Christmas can be a really difficult time, with a Mind study in 2015 revealing that:
- Three quarters (76 per cent) of people have problems sleeping at Christmas
- Nearly 60 per cent of people experience panic attacks over the festive period
So, here are just a few things you can do for yourself or someone you know who is struggling at Christmas. Leave your own suggestions below, since we could only cover a few areas. But on with the list!
People who have eating disorders often find Christmas to be one of the most stressful times of year. There are big family meals to attend, a focus on the food, and having to eat in front of people. However, some things can help:
- It’s okay not to have a piled plate, and you shouldn’t feel pressured into eating masses if you don’t want to.
- If someone you know has an eating disorder, letting them go away and spend some time alone or get up from the table and have a minute is vital.
- Small achievements are worth celebrating. Lots of people who have eating disorders won’t eat in front of people at all. If you have a roast potato at Christmas dinner, celebrate it! So what if you ate the rest of your meal in the conservatory on your own? A victory is still a victory.
Sufferers of substance abuse disorders such as alcoholism can feel under a lot of pressure at Christmas to engage in “social drinking” that can be detrimental to their recovery. Mulled wine everywhere! Here’s a few tips to be kind to yourself this festive season:
- Having another sober friend with you at Christmas parties will greatly help you to feel more able to say ‘no’ to alcohol. This person should preferably be a person who is very firmly sober, so that there is no chance they will have a drink and tempt you into drinking too.
- Think of a non-alcoholic drink that you really enjoy and make that your go-to at parties. Lime and lemonade? Coca-Cola? Virgin drinks? Anything will do!
- No one should ever try and convince someone to drink. If you ask, and they say no, they mean no. Think of it like the Tea and Consent video (link here)
“If you say ‘Hey, would you like a cup of tea?’…And [if] they say, ‘No, thank you’, then don’t make them tea. At all.”
For lots of people with sensory problems like autism or sensory processing disorder, the changes and chaos that the festive period can bring with it can make the season very stressful and overstimulating. Here are a few things to make it a little more manageable:
- Flashing Christmas lights aren’t always the best idea. Normal, dimmed (preferably single-coloured) tree lights look just as nice and don’t feel anywhere near as much like a disco or a nightmare.
- Crackers make loud noises – but you can remove the little strip inside the tube of the cracker to make your very own silent crackers. Or how about making Christmas envelopes or crackers you don’t have to pull? (See below)
- Remember that Christmas is not the time to try and get people who have routine-focused disorders or anxiety to try new things. Let people eat the food they want, wear the clothes they want, and don’t try and push them to do more in what is already a stressful time.
Have a very happy and safe festive season, and remember that there are lots of helplines and resources available in the holidays. Talk to the people you trust and watch out for one another. Take care, friends.