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How to cope with the lack of structure at Christmas

Often during the holidays, our regular routines go out the window, which can take a toll on our mental health. Rebecca, 20, shares her tips on how to cope with the lack of structure during the Christmas holidays.

Christmas is a time of celebrations, presents, good food, seeing family and friends, and going out – joyous, right? Unfortunately, not for us all!

Christmas can be an especially tough time of year for those of us with mental health issues. When you are struggling with your mental health, the pressure to socialise, be happy and relax can be really stressful.

Something I have found from my own experiences, as well as those of people I know, is that structure is a massive thing – it gives us a sense of stability, it gives us direction, and it helps get us out of bed in the morning. At Christmas when most people look forward to taking time off, losing that sense of structure can be a massive challenge if you are struggling with your mental health. If you do not need to get up to go to work, university, or school, it can be difficult to know what to do with yourself.

I find it helpful to use other distractions such as colouring, reading, going for walks, looking at pictures and memories, and finding other hobbies and things to keep me busy and focused. What keeps me going through the festive season is knowing that it is just a few days a year – it will be over before you know it. I also use other routines to keep myself stable, for example setting a bedtime and encouraging myself to get up around the same time each morning to still provide some structure. That way I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my days.

Structure gives us a sense of stability, it gives us direction, and it helps get us out of bed in the morning.

Now, another thing. As much as Christmas is a social time of year, it can also be so easy to socially exclude yourself. Not seeing fellow university students or work colleagues daily, even not seeing therapists - it can be tricky. The answer is to not run away and hide but to do that scary thing and yes, be the one to text your friends, call them, keep in contact. What are they up to over Christmas? How have they been? Catch up! And if you feel really brave, even ask them to go out for the day, or even a few hours. The important things is that you avoid turning into a social hermit if possible!

But a more important tip I would give is to treat Christmas just like a normal day. The loved ones around you should just be grateful for your presence, so if you have to take an hour out after having Christmas dinner or opening presents to just go and do some reading, work, or even just have a breather, so be it. The main thing is you are there.

Christmas makes up such a small portion of the 365 days of the year, it really is not worth turning your life upside down and ruining your recovery – you just do you and do what you can. Who defines what Christmas should be anyway?

Author: Rebecca, 20

Where to get help

If you are struggling with your mental health now or during the holidays, have a look at our find help page for guidance and advice on how to get help.

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