Editor’s Note: This guest blog was written Dummymummy, mum of two, The Princess (born July 2010) and The Pea (born May 2012). She has been blogging at dummymummy.co.uk since March 2011, a project started to help her through post-natal depression and the cluelessness of being a first time mum. She claims to be still pretty clueless second time round.
I actually think this post should be entitled “How to Just Get Through It”, because coping may not actually be possible. It may be all you can do to open your eyes and acknowledge it is, in fact, Christmas day. And that’s fine. Having struggled with post-natal depression myself, not to mention ante-natal depression and just general run-of-the-mill depression, I am acutely aware that any “How To…” list could actually end up loading on more pressure, instead of being of any real help. I am hoping to avoid that here.
So my first tip is to be gentle with yourself. If you’re feeling low and anxious now, chances are you won’t feel much different come the holidays. So don’t make any huge plans you can’t get out of if what you need to be doing is having a pyjama day with the opportunity to crawl back to bed at midday.
Be honest if you can. Tell someone close to you that you feel low, or that you’re just not looking forward to celebrating this year. This will hopefully take a bit of pressure off you, but also sometimes just saying out loud how you feel brings a sense of relief. Hopefully people will understand and offer plenty of support and help.
Christmas is “meant” to be a happy time, a family time, not to mention all the excitement of presents and the organisation the whole thing takes, and all this is pressure in itself. If you then start to feel pressured into being happy, to making sure the rest of the family are happy and having a great time, then you could feel like you just might crack. So don’t take on too many responsibilities, otherwise everything added together could be too much. If you don’t have to host a family dinner, don’t do it. If you just don’t feel like joining in with the festivities, then don’t. Postpone arrangements for another day. There’s really no right or wrong way of doing things.
Try to get jobs done on days when you feel a bit brighter. This takes a bit of planning, but it means that you won’t be panicking a week before Christmas day when you realise nothing has been done, as this could make you feel even lower. Just doing one thing on a good day will make you feel more prepared.
Get as much help with present-buying and food shopping as you can. Don’t let the organisational burden fall solely on your shoulders.
For me, anxiety was a big problem, a big part of which was leaving the house. If you feel the same, I would say push yourself to go to places you feel safe, a family get-together, or Christmas drinks with close friends, but don’t stress over a work party, or socialising with those who are only acquaintances. Staying in the house is always the easy option, but getting out and connecting with people who love and care for you goes a long way in boosting self-confidence and making you feel a little brighter.
Without feeling any sense of responsibility or guilt (I’m not trying to tell you you ought to do this or that it’s not all about you), try to focus on your child or children. Concentrating on their excitement and happiness might just take you away from the low feelings for a while. And look at it from their point of view – they don’t care if you have a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, or if you spend the day in your pyjamas, so why should you?
Just take each day as it comes. You may be dreading the big day right now, only to wake up Christmas morning just as excited as the children. Or not. Try not to expect too much from yourself, and just go with how you feel on the day.
Don’t drink too much alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant, and if you already feel low, alcohol will only make these feelings worse.
If everything really is getting too much, and you don’t feel able to talk to loved ones, try to see your GP and explain how you feel. If this doesn’t feel possible, then maybe these numbers might be useful:
Mind – a mental health charity Helpline: 0300 123 3393
Rethink Mental Illness – voluntary provider of mental health services Helpline: 0300 5000 927
The Samaritans – if you feel desperate or suicidal, call 08457 909090. Someone is there to listen to you 24 hours a day.
Talking often seems daunting, especially when you don’t really understand how you feel or why you feel so awful, but it really does help. This is coming from someone who finds it incredibly difficult to talk about feelings, preferring to run out the front door than have a conversation about my emotions, but trust me, it really does feel better to get it out.