How to cope with Christmas when you’re not feeling merry and bright

The songs say it's the most wonderful time of the year. But what if you disagree and actually feel the opposite about it? How can you best navigate your way through the holidays when you've been feeling low?
not feeling merry and bright

When you’re not feeling merry and bright, and yet all the messages around you are telling you to feel exactly like that, Christmas can quickly become something you dread. 

Suffering from depression is so super hard at any time of the year. But the holidays can be particularly difficult, so this post is for those of you who might be struggling with Christmas this year. 

Let’s look at some of the reasons why the time around Christmas can be difficult, and then we’ll consider how you could best support yourself (and your mental health) throughout it. As always, take away the bits that are meaningful and helpful for you.

 

If christmas is dragging you down, consider why

Christmas and the weeks leading up to it are often filled with expectations and pressures. And as with any special events that fail unless they’re absolutely amazing, the stakes are high and we can feel extra anxious. 

A lot of these expectations may be self-imposed, such as wanting to be the perfect host or to create the most magical Christmas for your children. Or sometimes they may come from others around you. 

And let’s face it, our normal lives are still continuing so any Christmas pressure is added on top of what we already have to do or are currently having to deal with.

Christmas often also means we’re stressing about money or perhaps the lack of it. For some this might be rather mild, yet for others it can throw up more existential worries.

Or perhaps Christmas makes you long for old times, or for the company of people who are no longer in your life. 

Or maybe you’re longing for those positive emotions you used to feel around this time of year but can’t access at the moment.

Christmas can also bring increased feelings of loneliness. After all it’s seen as a time to get together and enjoy each other’s company. But what if you don’t have that at the moment? 

Or perhaps you are facing lots of social gatherings that fill you with dread. Social anxiety is something that a lot of us feel, so the run up to Christmas can be really difficult. Or maybe you are going to have to spend time with people you find very challenging, and that can bring up a lot of stress, anxiety or anger.

And then there’s the overindulgence in alcohol and sweet foods. Food and drink are definitely a huge part in celebrations! But if you are really struggling with your mood, then this time of year and its typical eating and drinking habits can make your mood so much worse. Christmas and healthy habits (whatever those might be for you) seem to seldom go hand in hand.

Christmas also signals that this year is coming to an end which can throw up all sorts of big feelings. Disappointment if you’re not happy with your progress or yourself. Sadness about upsetting events. Anger, a sense of failure, frustration, regret, anxiety…. These are all feelings that have a message. But when the year ends, and it’s dark and wet out there, it can be all too easy to dwell on the negatives and forget about the positives. 

There really can be so many reasons why Christmas isn’t making you feel as it’s promised to in the movies. 

how to best support yourself if you're not feeling merry and bright

So how can you best navigate through the holidays? 

Firstly, remember that just because it’s Christmas it doesn’t mean that any problems suddenly go away. Mental health problems in particular tend to only get stronger the more we force them to go away. So go easy and show yourself some self-compassion

Plus, the actual day of Christmas only lasts for about a day! So if you really aren’t feeling merry and bright, could you remind yourself of that and skip a lot of the activities that lead up to this one day event?

Certainly for me, I try to remind myself of what Christmas really means to me. And if I find that my to-do list in my head is somehow not aligned with that very personal meaning, I try to let go of any self-imposed pressures. 

I don’t need to cook, decorate, make, buy, prepare and plan much at all if I consider that I mostly just want to spend time with my family. I try to make Christmas magical for my daughter, but let’s face it- most of all the activities around us are already doing that job for me anyway.

And if there are external pressures that are just not making me feel good, then I’ll try to set boundaries as well. It’s okay to say no, leave early, spend less, pretend less. 

So see where your priorities lie. 

If you are secretly wishing to skip Christmas this year, can you find ways to do so? Could you go somewhere else? Do something new and break free from certain traditions, perhaps just this year?

Could you let others know how you’re feeling? 

And most importantly, could you give yourself a gift this year? Something that will comfort and cheer you up? If you’ve been feeling low and down for a long time, could this be the right time to seek out help? 

 

As always, I’d love to know what you think. How do you support yourself throughout the holidays (and the weeks leading up to it) if you’re not feeling merry and bright? Hop over to facebook or instagram and let me know!

And if you do want to have help to improve your mood and mental health, and you think that I might be a good fit for you, then just get in touch. Simply fill out my contact form and we’ll take it from there.

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