Going home for the holidays; opening presents; eating, drinking and being merry – for so many people, Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. But it’s not that way for everyone, and the pressure to have fun can sometimes get to be too much. We’re taking a look at four of the most common mental health issues in students, and ways of coping at Christmas with a mental health issue.
(If you need urgent support over the festive period, you can check out this list of useful helplines.)
It’s easy to assume that once all your assignments are handed in and you’re free to relax, anxiety will automatically go away. But this isn’t always the case – maybe you’re nervous about seeing some difficult family members, spending pretty much all your time with other people, getting in some revision for January exams or literally anything else. Anxiety is a b*tch, and it doesn’t care that it’s Christmas.
The most important thing to remember here is everything in moderation, from alcohol to Christmas activities to spending time with other people. Don’t over indulge or overload, and always make time for yourself to rest.
Read next: Dealing with anxiety in social settings
Loneliness at Christmas is super common. Whether you’re staying in your Uni accomodation or heading home to spend time with family, it’s very easy to feel isolated, especially if you already suffer with some form of depression, and especially if it seems like everyone around you is genuinely happy and having fun. If you’re not filled with childlike glee, it’s easy to feel like something’s wrong with you – especially when you’re labelled a ‘Scrooge,’ by an ignorant family member or two.
The key here is to try and avoid triggers that could make you feel worse. Get as much fresh air and light exposure as you can, get plenty of sleep, try to limit your intake of commercialised, sappy ‘you wish you were this happy’ Christmas movies – and don’t be afraid to duck out of plans if you don’t think you can manage them. Crucially – please try to remember you’re not the only person feeling this way, and there’s help available if you need it.
Christmas is a particularly difficult time for people suffering with (or recovering from) eating disorders. The huge emphasis on food and self indulgence is often hard to escape, and with tons of people around it can be difficult to escape notice if you’re struggling.
My best advice would be to communicate your worries ahead of time: talk to a trusted family member who can perhaps let others know just not to make a comment. If you don’t think you can manage sitting at the dinner table on Christmas day, no one is going to hate you for sitting somewhere quieter where you can eat in peace. And if you are feeling brave enough, you can make some swaps to more manageable foods (ditch the turkey and pigs in blankets for vegan sausage and veggies). It’s also important to remember you’re not alone – if you feel like your family members just don’t get it, try reaching out to helplines or support groups for a good rant.
Read next: Everything tastes better than skinny feels
Another huge emphasis at Christmas is placed on drinking alchohol. Even children expect to be leaving sherry for a fictional man in a red suit. Personally, I think the drinking culture at Christmas has gotten a bit ridiculous, but it is a culture, and if you’re struggling with addiction or you’re in recovery it can be tough to handle.
The most important thing to remember is that it is absolutely your right to to say no when offered a Christmas tipple. No one should give a crap, and if they do then they’re not worth your time anyway. You know your own boundaries, and you don’t ever have to deviate from them to appease someone else.
Courtesy of Matt Haig’s Instagram, this sums up everything I’ve been trying to say. Saying no to eating and drinking things you don’t want, seeing family members you don’t like, buying things you can’t afford and choosing to spend time by yourself – none of these things make you boring. But for the people who might suggest it does, it’s really none of their business, and it’s always best to prioritise your own needs, without compromise. Nothing is worth making yourself ill.
If you need some support over the festive period, check out this list of useful helplines – and please please remember that you’re never alone.