The Christmas Survival Guide How do you feel about Christmas? We all have feelings about Christmas, good, bad or mixed. “I love it.” “I dread it.” “I worry about it.” “It’s too commercial.” “I worry about money.” “My family are such a pain.” “It’s so stressful.” “I’m really excited”. We may long for Christmas or dread it. We may be sad that we can’t be part of a family, or we may be relieved that we aren’t. We may miss someone who is no longer with us or wish someone was far away. We may wonder if the money is going to stretch far enough or wish we had more people to spend it on. For some people it is a welcome break, for others just another day. For some it is an important religious festival. However you feel, these notes aim to help you cope with it, get through it or enjoy it and to keep some control over what happens. The number one rule for surviving the season is remembering that you can always say "No" and you can always do things more simply, even if that isn't the way it's been done in the past. "No, I can't make food for the party." "No, I can't make the office do; I'm just too tired and I need the sleep." It is ok to say no when you really can't do one more thing, and you don't even have to explain why if you don't want to. SPENDING CHRISTMAS ON YOUR OWN Whether you are spending Christmas on your own through choice or necessity you can relax, spoil yourself a little and do what you want. Check out what events are going on and which agencies are open. Think about whether you might like to volunteer at an event for older or homeless people. Create some new traditions of your own. Have your favourite food for Christmas dinner, whether it’s beans on toast, chips and gravy or chocolate cake. Instead of staying up to the small hours of the morning cooking and baking and cleaning, stay up late watching a favourite film and sleep as late as you want to the next day. PLANNING AHEAD Make a list of things to do and tick them off as you do them. Buy your presents and cards a few at a time to spread the cost. Wrap them a few at a time to avoid feeling stressed. Record, buy or rent some films and keep them for when there’s nothing you want to watch. Get some books and magazines and hide them away. Revised bus timetables are usually available well in advance. If you need a taxi on Christmas day book it a week before. Shop online to save the stress of fighting through the shops. Gift cards can be an easy but much appreciated present. MONEY If you receive benefits make a note of any changes in payment dates and how long your money has to last. Stock up on foods that will keep (check use by dates) a little at a time to spread the cost. Put aside any money you will need for taxis. Check when banks/post office will be open and remember that cash machines can run out at holiday time. If you think you may spend all your money too quickly consider asking someone you trust to keep some for you. Homemade gifts, like sweets and biscuits or “vouchers” promising to do something for someone are very personal and much appreciated. You don’t have to spend a fortune for a present to be special. PRACTICAL ISSUES Make sure you have enough medication to last you over the holidays. Find out when the GP’s surgery and the CMHT are closed. Make a note of the out of hours & crisis team numbers and keep them to hand. Check when the shops you use are going to be closed. Find out about changes in any bus timetables that are likely to affect you. LOOKING AFTER YOURSELF Get plenty of sleep. Whether you are spending the holidays rushing around doing all of your usual things or planning ahead for what to do with your alone time, sleep is essential. Don’t worry about dieting – eat and drink what you like for a few days. Buy your favourite foods. Get some things that are easy to prepare. Buy enough for a few days so you don’t have to go out. Treat yourself to some nice candles or bath or aromatherapy oils. Buy yourself some presents. Arrange to meet or chat with people whose company you find supportive. SEEING AND DEALING WITH OTHER PEOPLE If the thought of a party, family gathering or other "mandatory" social event leaves you knotted up with anxiety, plan ahead for some "escape time" for yourself. No matter where you are, if you are suddenly feeling overwhelmed, find the nearest bathroom and take some time out until you have mentally gathered yourself together. Set your boundaries – time, place, etc. and stick to them. Make definite transport arrangements. Make it clear to people how long you will be with them but try to consider their arrangements too. If people are coming to you make it clear when you would like them to arrive and how long you would like them to stay. Say thank you for everything even if you don’t like a present. If they criticise your presents just smile and say “I’m sorry you don’t like it.” Pack a couple of extra small presents e.g. chocolates, soap, candles, in case you get some you didn’t expect. Try to avoid getting into arguments with people if you know you will never agree – change the subject. Avoid talking over bad bits of the past – again, change the subject! Helpful Numbers In the run-up to Christmas, you can call Bipolar UK’s Information & Support line on 0333 323 3880. Details of opening times over Christmas will be available on the website. The eCommunity will be available 24/7 as usual over the festive period. Samaritans are available 24 hours a day over Christmas and the New Year. You can ring them free on 116 123 or email [email protected]. SANEline, the specialist mental health helpline, offers confidential emotional support. Available on 0300 304 7000 between 6pm and 11pm each evening. Open as usual over Christmas. CALM offer a free, anonymous and confidential helpline for men who are feeling down or who need to talk or find information and support. Available from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. (They suggest that if you want to talk outside these hours, that you call Samaritans.) Nationwide: 0800 58 58 58, London: 0808 802 58 58, WEBCHAT: www.thecalmzone.net/get-help The Silver Line is a free, confidential helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people, open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. 0800 4 70 80 90 Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. If you're worried about your own or someone else's drinking, you can call free, in complete confidence on 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am – 8pm, weekends 11am – 4pm). Open as usual over Christmas. CALL (Community Action and Listening Line) for Wales only. This mental health information and support helpline is available 24/7 on 0800 132 737 (www.callhelpline.org.uk).