Christmas is coming, mental health is getting fat. Be merry but be mindful, writes our Wellbeing Correspondent.
Remember the time when Christmas seemed magical?
Remember the excitement in the anticipation of a big, fat deliveryman, having parked his sleigh precariously on your roof, clambering down your chimney laden with gifts?
None of your conventional knocking at the door dressed in motorbike waterproofs and a crash helmet.
This aged guy, in immaculate red and white uniform, even though he’d been working in intolerably claustrophobic and sooty conditions, was happy to graft for mince pies and booze, with a carrot or two to fuel the flying reindeer that hauled the tons of packages that even Amazon would struggle to handle.
No wonder he’s been canonised.
I for one didn’t question any of the logic flaws in this unlikely story such was my child-like wonder and belief in the implausibility of Saint Nick.
But as I grew older, reality began to bite.
And it bit hard.
My parents admitted they’d lied to me for years about the alcoholic pensioner who’d snuck into my bedroom with a sack-full of goodies.
They’d done it all in cahoots with aunties, uncles and the older relatives to perpetuate this web of deceit.
And huge companies had also been in on it, to boost their profit margins and keep their boards of fat cats happy.
The fact that this is a religious festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus, was totally lost as consumerism engulfed the celebration to make us all part with our hard earned cash.
So what have I done to protest about this in an extinction rebellion-like stance against this annual practise of avarice and greed?
I did what the majority of the country has done and buried my head in the Turkey sandwiches, telling the same pack of lies to my own kids.
Perhaps we can all say it is harmless fun and I shouldn’t be quite so bah humbug about it.
But the truth is it takes its toll with the mental strain it places on many of us in expectations we can’t possibly meet.
Martin Lewis has related the season of giving to a feeling of obligation where it has become a game of tit for tat. And he was at pains to underline the word tat.
If one person gives a present at a certain price-point the recipient then feels pressurised to return the compliment to a similar value. This unsigned contract now ripples out to people at work, extended family, social circles and it’s getting out of hand.
Or should we say out of pocket.
Martin quite vehemently is encouraging us to get behind a movement to ban unnecessary Christmas presents. He calls it a pre-nup. A pre-Christmas no unnecessary presents agreement. He’s more than willing to be the go-between in this treaty and suggests the millions saved could even go to charity.
Then there’s the mountain of food to prepare and cook and the drinks to buy in bulk and consume totally irresponsibly. The parties to organise, the Secret Santa’s to buy and the hours spent between December 24th and January 1st in a bizarre state of limbo.
Anyone who is susceptible to anxiety or depression will see this as a perfect storm to guarantee anything but a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
So let’s gird our loins for the onslaught ahead and get everything into perspective.
Keep on top of your Christmas budget and be realistic about it. Do Christmas on your own terms and only include family and friends worthy of a well thought through gift on your pressie shortlist.
Keep your drinking and eating in check. Dry January and Veganuary are inventions for people who say yes to excess over yuletide. Just don’t go there. It isn’t compulsory.
Of course, think about others over Christmas, but not at the expense of yourself. Don’t neglect your exercise regimes or diet that deliver good mental wellbeing. Embrace the bracing walks in the many parks and river walks we have in our beautiful area.
Remember also those who don’t get to enjoy the festive season like the rest of us. The elderly, homeless and isolated. Get involved in helping them in the true spirit of Christmas with charities that don’t get time off over the holiday period.
At all costs, make sure you have a mindfully happy, not a mindlessly crappy Christmas.