Mental health at Christmas time

“While everyone else is feeling happy and jolly, you’re fighting the war inside you. This illness has stolen many things from you, including Christmas.” 

The Christmas season was once about religion, festivities and – most importantly – being with the family. For some of us this is still true; however, for many, the holiday season now feels like it comes with very high expectations.

For some, Christmas has become just another day or, even worse, something that they dread or fear.

The stigma that still surrounds mental illness can make Christmas a very dark time for some.

Either the illness has to be kept quiet through the holidays or it can be something that highlights the issues with which the family is suffering.

Every Christmas, the number of people reaching out for help due to mental illness rises. Hospitals and emergency departments report increased incidences of attempted suicide, while psychiatrists, psychologists and other mental health professionals report a significant increase in patients complaining about depression.

The team at Cortijo Care is very well prepared for this and can help you get through this difficult time. This season, if you feel you are struggling, don’t worry, you are not alone.

Factors that influence mental health at Christmas:

• Excessive commercialisation of Christmas, with the focus on gifts and the emphasis on ‘perfect’ social activities. Pressure from society to produce ‘bigger and better’ everything (i.e. presents, food, etc). There is particular pressure on low earners.

• Expectations for social gatherings with family, friends and acquaintances with whom you would rather not spend time.

• Bereavement and loss – Christmas can feel lonely for those who have lost a loved one. You are expected to be happy.

This can actually cause a deeper sense of loneliness.

• New Year’s Resolutions.

• Disappointments for children – not getting what they wanted.

Addiction during the holidays:

The Christmas and New Year period is always a difficult time for someone suffering from an addiction. Many will make the resolution to not drink again, as they do not yet realise that it is no longer a choice for them. The only ‘choice’ is recovery, to get help and learn to understand their addiction. Alcoholism is often a family disease, meaning its effects are not self-contained or isolated to just the affected person. In fact, for every individual living with alcoholism, there are six or more people who are also impacted by the disease. Therefore, a family who has a loved one suffering from addiction will also be affected by the illness during Christmas.

Eating disorders:

For most people, highlights of the holidays include the food and sitting down to enjoy a traditional meal. Yet, for someone suffering from an eating disorder, this will bring stress, anxiety and fear. It is also a time of year when family and friends may visit, and recent weight-loss will be noticed and difficult questions asked. Coping with Christmas involves some preparation and an understanding heart. There are ways in which you can develop coping strategies, which will reduce the amount of stress you will feel. At Cortijo Care we specialise in eating disorders and can help you get through this challenging period.

Tips on coping:

• If you suffer from an eating disorder, talk over your meal plan with someone, ideally a professional if you are currently under somebody’s care. If you are spending time with family and friends share this plan with someone you trust so they can help you stick to it.

• Decide ahead of time how long you can tolerate a family gathering. At the end of that period leave and feel good about taking care of yourself.

• Don’t accept any ideal or perfect representation of Christmas that the media or institutions push onto us. Lower your expectations. Try to focus on the now.

• Say no! Saying yes all the time, especially when you do not want to, can leave you feeling bitter and beleaguered. Loved ones will understand if you can’t involve yourself in everything.

• Make some time for yourself. Spending just 20 minutes alone, without interruption, can help you regain control. Do things that are very special and important to you. You can only do the best you can.

Remember you don’t have to wait until you hit rock bottom; you can make a change at any time and Cortijo Care can help you take your first step.

Cortijo Care Marbella: C/ Joaquin Turina, Cortijo Blanco, San Pedro de Alcantara, Marbella.

Phone: (+34) 952 780 181

Email: [email protected]

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