The Festive Flip Side

There’s no doubt that Christmas brings a whole lot of joy to the majority who celebrate it. A holiday that focuses on food, friends, family and giving, what’s not to love? Nevertheless, as implied in the title of this post, there definitely is a flip side to all the festivities. I’m mainly going to focus on the mental health and eating aspect of this, but will also mention a few other ideas, and in doing so hope to make us all more aware of the potential anxieties which Christmas provokes for some.

meet-up with my gals
“The most wonderful time of the year…”

I’m sure that most of you have been listening to Christmas music nonstop for the past week. I know I have. Something that they all have in common is talk of friends and/or family, food, gifts and, most importantly, the “Christmas spirit” in the air. For a few weeks, we’re all wrapped up in this idyllic Christmas bubble. Everyone appears to be happier, more generous, surrounded by loved ones, eating an array of festive food…

slightly irrelevant but am now addicted to this sweet houmous
But what if that isn’t the case?

Although I don’t experience this personally, Christmas can be an extremely difficult time for those with complicated family situations. It can draw attention to family cracks, provoke arguments and remind people of losses if they aren’t surrounded by family. I think that, during this period of December, loneliness is made all the more severe because of the emphasis on unity. Sadly, reunions and gatherings just aren’t feasible for a lot of people, and I do believe that it’s important to be mindful of this.

I feel very lucky to be with my family
A festival of food

In a way, Christmas is exactly that. It’s a celebration that, for many, revolves around the Christmas meal. A meal which usually features turkey, sprouts, red cabbage, chestnuts and roasted veg (although it’s changing and every family is unique!). The food is the best bit for a lot of people, but for some, it causes the most anxiety. Having had an eating disorder, I can speak from personal experience and affirm that, when suffering from it over the festive period, I just wanted Christmas to be over. I felt extremely uncomfortable at the prospect of all that food, the inquisitive looks when I didn’t go for turkey, the probing questions. Coupled with the fat that exercise is often ruled out of the picture, anxiety is only heightened for some.

mince pie nicecream – recipe coming tomorrow!
A vicious cycle

Christmas is about giving. I think that goes without saying. I’m definitely super excited to see my parents open the presents I got them. However, this focus on giving often triggers a vicious cycle which leads to unnecessary levels of stress and poor mental health. We get caught up in the need to give to others – our time, money, attention, effort – and often neglect ourselves. Yes, selflessness is important, but no one should feel guilty for taking care of themselves. The Christmas craze of buying, wrapping and giving makes us forget that our mental and physical health are just as important in December as they are any month. We set ourselves unrealistic expectations, overwork and eventually the joy is taken out of Christmas. It might be a magical time of year, but we’re not superheroes!

Movement, Nourishment, Rest & Mindfulness

I think these four things can definitely help deal with the overwhelming side of Christmas. You time can include:

  • Getting some movement in (walk/ run/ swim/ yoga etc)
  • Feeding your body with nourishing food (as well as treats – it’s all about balance)
  • Sleeping and resting both body and mind
  • Being mindful of how you feel (checking in with yourself), as well as others
chilling with my girl

Remember, you’re only human. We’re all only human. Don’t expect unrealistic things from yourself or others. Appreciate what you have (friends/ family), and be mindful that others might not be so fortunate. Christmas has a certain charm which can be amazing to experience, but – as with everything – there’s a flip side. I hope that this has been a useful and thought-provoking insight into the potential reasons why some people aren’t as enthused by Christmas.

Emma ♥♥