suggest that you all scale it down and get each other perhaps one or two small, meaningful gifts, rather than a huge mountain. A big pile of presents looks nice under a tree, sure... but is it really worth all the stress?

We were featured in a really beautiful gift guide that centres around small mindful gifts that encourage wellbeing and mindfulness, and I think it's such a fabulous idea to try and give more mindfully. We live in a world where we all have lots of 'stuff' if we're lucky, and usually we don't really need much. 

In our family we have all undergone some changes this year that have directly influenced our finances (health and work contracts mainly) so we decided as a family to scale it right back, even for the kids. It's really taken the pressure off, and I know full well that we will all be just as happy this year as we have been in previous years with mountains of presents... maybe even happier, because there won't be any stress of feeling overwhelmed by 'stuff' and trying to find places for it in our houses!

There's so much in the media and on TV adverts that encourages us to strive for that 'perfect' Christmas, and each more perfect than the last. A bigger browner turkey, fancier side dishes, bigger trees, the perfect Scandi style decorations in EVERY room, brand new couches delivered just in time... you get the picture! The thing is, it's just a day. It's nice to make it special for you and your family - but ONLY if it serves you well and enhances your mental health rather than triggers it.

I really love to make a fresh foliage garland for the table, but I do this because I find it to be a calming, mindful activity that I'm really proud of when it's done... but the minute this becomes an added stress, I'll stop doing it. Nobody will miss it on the table or complain if it isn't there!

So, with all of that in mind, I wish you the most gorgeously calm and mindful Christmas!

Lucy x

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