Take care of yourself and others this Christmas

Blog post posted on 05/12/22 |

While the festive period is a merry time for lots of people, for some, it can be a particularly difficult. Mental Health Motorbike (MHM) is a charity that exists to support the mental health and wellbeing of its members at all times of the year.

We’ve been hearing from some of their members who have shared how they ‘manage’ Christmas, to offer help for others, whether you ride, drive or don’t have a vehicle. The extracts carry a clear message of less being more. We all put ourselves under tremendous pressure and have to ask is it necessary, and if not take steps to release it. And if you can’t relate to their stories directly, we hope they’re a gentle reminder to be aware and supportive of others around you.

The full stories will be shared in their entirety on MHM website.

The Wrong Haynes Workshop Manual of Life

MHM Story 1

I'm Julia, I'm an Essex girl, but I wear motorcycle boots - not white stilettos. I'm 54, and all my life I've felt like I was given the wrong copy of the Haynes Workshop Manual of Life.

A few years ago, I was going through a very rough period in my life. I was feeling extremely low, and I wasn't getting the right answers from the medical professionals. I then found out I am Autistic. Now that I have my official diagnosis, I am writing my own instruction manual on how to deal with life with ASC, so I don't have to contort myself into uncomfortable positions to fit in with everyone else. My rules don't always sit well with others though, especially family, and Christmas is always a difficult time to navigate.

As a child Christmas was naturally exciting. But as I got older, I found it got more and more stressful every year. I slowly stopped buying presents for everyone, and then I stopped sending cards, and now I try to avoid any invitation for dinner. 

Am I missing out? No! I save a considerable amount of money, I save the host from having to cook me a separate dinner, (I don't eat meat and I'm picky). I save quite a bit of paper, card and plastic from going to landfill, and most important of all, I save myself the stress and mental energy from not having to wear my sociable human mask all day.

I treat myself to something I really like and want for a present, if I can afford it. I cook whatever I fancy for dinner. It might not work for everyone, but it works for me. We have to realise that saying 'No' is not a selfish thing to do, if saying 'yes' is in some way detrimental to our health.

Coping With Christmas

MHM Story 2

My name is Andrew and I have an online counselling practice. Over the years, Christmas has been largely a good experience for me. Though there have been years when I have been alone at Christmas and so lonely that I have cried myself to sleep.

My tips for managing Christmas… if it’s a stressful and anxious time for you and something that you would rather avoid, that’s fine. You’re allowed to have those feelings.

We have the Christmas we want and to heck with everybody else. We decide on a very strict spending limit. We only see and communicate with who we want to. We rarely go to organised events unless we really want to.  If we do, we always have a reason (excuse) to leave if and when we want to. We have lost some loved family members in recent years. This will be felt at Christmas.  They will be remembered and missed, and we will raise a glass to them. I keep saying we because my wife and I share the same opinions about the season. We enjoy Christmas but on our terms.

I think part of the trick is to plan it in advance. Be mindful of what triggers you and which aspects you find difficult. Try to avoid them or have a plan for dealing with them. That could be mindfulness, breathing exercises or talking it over with someone that you trust. Try to remember that Christmas is not forever. Like all things, it will pass. Also, you’re not the only person to have difficulties around the Christmas period. Be good to yourself.

Making the best of a bad situation

MHM Story 3

My Name is Sharon, I’ve been riding motorbikes since I was 17 and I’ve travelled all over the world from Kathmandu to Kanyakumari. I am currently living in a one room council B&B hostel and all my possessions, including my bike, are in storage. I am homeless.

The happy homes are the worse. Where the wine flows like the laughter to the sound of Christmas tunes blaring out. The most wonderful time of the year. But not for me. Not for everyone.

And dusk, when the light fades and the curtains are wide open and there’s a big Norway Spruce piled high with presents underneath, decorated with sparkling fairly lights flashing on and off. That’s the worst bit. Crack open another Stella like before, tempting, but not now, it’s not the answer even though it was once upon a time. So, I don’t engage, no presents, just another day. Go for a walk, make dragons breath if it’s cold enough or gaze skywards towards the rain bearing Nimbus clouds. It’ll soon be over. One step at a time. That’s all you can do.

The Highs and Lows of Christmas

MHM Story 4

Hi, my name is Martin, living in South Manchester. Christmas through the eyes of a child is a time of magic. So much so that as we get older, we can experience a profound sense of loss and it can be hard for us to live up to the expectations of our memories. As much as I tried to hold on to the occasion it would often be at the expense of a massive Boxing Day low. Having built the day up, it was all over.

Over the years I’ve had to remind myself that it's more than just an Eve of waiting for Santa and a morning of presents. I have found solace in seeing Christmas again through the eyes of my children, and the next generation. I can keep my traditions of bitten carrots, half-eaten mince pies and sherry by the fireside. Christmas is not lost; it's just repackaged and regifted.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

For further ideas on how to get through Christmas hop over to Mental Health Motorbike website where you will find our self-help advent calendar.

If over the festive period, you find things are getting to you and you need support please feel able to seek it from the MHM Facebook peer support group or drop them a line at IAMSmart@mhmotorbike.com and one of their volunteers will get back to you.

Additional resources or support over the festive period:  

Mind - mental health charity

Mental Health Foundation

Ben - charity dedicated to supporting the people of the automotive industry