The 12 Stockings of Christmas
So, last Christmas, I was given a rather unique advent calendar from my mother. Yes, I was a 38 year old getting an advent calendar. No I don’t care.
My family and I don’t really do lots of presents, we tend to just go for things that are meaningful and well thought out, rather than something for the sake of it. Hence, the socks. Some get annoyed with the thought of socks as a gift and think it lazy. However, when you know the person, it’s not lazy, it’s perfect.
I actually have a love/hate relationship with socks. I hate wearing socks so I’ll go barefoot for as long as possible. However, when I do have to wear socks, I make sure that those socks are awesome and my mother is well aware of this. One year for my birthday she got me a pair of Harry Potter socks (picture attached because there’s no better way to describe them than seeing them). I love these socks, they’re genius and I didn’t think she could top them.
The following year I received a pair of socks that scandalised some members of the family (namely her partner) who didn’t think she would really give them to me. She shrugged and said, “of course I can”. And promptly did. Quite frankly they are the perfect socks for me and it’s a toss-up as to whether the Harry Potter or the NSFW socks are my favourite. They’re both thick, soft and my absolute go-to when it’s cold and miserable outside.
Then there was a sock slump. She got me a subscription, where every month for six months you would get a pair of socks in the post. A great idea in principle, not so much in execution. They were good quality, but just kind of boring. And I got the same pair twice which is just lazy.
But last year……last year she was back on form. No namby-pamby subscriptions promising socks a plenty and falling short. A single pair wasn’t even good enough for her darling daughter. She had a reputation to uphold. Her status as Queen Sock Giver was at stake. And as she always does when the chips are down, she came through.
Not just one pair. Not even two was enough. Three would have been a dream come true, but she didn’t stop there. Oh no. It kept going.
Twelve pairs of socks. Twelve. In an advent calendar no less. Twelve wondrous days of anticipation; what kind of socks, are they comfy, are they cute, will they be soft……the possibilities were endless. But the absolute cherry on top?
Disney. They were Disney socks. My heart soared like a five year old who’d just been told that she could have a pony. All previous socks paled in comparison. I was content.
You may be wondering what the point is. I’ll be honest, the story got away from me a little bit. I had only intended to give a brief background to the relevance of socks, but I have a bit of a tendency to digress at times and, yeah…..
I was thinking about Christmas and how it relates to mental health because, well, that’s my job, to talk about mental health, and Christmas can be a big stressor. It may be advertised as a season of joy and good tidings, but the fact is, it simply isn’t that for everyone.
One universal thing about Christmas is, stockings. Almost everyone will have one and for me, it’s the best part. It’s full of the little things that bring you joy, that make you smile, and can show how much the person who filled it, cares for you. So this Christmas, my gift to you is the 12 stockings of Christmas (because twelve is obviously the best number), each of which will have a different thing to get you through the season, however it works for you.
Enjoy the Chaos
People become animals at Christmas and it’s so easy to become overwhelmed. The shops are heaving, people are fighting over mashed potatoes and everyone is just a little bit stressed. I used to work in retail and I hated it. My trick? Just go with the flow. Watch everyone turn into rabid dogs around you and enjoy the chaos. When you stop trying to get involved and just observe what’s going on around you, it takes a lot of pressure off.
Ask for Help
Many people suffer in silence when they don’t have to. Whether it’s trying to be a superhero to get everything done or simply being lonely, it really doesn’t matter. It’s not weak to ask for help. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it means you’re human. If you reach out to even just one person, it could make all the difference to their Christmas.
You don’t have to please everyone
I’m going to be honest, I really don’t enjoy big, family functions. I love my family, but in small doses (sorry fam). I find it so overwhelming and I get so exhausted. When I was younger I used to go to every function but I didn’t enjoy it. Nowadays, I’m much better at saying no. Politely, but firmly. It’s vital for my own wellbeing. And while it might be easier said than done, setting boundaries and sticking to them can really save your sanity.
If the overwhelm is getting to you then try burning off a little bit of steam. Now I’m not saying you have to go for a five mile run (that would be crazy), but a little stroll around the block can give you some time to yourself while getting all the benefits of the fresh air. It has bonus points for working off some of that Christmas chocolate. Or is that just me?
Ok, so this is kind of similar to enjoying the chaos, but not quite. It’s more about not getting stuck to the idea of how you want the season to go. Having a plan in place isn’t the worst idea, just don’t let yourself be stuck to the rigidity of it. If things change, embrace it and just go with the flow.
You Don’t Have To Be Alone
Let me just get this out there first: If you WANT to spend Christmas on your own, then go for it. This is for the people who are lonely but don’t want to be. If you’re feeling down and don’t want to be on your own, then reach out to people. If you don’t want to call a friend or family member, then there are nearly always community programmes offering places to be for those who want to be with other people but don’t have anywhere to go.
Have a Laugh
Having a good old belly laugh is one of the best stress relievers there is. Frankly, this is good advice at any time of the year, but Christmas is one of those times when tensions can be running particularly high and finding the humour in things can really cut through that. However you do it, whether that’s a board game with friends, social events with the family or watching your favourite TV programme, let it all out.
Eat What You Want
I’m not saying have a binge. That isn’t necessarily helpful and can lead to all sorts of problems afterwards. BUT, don’t worry so much if what you’re eating fits in with your macros or your calories. It’s ok to indulge once in a while. I certainly do! Now, pass me that cheese board……
This can apply to anything – your tech, your work, your brain. Your body needs time to recharge and many of us don’t allow it the time to do that. We work until we drop and even when we go on holiday, we come back knackered feeling like we need another one to recover from the first! So really, truly switch off. Throw on some fluffy socks, curl up under a blanket and watch some Christmas movies. Aaaaand relax.
Talk about your feelings
Talking about how you feel isn’t the easiest thing to do at any point in the year, but it can often be worse at this time of year. Christmas is always advertised as a time for family and getting together and you might not feel like this is the right time to talk about any issues you could be having. But really, the right time, is when you’re ready. It doesn’t matter if that’s Christmas, a birthday or just a plain old Tuesday. Reach out, start a conversation and see how it goes.
Spend time with the ones you love
We live in a capitalist world, and we put too much pressure on ourselves to find the perfect gift. It becomes all about the money rather than the gift itself and that’s not what it’s supposed to be. I’d rather spend time with the people I love and make memories that way. I don’t want people to spend money that they don’t have on gifts that I don’t need. I’m happy with a pair of socks. So if you’re getting hung up on the gifts, take a step back and ask yourself what’s really important.
Be kind to yourself
If all of the above don’t happen and you feel exhausted, overwhelmed and stressed – be kind to yourself. You did the best you could with what you had at the time. Don’t beat yourself up over what can’t be changed. Look forward to next year and see what changes you can implement to make YOUR Christmas that little bit less stressful.
Christmas isn’t just about what you do for everyone else. It’s for YOU as well, so make sure you’re taking time out to look after your mental health.
What are you going to fill your stocking with??