If you’re living with mental health issues, giving that perfect gift or aspiring to be the one that makes the dreams of others come true can seem a genuine pressure.

As people who may experience this pressure more strongly than others around us, the search for the holy grail of other people’s happiness through gifting often becomes our compelling quest. It’s easy to get into the cycle of overthinking what to buy and who to buy for in this solo mission.

Sometimes we will lead ourselves to the conclusion that nothing will be good enough no matter what efforts we go to and that in itself can be an exhausting and sometimes self-fulfilling prophecy. Not to mention we would need to literally begin to read minds and futures for this to possibly be true. Exhausted before we have even started much?

On the other end of the spectrum – you may not have anyone to buy for and that may feel incredibly lonely. We will address you personally later, as you are very special on this topic.

So Sparklers, shall we tackle this one together? (with a dash of humour, as appropriate, methinks)

Do not… I repeat DO NOT under any circumstances watch any Christmas shopping adverts. As soon as the TV looks as though it may be about to present you with this year’s beautiful (but subtly insisting) John Lewis efforts, you reach for that remote and change the channel. Ditto with radio, YouTube and social media. You have control over the buttons. Use them to protect yourself from the very clever and often very driving ad campaigns.

Set yourself a genuine spending limit. If that limit is zero due to existing debts or mounting financial pressures then you must try your absolute hardest to keep to that limit. Not only are people who grapple with mental health issues three times more likely to be in existing debt, some of us Sparklers go on spending sprees (often when it isn’t even the season of giving) as a result of our conditions. The Money Advice Trust confirm that mounting debts as a result of MH issues often lead to worsening mental well-being. Statistically, those with MH issues are more likely to be jobless and relying on benefits as we may be just too poorly to work. Let us try and protect ourselves and each other from getting into financial trouble. Try to talk to those who you may normally feel compelled to buy for or receive from and let them know if you are struggling. It’s not an easy conversation to start and not having a sack full of goodies to dole out come Christmas Day may temporarily feel pretty tough. However, avoiding more financial stress once the tinsel is long gone is so vital for our own health.

Set your own rules. Maybe your child wants a new Nintendo Switch as the princely sum of £279.99 (sans games or charger)! Or maybe your Mum would like a Ted Baker scarf at £79.99. These are delightful dreams and if you have lots of lolly and want to indulge these fantasies then go for it! You’ll feel fab giving people what they have asked for and the likelihood is they will feel equally amazing getting exactly what they wanted. However possibly, just potentially, Dr Seuss had it right…”Maybe, the Grinch thought, Christmas doesn’t come from a store!” Maybe we could agree on something a little more original with Dad than another pair of socks or nephew with another Lynx deodorant set. Maybe we could do nice things for one another instead? Or ask that person if they want to save their money and not exchange gifts this year. The idea of having an experience with someone that I love like a walk in the frosty park or collecting some free, festive foliage from the great outdoors to make a display for the house (which admittedly looked better in the my head than in reality) sounds so much more appealing than the beeps of my pin being entered in Boots. You can make your own rules. You can.

Online shopping. Queues in a store can be massively triggering for people with anxiety issues or social contact phobias. Maybe as a result of MH, you might have a little harder time concentrating amongst the masses of shoppers all heading for the same gifting nirvana and end up spending a lot more than you bargained for just to get the heck out of there. If this is the case then please shop online. Amazon Prime are doing a free trial whereby you can get loads of gifts deliverers to wherever you fancy absolutely free. (Remember to cancel it once you’ve used it unless you want to sign up permanently) I’ve used it myself to do my entire Xmas shopping by November 7th and can highly recommend it as a crowd dodging exercise.

Loneliness. If you are not likely to receive any gifts this year or indeed send one then this is for you. There will have more than likely been a time in your life when you received a gift. What I would like you to do is think about that time. Like, seriously mindfully think about it, on Christmas Day. Remember the excitement and the pleasure and the love from whoever bought you that present. It’s not over. It’s in the memory bank and we can bring those things out positively when we need them. Bring it. Wrap yourself in it. Then please give something to someone else. Your time. A Starbucks. A massive hug to someone who wants one. This is the true spirit of Christmas. You’ll have completed the mission at this point. Well done.

Remember. Gifting is not a competition and certainly not one you could ever win. So try as much as possible just to relax when tackling this mountain. If you can manage to relax and actually enjoy the process then even better. You are not alone here at Spark. Chat away and someone will endeavour to reply to your gifting crises – nothing is ever insignificant here.

Love abundantly, Sophia x

Don’t feel alone at Christmas. Come and join Spark’s amazing Peer Support Group, and make some friends that really do understand what’s going on.