The 12 Questions of Christmas Tag

I saw this post over on Northumberland Mam’s site and thought this tag looked really fun (plus I thought my blog needed some more festive content on it!).

Go see her post here.

1. When does your Christmas tree go up? Who will decorate it?

My Christmas tree went up on the weekend, at my brother’s insistence! One of my brothers is very into Christmas and loves having the lights, tree and decorations up around the house, so I just helped him when he asked. It was odd actually taking part a little bit in decorating the tree this year because I have sat that activity out for so long. Christmas is often one of the toughest times of the year for me mental health wise, so in recent years I have tried to live in denial that it was approaching.

2. Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?

I prefer Christmas Day, mostly because Christmas Eve consists of a lot of tension in my house as we are all convinced that we must have forgotten something! Also, when it’s Christmas Day, I can see the end of the festive period in sight which is often a relief when I have spent about a month feeling low and anxious in my Christmassy surroundings.

3. What is your favourite Christmas advert this year?

The John Lewis one with Elton John at its centre. I grew-up listening to a lot of Elton John, so his music and story always makes me feel nostalgic and a bit sentimental!

4. Is there anywhere you would love to visit at Christmas?

Hogwarts! Jokes aside, I have never been to the Hogwarts in the Snow feature at the Warner Brothers’ Studio Tour in London and I think that would be an amazing spectacle to go and see, especially for a Potterhead like me.

5. What traditions are you looking forward to most this year?

Probably seeing my dogs open their presents on Christmas morning! Their excitement is hilarious and seeing their tails wagging fast is really sweet!

6. What are some food and treats you can count on having every Christmas?

There aren’t many staples that I insist on having every Christmas. Especially as the only vegan in my family (everyone else eats meat and dairy), I don’t join in much with the food-aspect of Christmas like everyone else does. However, seeing as I will be alone for most of Christmas Day this year, I can tuck into all my favourites (which probably means having cereal for lunch!) without feeling awkward. 

7. When did you stop believing in Santa?

I can’t remember what age I was exactly but it was pretty early because I had older siblings who didn’t believe in him. To be honest, I think I was quite relieved as I didn’t like the idea of a stranger coming into my house at night, even if he was delivering presents!

8. As a kid, did a sibling or friend ever receive a present that you wished was for you?

Being given girls’ clothes when I was kid was obviously quite problematic for me being a trans person, so I think I was always jealous of the clothes my brothers were given and wished that I could receive similar things too.

9. Do you like giving gifts or receiving them better?

I prefer giving gifts because the attention is less on me at that point.

10. Are you guilty of peeking at your presents or do you like the surprise?

The reason I have never peeked at my gifts is that my mum would have been completely outraged if she had ever found out! Also, my paranoia plays into this one quite a lot because if I’ve convinced myself for a long time that if you know you are going to be given a gift then you will jinx yourself and never be able to receive it (I know this doesn’t really make sense, it is one of my irrational thoughts which comes with my mental health issues).

11. If you could be in any Christmas movie what would it be?

The Polar Express! For some reason I find trains magical and it beats being in ‘The Grinch’ and being accosted by a green, furry man who lives on a mountain. 

12. What would you like to find under your tree this year?

I don’t get too invested in what presents I want for Christmas anymore. However, if someone buys me a book, I will be more than pleased!

 

If you want to see my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature.

Find some of my other Christmas-related posts below:

Anxiety At Christmas

The Christmas Tag

Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

 

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Daily Physical Symptoms Of Anxiety

Anxiety manifests itself in a huge variety of ways and the massive presence it has in mine and others’ lives means that it inevitably takes a toll on our bodies and physical health. So, below I have listed just five examples of how anxiety translates into physical symptoms on a daily basis.

1. Headaches 

When I’m feeling stressed for extended periods of time, I usually end-up getting what I call ‘stress headaches’. When I am anxious and worrying about things, my whole body becomes tense; my shoulders rise, I curl-in on myself and I don’t let any of my muscles relax. The result of all this pent-up tension in my body is that I will get a headache which, in turn, makes me feel worse because I am unable to be productive during this time and I have to wait for painkillers to kick-in.

2. Grinding and gritting teeth

I have been told-off numerous times by the dentist for the toll which grinding my teeth all night has on the condition of my teeth. Despite wearing retainers, I still manage to cause myself damage by the extent that I grind my teeth together due to the anxiety I feel even whilst I’m sleeping. This habit also makes my jaw-ache a lot which then contributes to me getting more headaches; so it is easy to see that the physical symptoms I have from anxiety interlink and worsen when they combine with each other.

3. Exhaustion

The amount of energy I use-up and expend on a daily basis because of the anxiety which courses through me means that I tire myself-out. My fatigue is very frustrating because my mood becomes worse and worse when I am not being productive and exhaustion really slows me down throughout the day. It is like my body is constantly existing in conflict with what I need and want it to do. Whilst I feel exhausted a lot, I am also on-edge for most of every day because I am anxious – so the conflicting symptoms I experience leaves me feeling uncomfortable and unsure what to do with myself.

4. Weight loss and fluctuation

For me personally, when my anxiety took a turn for the worse a lot of weight simply dropped-off me. I am now underweight and people frequently comment on how small I have become. Some people find that the opposite happens for them when they go through a bad-patch of anxiety because they use food as a way to comfort themselves, however when I am anxious the thought of eating makes me feel nauseous and I cannot manage to tackle having a full meal. 

5. Skin problems

Anxiety causes both my acne to flare-up and rashes to appear across my body. I have had acne since I was 12ish but there is a definite combination between the state of my mental health and the state of my acne, which is furthered by the fact that I do not eat and drink properly when my anxiety is at it’s worst. My skin becomes painful, red and irritated during these times; almost like it is a physical representation of what I am feeling on the inside! 

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature

 

Here are a few of my other mental health posts:

Anxiety At Christmas

Mental Health, Medication & Stigma

Protecting Factors – What Saves You?

5 Things Not To Say This Christmas

Here are just five examples of things that people say around Christmas which really grate on me and deserve to be called-out:

1) ‘Come on, crack a smile, you can’t be miserable at Christmas’

It doesn’t make sense that people could just will their mental illness away for one day or part of the year. People with mental illnesses do not chose to be miserable or any other type of way at Christmas so don’t put your energy into shaming or stigmatising them. Instead, try to engage some empathy this festive period and respect that not everyone has the same experience of Christmas as you do.

2) ‘Are you vegan over Christmas as well?’

The look of disbelief on people’s faces as you admit that you do not have Christmas dinner is startling and hilarious in equal measure! I don’t know if people expect me to pick-up a bacon roll in the name of Christmas and joining in with the people around me but, let me tell you now, that is NOT going to happen! How about you let me do what I want at Christmas and you do you?

3) ‘Well at least have one drink’

People do not realise how hard Christmas is for people who have complex and difficult relationships with alcohol. The pressure to ‘get in the spirit’ and ‘be merry’ is ever-present and telling someone to ‘at least have one’ can do a lot of harm to people’s recovery processes. Don’t assume that the drinking culture around Christmas is enjoyable for everyone or even healthy for some people to be around for that matter.

4) ‘She gets very OCD at Christmas, you know, when she’s decorating and party planning and all that…’

Enough with using OCD as an adjective! OCD is an illness that people have to live with on a daily basis, so stop using it as a throw away comment to describe people’s habits which you find annoying. It is belittling and demeaning for people who have OCD to hear you laugh and joke about it in such a dismissive way when you do not appreciate the reality of how the illness manifests itself in the daily lives of others’.

5) ‘What’s the point of buying presents for pets?’

I call my dogs my babies and so they are treated like any other member of the family and given presents on Christmas Day. They deserve the treats they get for the joy they give me all year round and, if you saw the excitement on their faces when presents get placed before them, you would not even need to question why they are given presents. Genuinely, I think seeing them sniff-out their new toys and rip away wrapping paper is my favourite part of Christmas!

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

 

 

Anxiety At Christmas

The festive season comes with all sorts of pressures and expectations which is a shame because these details detract from what should be a relaxing time in the company of loved ones. The ideal Christmas image leads us to think that we have to achieve perfection in everything we do; in how we decorate our homes, buying expensive ornaments and gifts, maintaining completely harmonious family ties, being a social butterfly and flitting from one Christmas party to another and immersing ourselves in an environment centred around food, alcohol and indulgence. Whilst all of these things are part of the Christmas image we are sold and look good in the Instagram pictures we are inundated with, they can also produce a lot of anxiety in the many people who worry that they cannot achieve or keep-up with this level of so-called perfection.

Christmas isn’t supposed to be about competition; who’s got the best Christmas tree or how many designer gifts someone has received but the airbrushed images we are presented with lead us to believe that there is a certain standard we have to live-up to, no matter how unattainable it really is. For many, anxiety can be produced as a result of fearing failure or worrying about external expectations. When it is expected for people to attend their big work Christmas parties, for example, fear of being overwhelmed by the hectic environment and the unnecessary pressure to do everything in excess are not a part of the conversation. So, each person who struggles with anxiety at this time of year feels isolated and alone, like no-one else is going through the same things as them.

The following can be sources of anxiety during the festive period:

  • Christmas shopping in busy areas
  • Seeing relatives you do not meet with often
  • Christmas parties
  • The expectation to be festive and merry in all of your interactions
  • Buying gifts and worrying if they are adequate
  • Receiving gifts and stressing about opening them in front of the giver
  • The expectation to indulge in food and alcohol when, for many, our relationships with these things are complex

And so many, many more situations, which others may view as tiny details in the bigger picture of their Christmas, can be anxiety-provoking.

Christmas is meant to be a time we feel the opposite of isolated and fearful of judgement. So, let’s make mental health and inclusion a part of the discussion within the bigger picture of Christmas this year and make sure that no-one feels iced-out of the celebrations.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings, follow me on Twitter: @RyanBInNature

 

Here are some more of my Christmas-related posts:

The Christmas Tag

Unpopular Opinions – Christmas Edition

 

Don’t feel alone this Christmas (resources about the festive period and mental health):

Support at Christmas – Mind, the mental health charity

Coping at Christmas – The Priory Group

Real Christmas – Samaritans

The Christmas Tag

I first saw this tag the other day when Nicole Eloise did it for her Blogmas Day Two. I thought it was really fun so, even though I haven’t been tagged by anyone to do it, I decided to gatecrash the tag and do it anyway! So, without further ado, here is my Christmas Tag.

1. Do you prefer giving or receiving gifts?

I’d say that I prefer giving gifts. I always feel awkward and embarrassed opening gifts that people have given to me, especially if they watch me do it because I’m anxious that I don’t look happy or grateful enough (I have a naturally grumpy face!). 

2. Do you make and stick to New Year’s Resolutions?

I do make New Year’s Resolutions, however I have the terrible habit of scrawling them at the back of a notebook and then forgetting about them after the first few months of the year! I generally find it more helpful to set smaller short-term goals each month or week, for example. Although, New Year’s Resolutions are a bit of a tradition in my life now, so I don’t see myself not making some this year.

3. Have you ever made a snowman?

Yes, I remember making them with my brothers when I was younger and I would become overly attached to the little people I created, so much so that I would get emotional over watching them melt away. I can’t say that I have made any snowmen in recent years as the snow usually gives me a headache so I tend to bundle-up inside and watch the snow fall through a window!

4. Is your Christmas tree real or fake, and what theme do you prefer?

We have always had a real Christmas tree ever since I can remember which, with the benefit of hindsight, seems rather wasteful looking back. I actually have nothing to do with putting the Christmas tree-up or decorating it anymore; once my family stopped putting on chocolate decorations wrapped in foil, the tree suddenly became a lot less interesting to me!

5. Most memorable holiday moment?

This is so hard, primarily because my memory is terrible and I don’t remember any of the Christmases I’ve had distinctly, so there are only a few snapshots which have stayed with me. I think my most memorable moment would have to be my grandpa tucking into his Christmas dinner with a colourful paper hat on his head or tearing open his presents like a excited little boy even though he was past 90 years old! Now that he is gone, the memories of his fun-loving nature pop-up from time-to-time and remind me how much he loved a family occasion (especially if there were sweets or chocolate involved!). 

6. What holiday traditions are you looking forward to this year?

Probably seeing my dogs ripping-open the paper around their presents and then running off to their beds to enjoy their new treasure. My dogs’ enthusiasm for Christmas is hilarious! 

7. What is the best Christmas present you have ever received?

When I was younger I got tickets to see my then-favourite band McFly in concert and seeing those tickets felt completely surreal as I was blown-away that I was going to see these people that I had idolised on stage in front of my eyes.

8. What are your favourite holiday foods?

Well, I don’t have Christmas dinner, so I’d probably have to say whatever sweets people gift me (I have a very sweet tooth!).

9. What is your favourite Christmas film?

Sorry to sound Grinch-like but I actually don’t have one, although the Harry Potter films always make me feel Christmassy for some reason!

10. What is your favourite Christmas song?

Again, I actually don’t have one – I just listen to whatever my brother puts on.

11. What is your favourite thing about Christmas?

The way time feels like it stands still on Christmas Day – you feel like it is a day which completely stands alone from any other on the calendar and it seems to pass in a very surreal way.

12. What would be your dream place to visit at Christmas time?

Copenhagen, Denmark. I have been there before and I thought it was the most stunningly beautiful city, so I bet it would be a very special place to be at Christmas.

13. Who do you spend Christmas with?

Usually it would be my parents, my two brothers and my dogs and then either side (paternal or maternal) of my extended family. However, this year will be different, I think, in that my immediate family will be visiting my extended family without me this year. I find Christmas difficult mental health wise and I think it will be good for me to try and handle it in my own way this year in just the company of my dogs for the majority of the day. Although, I believe I will still be opening my presents with my parents and brothers. 

14. When do you start getting excited for Christmas?

I don’t get excited until classes at University end for me because, up until then, I am so immersed in the Uni bubble and removed from what is outside of campus that Christmas does not feel like it arrives until teaching finishes and I leave campus. I sort of get quite nervous for Christmas really, so it is a combination of nerves and excitement which start to peak around the nights of the 23rd probably.

15. You have one Christmas wish – what will it be?

I’m going to take it that the wish has to be Christmas-related rather than encompassing anything bigger than Christmas Day. So, my wish would be that everyone in the world feels loved and cared for this Christmas Day. 

 

I’m not going to tag anyone specific to do this tag. Instead, if you are reading this and want to do this tag, please do! It would be fun to see as many different responses to these questions as possible.

 

If you want to hear my daily ramblings please follow me on Twitter – @RyanBInNature