It’s the bit of the site where we chat about mental health and wellbeing, and in this case the peer pressure to get involved with Christmas festivities.

Hello and a very warm welcome to the bit on the Film Stories site where we chat about mental health, wellbeing, and basically the perils of being a human being sometimes. This is a column we run every Wednesday, and over the course of the series of articles, hopefully there’s something in there that’s of use to you.

This week, it’s probably not escaped your notice that Christmas lights have started to go up. The shops are blaring out Christmas albums, houses are starting to decorate, and whilst it feels a little later than last year, the season is pretty much in full flow now. For lots of people, that’s wonderful news. For others, it’s approached with some degree of caution.

Christmas, in pre-pandemic times, always seemed to bring with it a forced joviality. It’s embedded in the whole festive season. That we’ll all trot along to parties, swap cards, sing songs, be happy, and indulge in cheer. I always find that peer pressure to fit some degree of template is as its most intense around Christmas. And if you don’t play the game, you’re sometimes posited as the misery guts.

Last year was different. The UK was about to go into a new lockdown, that we wouldn’t emerge from until well into 2021. As such, the parties were off, gatherings were limited. But I’ve sensed a degree of compensating for that this year, with a ramping up of what we weren’t able to do last year.

If you enjoy that, that’s wonderful. If you don’t?

Well, for a start, you’re not alone. Christmas can be a very, very difficult time for many. A season inevitably tinged with memories, not all of them good, and where we’re invariably brought together with people whether we want to be with them or not. I say all this as someone who appreciates how lucky I am. But still, I know I struggle with Christmas parties for instance. I’m much happier having a chat than pretending to be at home in a room full of loud music with peer pressure to drink. The peer pressure to drink is a whole article in itself too.

In the Covid world, I’m hoping that there’s more understanding out there that people might not want to be crammed together in a room. But even if there isn’t, there’s nothing wrong with skipping a party. There comes a point when you have to prioritise what you want and need over what’s expected of you. One recurring theme in this series of articles is the importance of self-care, and listening to yourself. As always, it may be easier written down than in practice, but here’s an example of it.

If it’s all too far outside your comfort zone, then make your excuses. Or if you’re with people who are supportive, just tell them it’s not your thing. If you don’t want to put decorations up, don’t do it. Find space in the carnival of expectations to listen to you. If there are ways you can enjoy it all, then great. If not, do put yourself up your priority list.

You all look after yourselves. The topic of Christmas will come up again in this section over the coming weeks. We’ll be back next Wednesday…

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