Between the cooking, the shopping, the decorating, the cleaning and the social pressure to enjoy every minute of the season, its hardly surprising that Christmas often brings a slight but very real sense of dread for many.
In an attempt to make this Christmas a celebration like no other, I’ve made a few big changes to the way I approach the holiday and have been tried out the role of an uber-prepared, financially savvy Christmas enthusiast. My aim – a totally planned out Christmas before December 1st.
Before you start, I know there is something to be said for a mad Oxford Street rush on Christmas Eve but this year, by following the steps below, I have the luxury of looking forward to everything December brings. I even have money left over to enjoy it properly! Sounds nice huh?
Here is how you can achieve the same thing…
Identify your responsibilities – A natural place to start, sit down and compile a list of everything you need to do before the big day – this will become the list of all lists, and there will be more lists, trust me. Make sure you write down everything, regardless of how small a task may seem and don’t panic if this becomes a rather intimidating collection of things to do, it’s a great way to focus your attention.
BUDGET – Christmas has the potential of completely breaking the bank, which is why this step is so vital. Set a total budget for presents and work backwards setting a limit per person you want to buy for. Don’t get me wrong, the thought behind a gift is far more important than how much you spend, but it’s all too easy to go a little OTT and come January be surrounded by a bunch of receipts and a serious cash shortage. Budget, budget and then budget some more.
Stick to your budget – Perhaps this one is a tad obvious too but there’s little point in going to the hassle of working out your numbers only to blow it with one mighty trip to Westfield. A simple spreadsheet updated after each shopping trip does the job.
Gather your intel – The rise of social media means an over-reliance on the ease of instant access to your friends and distant relatives. This isn’t all bad but when it comes to writing Christmas cards, good luck collating everybody’s addresses. Create a spreadsheet (yes, another one!) with the names of your nearest and dearest and their addresses. You’ll thank yourself next year for this one too.
Shop around – I’m normally a rather impulse shopper but part of this new found Christmas persona means embracing the effort required to shop around for the best deals and discounts. You can save a fortune without compromising on the quality of your purchases. By starting so early, you can make the most of the sales too – double win.
Right, I’ll stop there for now but hopefully you find these tips helpful in saving both pennies and stress. Comments are welcome below…
Bank holidays are rife with people taking on DIY activities around the house, the garden even, but today I didn’t partake. Instead, I championed my very own DIY project, one that’s far closer to home; I registered for the 2016 London Marathon ballot.
I am not a sporty person, nor do I particularly enjoy running but I do love a challenge and a project. If something has an end goal, a time limit and a measure of success, then sign me up – literally! The London Marathon has all of this and more, much more; it’s an event of greatness and triumph and whilst nervous as hell about the outcome of the ballot, I’m secretly hoping that I get to take on this mammoth task.
So from now until October, when my fate is confirmed, I’ll be working hard to increase my sub-beginner, running ability to make this particular challenge a little more attainable.
At the end of last year, Mind reported the greatest improvement in public attitudes towards mental health in over 20 years. The recent portrayal of Germanwings’ co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz’s mental health has made me seriously question whether in reality this is two steps back in the progress towards de-stigmatising mental health.
The front pages of the Daily Mail and The Sun among others were absolutely despicable (as above). I took to twitter to share my horror and was encouraged by the various digital ‘nods’ of agreement I received in response. If only this was the end of the story; unfortunately, the wider twitter response was that of the press, “Why was the pilot allowed to fly?” and even worse, “no depressive pilot should ever be allowed to work”… I mean, come on – is this the resounding sound of the positive shift in altered attitudes? I think not.
We all know that there’s a great deal of work left to do to reduce stigma surrounding mental ill-health, but I really can’t abide by sweeping statements based on a total lack of understanding and education. 1 in 4 of us will suffer a mental health problem at some stage of our lives and 20% will suffer with depression specifically – that’s not a small number of people! To those saying that they wouldn’t want to get on a flight with a depressive pilot, I pose these questions; What about your bus driver suffering with depression. or the nurse treating your loved ones who has taken anti-depressants for over ten years? We go through our existence, entrusting our lives within the hands of those suffering with mental health issues and are usually none the wiser. Where do you draw the line?
Whist depression is a horrible illness, which in some cases can be potentially life-threatening, the lives it threatens tend to be those suffering.
The bigger picture for me is clear, we should be creating an environment in which people feel safe and supported to disclose their ongoing struggles with mental health. The screaming and shouting we’re seeing in the press and on social media will actually lead to fewer people stepping forward and sharing, which is in no way positive. The media have a social responsibility that is readily ignored and this is hugely damaging.
The silver lining here that shouldn’t be overlooked is the volume of people that have stood up against the headlines. I would guess that should this have happened twenty/thirty years ago, this would have met very little resistance.
Visit Time To Change is you’d like to find out about ways you can help reduce stigma.
1. “I didn’t want to wake up. I was having a much better time asleep. And that’s really sad. It was almost like a reverse nightmare, like you wake up from a nightmare you’re so relieved. I woke up into a nightmare.”
2. “Life’s not about feeling better, it’s about getting the job done.”
3. “I’m smart, but not enough – just smart enough to have problems.“
4. “I’m done with those; regrets are an excuse for people who have failed.”
5. “Life can’t be cured, it can be managed”
6. “See, when you mess something up, you learn for the next time. It’s when people compliment you that you’re in trouble. That means they expect you to keep it up.”
7. “Things to do today: Breathe in. Breathe out.”
8. “People are so screwed up in this world. I’d rather be with someone screwed up and open about it than somebody perfect and ready to explode.”
9. “I can’t eat and I can’t sleep. I’m not doing well in terms of being a functional human, you know.”
10. “Dreams are only dreams until you wake up and make them real.”
All quotations taken from Ned Vizzini’s novel, ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’
This has been on my reading list for a while now and I’m annoyed that I put off this for so long. Quite simply put, whether you have a personal experience of mental illness or not, you really need to read this book! ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ sees Ned Vizzini tackling the difficult themes of teenage depression and anxiety with an authenticity that is rarely prominent in other novels about mental illness.
Vizzini has written a coming of age story following Brooklyn based teenager, Craig Gilner. We follow Craig as he struggles to cope with peer pressure, concerns about his future and mounting expectation at school. As though this isn’t enough for a teenager to bear, Craig also has to deal with a depression that stops him eating and sleeping. When he reaches breaking point and contemplates suicide, he admits himself to Six North, the psychiatric ward at his local hospital.
‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’ genuinely is a funny story; emotionally I was invested in Craig’s journey from the first few paragraphs, yet at times, I found myself conflicted between laughing at his cynical humour and wanting to cry over the description of his struggle.
I have written, read and rewritten this post countless times and each time, I’m still not convinced I’m doing this book enough justice… seriously, it’s that good! Vizzini successfully conveys the complexities of not just depression, but self harm, schizophrenia and so many mental illnesses through the characters Craig meets whilst at Six North. The relationships he develops with Noelle and Muqtada in particular, resonated with me on a level I didn’t expect.
Ned Vizzini was very open that his own stay in a psychiatric hospital was inspiration for this book, before taking his own life at the age of 32. I hope there is some solace for his family in knowing how many people will undoubtedly benefit from such a personal and honest story about depression.