Christmas can be a tough time of year for a lot of people, especially those who struggle with mental illness. Personally, I always struggle with expectations versus reality and this is only exaggerated around Christmas time. I quite often find it difficult to feel excited for things - it's like I can't process in my head that there's something coming up that I should be looking forward to, no matter how hard I try. In hindsight, I always love Christmas, but it usually passes too fast for me because I feel like I've missed the build up. Unlike the rest of us, mental illness doesn't take a break over Christmas, as much as we'd all love it to. However, there are a few things which we can all do to make the holidays a little easier for ourselves.

Give yourself a temporary routine
One thing which can cause anxiety around Christmas time is a lack of our usual routines. Routine and rules are two things which seem to fly out of the window around the holidays. Sleep schedules and food schedules completely disappear and this can really have an affect on the way we think. I know that whenever I'm out of my regular sleeping routine and if I'm eating more than usual it adds a lot of extra anxiety. Although it may not be your regular routine, try to set out some sort of plan for yourself across Christmas time. Knowing what I'm doing through the day always helps put my mind at ease!

Take breaks for yourself
Family time is great and Christmas is a really fun excuse for everyone to come together. However, this does sometimes mean that your house adopts an open door policy with every person you've ever met stopping in for a visit. If you're an introvert like me, it's important to take some time to yourself across the Christmas period. Don't feel bad if the constant buzz of Christmas television, flickering lights, food smells and loud voices wears you out a little. It's okay to take a quiet break!

Don't make the day feel bigger than it is
Going back to my very first point - Christmas can often feel so much bigger than it is. With every TV show, advert and person in the street constantly yelling about Christmas in the lead up to the big day, it can feel like the whole world has become obsessed. Christmas is just a day and you don't have to be as into it as everyone else around you seems to be. Not feeling festive and excited? Don't beat yourself up for it. A big side-effect of many mental illnesses is a habit of disassociating from things which other people seem to obsess over. It's okay to see the big day as just another day.

Go easy on the booze
This one is obviously self explanatory - mental health and alcohol don't (usually) mix well. Christmas is always a time when alcohol limits become non-existent, but remember to know your own limits and don't add any extra stress for yourself. 

Forgive yourself for forgetting work for a few days
I'm a bit of a workaholic. I love having a schedule - I love to always be writing or taking photos and doing something productive. If I spend a whole day not doing any of this stuff, I start to think of all of the things I could have been doing with my time and end up beating myself up over it. Christmas shouldn't be a day for working and it's completely okay to take a little break for a while! Don't spend the day worrying about your To Do list. Those things will still be there hanging around in January and you can tackle them then instead.

Remember, social media is exaggerated
This is one which I'm a major culprit of. Scrolling through Twitter or Facebook, or worst of all, Instagram, on Christmas day will always make you feel like everyone else is having a better day than you. Everyone has a bigger tree with more presents under it, more family members laughing and drinking, a bigger roast dinner and a better Christmas outfit than you. But remind yourself that social media is always filtered, even when there's #NoFilter. We all only share the best parts of our lives online, so don't get down if it seems like everyone else is having a better day than you are!

Look after yourself
Finally, don't forget to look after yourself this Christmas. Remember that your mental illness doesn't control you. Whether you're feeling sad, anxious or empty, you'll get through this.Whoever you are, you deserve to have a day filled with love, joy and happiness - and I hope your Christmas is full of these!

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