There seems to be so much extra to do at this time of year, and many people are left feeling unable to deal with the extra pressure to:
- Get the house ready for guests
- Shop for extra food and drink
- Decorate the tree and the house
- Write cards/wrap gifts
- Attend social gatherings/parties
- Take trips to visit family and friends
Looking after your mental health at Christmas is essential to combat feelings of Christmas overwhelm. People can feel that they are on a treadmill that is going faster and faster, and these feelings of overwhelm can lead to anxiety and depression. We are also still coping with the aftermath of the pandemic, and for people suffering from social anxiety, the pressure to attend social gatherings can be overwhelming. The current cost of living crisis is affecting everyone, with 60% expecting to spend less on Christmas this year (according to a recent YouGov survey.)
It is important for your mental and physical wellbeing to take steps to retain control over your life, so here are our top ten tips for looking after your mental health at Christmas.
1. Stick to your normal daily routine
Do you find it hard to get out of bed on winter mornings? None of us wants to get out of a warm, cosy bed and go out into the dark and cold morning, but maintaining normality can ground you, helping to prevent Christmas anxiety.
2. Schedule some self-care
Is your diary chock full of social events, Christmas shopping trips, and reminders to do this or that task? When we feel that the world is spinning too quickly, we are becoming overwhelmed, so we need to take a step back. Looking after your mental health at Christmas is a necessity for everyone, so block out some time in December for self-care:
- Take a brisk walk around the park
- Join a dance class
- Enjoy an indulgent, relaxing bath
- Practise yoga, meditation, or mindfulness
- Don’t neglect your creative hobbies
Prioritising time for yourself will boost your mood, alleviate stress, and give you a sense of normality – putting you in control and preventing Christmas overwhelm.
Don’t feel bad about turning down invitations. Self-care is essential for your mental and physical wellbeing, and you don’t have to provide a reason for refusing an invitation, just say you have a prior engagement or a diary clash.
Writing down how you feel when you get up can help you to recognise patterns or anxiety triggers, so you can try to avoid them. Making a note of good things that have happened during the day, helps you to stay positive and avoid dwelling on negative or bad things. Looking after your mental health at Christmas by practising gratitude for good things in your life improves self-esteem, energy and happiness, and alleviates stress and anxiety.
4. Do something for others
Why not help out at a charity or community event during the festive period, offering support to others less fortunate than you? It puts your problems in perspective while joining a team of like-minded individuals can boost your mood and be very rewarding. Local and national organisations and charities welcome the extra help at this time of year.
5. Avoid unrealistic expectations
In our blog ‘Coping at Christmas’, we cited some reasons why Christmas is stressful, including placing unrealistic expectations on yourself, especially when this is to please others. The reality of a ‘perfect’ Christmas never lives up to this heightened sense of expectation. Be kind to yourself and think about what will make you happy. It’s ok to prioritise what’s best for you, even when others don’t seem to understand.
6. Make time for sleep
In a US study (from the National Library of Medicine), it was found that 90% of patients with depression also experienced poor quality sleep. There are physical side effects too, such as a higher risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, poor balance, and lower immunity. To benefit your mental and physical wellbeing, it is important that you manage 7-9 hours of good sleep at this time of year. There are some useful tips for healthy sleep on the Sleep Foundation website.
In addition, hitting that snooze button is bad for sleep quality and make you feel tired, irritable, and less able to cope with extra demands during the day.
7. Digital Detox
Modern day technology brings its own pressures, so taking some time away from gadgets and devices is important for looking after your mental health at Christmas. If the reminders for extra events and social activities means your phone beeps every few minutes, remember to take some time off. Leave your phone in another room while you practise yoga or mindfulness and make sure you don’t look at devices for at least 30 minutes before bed.
8. Avoid overdoing it
When looking after your mental health at Christmas, you should avoid:
- Over committing
- Drinking too much
Overdoing it at Christmas is bad for your mental and physical wellbeing, contributing to worries about money, putting weight on, and letting others down can affect sleep.
9. Do something creative
Whether it‘s making your own decorations, baking, creating a wreath, or putting together a playlist of Christmas music, creativity is a positive way of looking after your mental health at Christmas. Being creative is rewarding and increases positive emotions, enhancing both your mental and physical wellbeing.
10. Ask for help
Christmas can be a trigger for mental health problems, so it is important to feel in control and not be overwhelmed. If you find that coping at Christmas is difficult, talk about how you are feeling with a friend or relative. You may find that they are feeling the same and talking about it will make both of you feel better.
If you don’t feel able to talk to a family member or friend about your feelings, our therapists at Space2BHeard are here to help residents of Hull and the East Riding in looking after your mental health at Christmas. Contact us for information about our Let’s Talk service, which offers counselling to people with depression caused by stress, bereavement, relationship issues, or eating disorders, all of which can manifest during the festive season. If you are not coping at Christmas and need help straight away, click here for a list of numbers you can call for immediate help.
If you are a business owner in Hull or the East Riding, Space2BHeard offers a variety of solutions to help local employers. Your employees’ mental health may be affected by the extra pressure, financial worries, SAD, or the disruption to their normal routine during December. Helping them to cope with Christmas anxiety will benefit them and your business, so call us to talk over our workforce wellbeing services.
It is important to remember that mental health problems don’t go away during the Christmas holidays. We hope that our top ten tips for looking after your mental health at Christmas give you back control over your life, and prevent you from becoming anxious or overwhelmed.