The holiday season is often depicted as a time of joy and celebration. However, amidst the festivities, it's crucial to pay attention to our mental health. The pressure to make the holidays perfect, combined with various stressors, can take a toll on our well-being. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore effective strategies to safeguard your mental health during this joyful yet challenging time.
Understanding the Challenges
The holiday season can bring a myriad of challenges that affect mental health:
Stress Overload: The rush of shopping, making lists and trying not to forget anything can be challenging enough but when we add to that working out what to buy and who to buy for we can start to really feel the stress. If you're the one cooking or hosting this Christmas try to be aware of falling into people pleasing behaviours, we know everyone deserves a good Christmas, but you are included in that statement too! And finally social obligations can be very overwhelming, especially if our social battery is running out quickly.
Feelings of Loneliness: For some, the holidays accentuate feelings of isolation. If we don't have people around us or are having to spend time away from the ones we really want to be with, Christmas can feel extra lonely.
Financial Strain: Budget concerns and overspending can lead to anxiety and feeling like you have let people down or have not done enough.
If you find yoursef relating to these challenges, this blog post might be just for you.
Strategies for Self-Care
1. Establish Boundaries and Prioritise Self-Care:
It can feel difficult, especially in a time when we're often told "but it's Christmas" or "you have to, it's Christmas" but setting realistic expectations and boundaries are essential. Remember realistic expectations can mean being honest and truthful. Let people know if you're tired so aren't staying long, tell people if the thought of any more socialising gives your cold shivers and most importantly, say 'no' when necessary. Prioritise self-care with ample rest, nutrition, and exercise; whatever that means for you. For some people that's plenty of naps, or just making sure we've ate anything regardless of its nutritional value and exercise doesn't have to be an hour work out at the gym. We get to decide what looking after ourselves looks like.
2. Manage Stress Effectively:
Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques for someone who doesn't often have this as part of their routine can seem awkward or difficult but what it really means is remembering to check in on ourself, giving ourself space to feel how we feel and recognise our needs. Schedule 'me time' amidst the chaos, even if that is realising you don't have any spare time in the day so allowing yourself 15 minutes to breathe and chill locked in the bathroom when needed. Alturnatively you could also consider more structured breathing exercises or meditation, there are some brilliant videos and interactive acivities available with Headspace and on YouTube.
3. Cultivate Supportive Relationships:
Reach out to loved ones. Sometimes I think we can get stuck thinking about how many connections we have in our lives, when what would be more helpful is sustaining exsisting relationships. Just because we've moved away or their lives look different now, doesn't mean that Facetiming, texting and sending each other memes isn't going to be fulfilling. Schedule quality time with family and friends where you can share your feelings and concerns will help to fill your cup too. Remember that family doesn't mean blood relation, we make our own families and that is one of the best things about growing up.
4. Create Meaningful Traditions and Activities
Focus on activities that bring joy without overwhelming yourself. Engage in simple, enjoyable traditions that hold personal significance. This could be baking, arts and crafts (making cards or decorations), watching a particular movie or simply organising a Boxing Day walk. Remember all traditions come from one new act, if you don't think you have any traditions you can make your own!
Coping with Loneliness and Isolation
If you are feeling alone during the holidays you could try some of these ideas to help:
Volunteer in your community. During Christmas, especially, there are many homeless shelters, community centres and food banks which are looking for volunteers. It could also be a good idea to contact nursing homes and ask if they are looking for volunteers to spend time with those without a family. If animals are more your thing there's also animal shelters/kennels where those waiting for forever homes still need love and care over the busy holidays.
Connect with others virtually. I mentioned before about maintaining relationships and using technology to do that but there's also groups! Joining Facebook groups about your interests and contributing to the conversation can nuture connections. There's also things like finding Reddit communities or Discord servers, you can find support groups or ones dedicated to your interests.
Consider hosting a small gathering or attending local events. There's always things happening in local community centres, or classes and groups. It can be hard to know where to look for these types of things but you can go to your GP and ask to be referred to a social prescribing team. These teams have been created to help people with their mental health and well-being through things like groups and activities. Anybody can be referred to a social prescriber, whether the goal is to combat loneliness or get healthier.
Financial Health and Stress
Manage finances sensibly:
Set a budget and stick to it. It's also important that the budget is realistic, there's no point in setting an "ideally" budget. The best budget is the "worst case" budget. If there's money left over then you can go back and add what you'd like to have added but wasn't sure if it was possible.
Consider thoughtful, budget-friendly gifts. There's nothing wrong with handmade gifts! There's even some great and meaningful ideas for things to make on Pinterest. Even if you spent money buying a kit to make your own candles or soaps, one cost can create 5 presents. There's also great discounts on Amazon buying things in bulk. Searching for bulk jewellery or bulk sweets can mean you can create Christmas hampers for people which are cost effective.
Explore creative ways to celebrate without overspending. There can be a lot of pressure to do things like eating out or attending work nights out at Christmas time which can be costly. Good alternatives can be having nights in, doing a pot-luck night or movie night, there's also game nights! You can even by murder mystery kits to through your own murder mystery night!
Seeking Professional Help
If overwhelmed by emotions or stress:
Don’t hesitate to seek professional support. If you think you might find certain periods difficult, be proactive and book extra sessions with your therapist or plan to exchange more with your strategies.
Reach out to mental health helplines or counsellors. You can talk to someone you know, if you worried how they will react, saying that you are having a bad day and being with them is the first step. But if you prefer to talk to someone who doesn’t know you, you can call a helpline or NHS direct.
Prioritise your mental well-being without hesitation. We all know the saying, if you don't make time for your health; you'll be forced to make time for your illness.
Remember Flickering Mind offers appointments remotely by telephone or video call or face to face from our Durham office. If you're interested you can book a free telephone consultation by clicking here.
The Christmas season is a time for giving, but don't forget to give to yourself, especially the gift of mental well-being. By implementing these strategies, you can navigate the holidays with greater ease. Remember, it's okay not to be perfect. Prioritise self-care and seek help when needed. Wishing you a joyous and mentally healthy holiday season!