Looking after your mental health over Christmas

Christmas is meant to be a wonderful time of year, the decorations come out, the trees go up and people are filled with excitement and anticipation.  Many people look forward to having time off work, spending time with family, giving and receiving gifts and eating to their hearts content. However, for some people, these prospects fill them with absolute dread and what should be a joyous celebration is turned into a test of endurance.  

There are many factors that can increase feelings of stress and anxiety over Christmas such as large gatherings with family and friends, social events, feelings of loneliness and isolation, financial pressures of buying presents and shopping for the Christmas feast itself. Whatever the reason, there are strategies that you can put into place to help you cope with the added stress of the festive season.

Preparing for Christmas alone

Loneliness can affect many of us during the festive period and although it is often associated with the elderly, new research suggests that millennials also struggle with isolation. If you’re likely to spend the Christmas period on your own it might be worth planning something to do such as reaching out to old friends, attending community events or volunteering which can be a great way to meet people and give something back.

Plan events and pace yourself

After just mentioning loneliness, it may seem ironic to consider that a busy social life might also be the source of problems. In fact, spending time at numerous social events over the festive period can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed. It’s perhaps helpful to remind yourself that you can’t go to every event and ensuring that you have time to yourself to wind down over the break.

Don’t compare yourself to others

Social media can be the perfect catalyst for perpetuating feelings of low self-esteem and self-comparison.  It may help to limit exposure to social media during this time and keep in mind that people only share the best bits of their lives online and that it's not the whole picture.  Try not to compare yourself and measure yourself against others.

Spend wisely

Many people find it difficult to afford all the extra expenses associated with the festive period and find themselves under a huge amount of financial pressure, resulting in worry and anxiety.  To limit these feelings set yourself a budget and stick to it.  It is also wise to avoid last minute panic buying, which can be stressful and ends up costing so much more.

Everything in moderation

It can be tempting to over-indulge in food and alcohol during Christmas, especially as both are so readily available at this time. However, alcohol can leave you feeling irritable and low whilst over eating can leave you feeling guilty and low in energy. Try and drink within recommended guidelines and keep your diet as balanced as possible.  Exercise can also help boost your mood and increase your sense of happiness and wellbeing.

Talk to someone

It’s important to reach out if you feel things are getting too much.  Whether it is with family, friends or a mental health professional, sharing how you feel can help you cope.  If you’re struggling with your mental health in the run-up to Christmas, contact our psychologists for support.  We will be available throughout Christmas and new year.

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