How to Survive Christmas When You Don’t Feel Like Celebrating

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AnOther Magazine A/W08Photography by Yelena Yemchuk, Styling by Joanna Schlenzka

Five tips to help you through the next few days

The Christmas period can be nothing short of horrendous if you’re feeling less than festive. ‘Tis supposedly the season to be jolly, after all. Not the season for being unable to get out of bed – or shower for that matter – dealing with unresolved trauma (which can rear its head at this time of year in particular), or experiencing panic attacks in the middle of John Lewis because you can’t remember what kind of scented candle your sister wanted as her gift. Was it santal or patchouli?

“Someday soon we all will be together if the fates allow. Until then we’ll have to muddle through, somehow,” sings Judy Garland in her 1944 rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, arguably the most fitting song for those grappling with depression, anxiety and their mental health during the yuletide. ‘Muddling through, somehow’, is exactly what this feels like sometimes. The omnipresent pool of sticky black tar feels even more impossible to trudge through, except, in addition, it is festooned with tinsel, baubles and fairy lights, taunting you for being unable to experience joy of any kind.

But muddle through we must, as best we are able. So, here are our five ways to survive Christmas if you don’t feel like celebrating. They may be small but can make all the difference.

1. Just Say No

The pressure to attend anxiety-inducing social events in December can be immense. “Oh come on,” they say. “It’ll be fun! Don’t be boring!” Little do they know, that you’re currently hardly managing to feed and clothe yourself, let alone even think about leaving the house and mixing with other members of the human race (of which you barely feel a part of). It may seem like an impossible thing to do, particularly if you’re already riddled with the terrible ‘guilt over nothing’ that comes hand-in-hand with depression. But the solution to alleviating some of this stress comes with the utterance of just one word: no. No, you’re not going. Your health comes first, always.

2. Take Your Time

But, if you have bravely managed to RSVP to work drinks or a family gathering, and are following through with your promise to show face, there are ways to deal with the emotional turmoil once you are there. First of all, take plenty of time to get ready so you don’t feel rushed, and wear clothes you feel safe and comfortable in. So what if there’s a naff Christmas jumper dress code? You don’t have to take part. Once you get there, it can be an overwhelming experience. Forced jaw-aching smiles and incessant small talk can take everything out of you very quickly, and exhaustion can set in. When this happens, try and tell someone you trust how you are feeling, so if you need time out upstairs in a quiet room, or outside – or even to go home by making a French exit – you feel able to.

3. Friends Can be Your Family

We’re constantly spoon-fed the fact that Christmas is ‘all about family’. But what if you don’t get along with your blood relatives, have difficult relationships with certain members, or find the whole experience of going home for the holidays a traumatic one? For some people, they may be estranged from their family altogether, or have experienced bereavement. Well, friends can be your family too and often your greatest support network. You should have no qualms about spending December 25th with them if it is easier to cope. 

4. Drink in Moderation (If Humanly Possible)

Alcohol and the Christmas period are synonymous with one another, and therefore it can be even easier to self-medicate with booze when everyone around you is making excuses for their own overzealous prosecco guzzling. But for you, it is very important to try and moderate how much you are drinking, even though it feels like all you want to do is drown in a vat of elderflower twinkle. Try and enjoy the taste of a drink by sipping it slowly, rather than inhaling the contents of your champagne flute and treating it as a means to forget how terrible everything is. Alternatively, forgo alcohol altogether (if humanly possible). 

5. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

Mental illness is an isolating experience. Even if you are fortunate enough to be surrounded by loving friends and a supportive family, you can often feel completely alone. Usually, Christmas is a time for reflection, catching up with what everyone has been doing over the past year and reflecting on your own life. It can seem like you are 1,000 steps behind everyone else. But remember: you’re doing the best you possibly can and don’t beat yourself up for not getting that promotion or having to take things at a completely different pace to the neurotypicals in your life. Don’t pressure yourself to make New Year resolutions, either. You’re doing the best you can, one day at a time, and you should be proud of yourself for that alone.