Like most people, I love Christmas and always have done. However, last year, it wasn’t so great for me. Having just been diagnosed with depression, it was difficult for me to get into the Christmas spirit – I didn’t enjoy the run up, as I usually do, and the big day itself was even worse. My family stressed me out, I didn’t want to get dressed up (as I usually do) and see people, and I ended up in floods of tears trying to hide away from it all.
This year, I’m feeling better – not completely, but certainly enough to find pleasure in things – and am trying desperately to rekindle that Christmas magic that I knew so well before I was ill. I’ve found that throwing myself into things and getting involved with the festivities has really helped me to push any negativity that I’ve been harbouring to the back of my mind.
I’m not saying that what I’ve done will work for everyone, as we all have different thresholds of what we can and can’t cope with when depressed (especially at a time as hectic as Christmas), but I’ve definitely found all these little activities have lifted my spirits. Here are some things that you might find helpful, as I have.
1. Go ice skating. I went ice skating at the local Christmas market last week and it was great fun! I was apprehensive about it, as I hadn’t skated for about five years, and to make matters worse, it took a while for any of my friends to appear. I thought about taking a rain check, I really did. But in the end, I went ahead anyway and despite fifteen minutes of not wanting to leave the barrier at the edge of the rink, I was soon gliding around and laughing heartily with adrenalin. For me, it was almost impossible to feel sad when I was concentrating so hard on keeping my balance and chasing my friends around the rink!
2. Unleash your inner child. You’re never too old to embrace the art of making paper snowflakes. It’s fun to see how many different designs you can come up with, and they look great – who’d have thought that randomly snipping folded-up paper would be so satisfying? You can stick them up around your home (I’ve got mine on my windows) to liven the place up a bit.
3. Bake some Christmas goodies. Baking is always a great distraction – you can work out your aggression on the batter or dough, measuring out the ingredients and following the recipe keeps your brain engaged and away from grey thinking, and at the end of it, you’ve got some tasty treats which you can proudly say that you made yourself. It’s a win-win situation, really! Christmas allows for lots of lovely flavours, from warming spices to wintery fruit. Yesterday I made gingerbread, using this recipe by Nigella Lawson, and it’s absolutely delicious. I can’t stop eating it…
4. Make yourself a big, warming meal. Chilli con carne is a particular favourite of mine for this purpose – you just cannot beat it on a cold, winter night. Finding the motivation to cook proper meals can be hard when you’re feeling low, but if you cook up a big enough batch when you can manage it, then you can freeze the rest and then you don’t need to worry about preparing meals for the next few days. It’s great to snuggle up with a warming meal and a film.
5. Go carolling. Singing releases endorphins and has been proven to lower feelings of depression, even if only temporarily, so what better time is there to get out there and sing loudly and proudly? Most of the time, carolling is done for charity, so you can seek comfort in the fact that you’re not only making yourself feel better, but also helping others.
6. Try your favourite coffee shop’s Christmas specials. Go to your favourite coffee shop, order yourself a big mug of whatever you fancy (I particularly like the gingerbread latte from Starbucks and the praline latte from Caffè Nero), find a corner where you can see all around you, and just sit with your drink and people watch. I find this always calms me down – I love getting lost in my thoughts about what everyone else’s story is. It can be a great distraction and help you to slow down and notice the smaller pleasures.
I hope these tips help some of you, but if they don’t, please don’t worry about it too much. Everyone has the right to feel and respond to their own emotions, so if you find that you still can’t feel festive, this does not mean that you never will. Just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean that you are obliged to be happy. You just need time and space, so that you can allow yourself to recover in your own time. If you catch yourself feeling sad at Christmas, let yourself be sad at Christmas – those who really care will understand, and those are the same people who you will benefit from being around at Christmas.
Take care everyone!