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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”… but not for everyone

Christmas is a time for laughter. For seeing friends, family, exciting days out, eating, drinking, singing, dancing, and generally feeling happier than the rest of the year.

having to act happy and positive all the time is draining

This is the expectation for the festive season, and for some people, it may be completely accurate. However, for others, Christmas can be one of the hardest times of the year. The pressure to be constantly doing something festive, feeling happy and excited, can be extremely stressful. For those suffering with their mental health, (in whatever capacity and to whatever extent) this pressure can feel suffocating, and having to act happy and positive all the time is draining.

I am not in the slightest implying that if you’re the epitome of Christmas spirit, you need to tone down and become more melancholy. Not in the slightest. I love Christmas, I love everything it represents and the excuses it brings to eat and drink too much, spend much needed time with family and friends, and make each other feel special and loved. I simply think people need to understand and recognise that the more pressure and build up is created, the further some people have to fall.

“Christmas is happening around you, and yet you’re trapped watching as if inside a snow globe, which is constantly being shaken and disturbed”

For example, those going through grief face an extremely difficult time of year. How can you be expected to be joyful and celebrate your year when getting from day to day is a struggle? For those with social anxiety, Christmas brings a season of having to make excuses for why you can’t attend that party, or why you’re not taking part in this years’ Secret Santa. Having to put on a brave face and act as though you’re having the most wonderful time of the year must be so incredibly painful, especially if you feel as if you’re the only one. Christmas is happening around you, and yet you’re trapped watching as if inside a snow globe, which is constantly being shaken and disturbed.

Social media certainly doesn’t help. Instagram posts of celebrities with the perfectly decorated tree or having the perfect Christmas trips away creates an unrealistic expectation that people then feel like a failure if they can’t replicate. Every year, the materialistic elements of Christmas seem to be of greater importance, but it isn’t what Christmas should be about. Kindness, love and laughter, for me, are the Christmas trinity.

“even though it is meant to be the most wonderful time of the year, for some people, that is just not realistic”

So what am I suggesting with all of this? It certainly isn’t to not enjoy Christmas or not post that photo of your tree which you have diligently spent hours making perfect. Do post that family selfie (which disguises all the family arguments which have probably ensued at some point over the Christmas period). I just think that if people had more compassion for one and other, and more understanding, that Christmas is not a great time of year for everyone, it could make a massive difference. Acknowledging that actually, it’s okay to have a down day or not feel particularly happy, even if it is around Christmas. That it is okay to feel sad, or angry and have fall outs and disagreements, even on Christmas day. That even though it is meant to be the most wonderful time of the year, for some people, that is just not realistic.

I guess I’m saying; spread Christmas spirit, but don’t shove it down people’s throats. Make sure family and friends know that you’re there for them. Check in on people that don’t seem quite themselves, and those who do, as you never know who is suffering on the inside.

Be kind, be thoughtful, and in the words of Christina Rossetti’s ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’; ‘Yet, what can I give them? Give my heart'”

Enjoy Christmas and all it brings, but don’t let the pressure of a season affect your enjoyment of it. Be kind, be thoughtful, and in the words of Christina Rossetti’s ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’; “Yet, what can I give them? Give my heart”.

Emily Hall

Featured image courtesy of Henrik Dacquin via Flickr. No changes were made to this image. Image license found here.

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