Surviving the Holidays

Holiday,Christmas Xmas wallpapers (2)Well, it’s the holidays again, and whether you celebrate Hannukah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or no specific day at all, you have no doubt been affected by the season. From the endless loops of carols in the increasingly busy stores, to arguing with your partner over filling out Christmas cards, to buying presents for increasingly-difficult-to-shop-for family members (I’m looking at you, mum!), to trying to have the ‘perfect’ holiday ever, it can be a ball of stress for every single person out there, and ten times so for people affected by mental illness. In the spirit of Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All, here are my top five tips for surviving the rest of the holiday season:

1. Accept imperfection. Your day will not be perfect. Your turkey may be dry, a present may get left behind on the way to Grandma’s house, three people may buy you the same hideous sweater with sleigh bells on it. Accept now that the day will not be the Greatest Day in the History of Holidays, and move on. If I look for perfection, I will be horrified by my results. If I look for joy, I will be greatly rewarded by when the little things go right.

2. Find a safe space. Whether you are travelling, or having guests over, find a small space away from the crowds where you can retreat to before things get too intense for you. When I am feeling overwhelmed, be it from anxiety or even happiness, I know I can excuse myself for a few minutes in my safe space and get my mind back on track. Your safe space can be a spare bedroom, the garage, even a bathroom – just some place to feel a bit of peace and quiet, while Uncle Irving tells the same joke for the seventh time that evening.

3. Double check your meds! Before you pack the presents and pudding in the car, make triple sure you have a full load of medication on you. I generally pack at least twice the amount I need (in case I get snowed in), and if you are flying, make sure you have all meds in the appropriate pharmacy containers, with labels attached.

4. Be honest. If you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to quietly tell someone. Your partner, family member, or friend can keep an eye on your behaviour as the day wears on and look for any red flags that you may not notice in yourself. Your illness doesn’t take the holidays off – better that you should take a few minutes from unwrapping gifts to have a quick lie down than you push yourself to the breaking point being the perfect host or guest.

5. If it’s bad, know that it’s over soon. I won’t sugar coat it, a lot of us have to endure holidays with people we may not like, or downright fear. This can trigger some major reactions in us. If you are travelling to a new location, scout their emergency services in advance, and double check with your GP as to who will be on call if you should need to phone someone in an emergency. And remember, it will be over soon. The carols will eventually fade, the long lost relatives will wake up from the sofa and leave your house, and the decorations will come down. Know that you are strong enough to get through a difficult time, and come out of it stronger on the other side.

If you’re not going to be celebrating with anyone this year, and feel that you need to talk, the Samaritans will be there day and night ready to listen. You can contact them by phone: 08457 909090 or by email

I hope that everyone has a happy, productive, and joyful season, and a wonderfully strong New Year!