Do you find that the Christmas season affects your mental health?
Do you feel pressure to feel happy at this time?
Do you find it hard to spend lots of time having to feel jolly?
The lead up to Christmas starts so early. For three months we are bombarded with Christmas adverts, the must have presents, decorations and songs. For me I can’t begin to feel Christmassy until December. This year I have had my nails painted red and sparkly and have bought my first ever Christmas jumper. I have nearly finished my Christmas shopping because I really don’t want to have to go in any shops for the rest of December! They are so busy, noisy and stressful. There is so much pressure to spend money and buy, buy, buy.
Routine and self care are so important. Christmas and holidays break up this routine and change our time for self care. Without that crucial me time to undertake the activities which help your depression and decrease your anxiety, your mental health can suffer.
There is so much pressure to have an amazing, happy time. But there is a lot to be anxious for, even more than other times in the year. And your depression doesn’t stop just because it is Christmas.
Here are my top ten tips to look after your mental health this holiday season:
1 – Stay Active
Christmas can be a sedentary time of year. Sitting round the table with family playing board games, sitting in front of the TV and staying indoors to unwrap presents. Sitting in the car travelling to see family and friends. And you might feel that after a busy, stressful year you deserve that relaxing time – and you do! Enjoy the time to rest, watch those DVDs, read those books and enjoy hygge with your friends and family.
But – don’t spend all of your time sitting still. Get active during the holidays. I’m not suggesting that you have to go to the gym everyday (although if you do go to the gym regularly try to squeeze in some sessions over the holiday season, see number 2 for sticking to your routines!) Go for a walk with your family. Have a kickabout or go bowling with your friends. We know that exercise is good for you, both physically and mentally. Take a look at my post here to inspire you with some of the reasons why walking is good for your mental health.
2 – Try to maintain some routine
Routine and self care are so important. During the holidays your usual routines can go out of the window. Without work you can get out of the routine of getting up at the same time, your usual exercise classes won’t be running and you have no idea what day of the week it is! Try to maintain some routine especially if everyday self care is important for your mental health.
3 – Embrace time with others
It is the season to celebrate with friends and family. But the work Christmas Party or nights out with friends can cause stress and anxiety. Pick and choose what parties you go to or nights out you attend. You don’t have to say yes to everything or suggest a quiet meal instead of a night clubbing. Try and embrace this time with people who want to spend time with you.
Family time can be difficult with Uncle So-and-so asking you why you’re still in that job or Auntie Nosy-posy asking when you’re going to find a husband and have babies. But know that Christmas is only once a year. They mean well, even if it comes across as interfering, offensive, depression-inducing questions. Don’t take these comments to heart. Try to have a good time, groaning at silly cracker jokes, laughing at Grandpa falling asleep and playing games… and always remember number 4!
4 – Spend time alone if you need to
Schedule in some alone time. Use the 27th December as a quiet day for you, to recharge your batteries and to undertake some self care.
5 – Give
Christmas is a time for giving. It’s why we give and receive presents afterall. But can you do more giving? There are so many people out there in need; can you volunteer your time, donate to a charity or take some food to a foodbank?
6 – Rest
Get some sleep! Over Christmas our sleep can go a bit haywire. From getting up early on Christmas Day to see what Santa has brought you, from lazing in bed on Boxing Day, to staying up late on New Years Eve you can go from not enough sleep to too much. Try and stick to some sort of routine. Going to bed and waking up at similar times each day and getting a decent night’s sleep can all help to keep your mood and mental health on an even keel.
7 – Remember it really is the thought that counts
Newsflash! Christmas is not all about the presents! Try not to let the pressure of getting the perfect gift stress you out. Easier said than done but try and enjoy the present choosing process. Think about what your friends and family might like. Choose a treat that they wouldn’t normally buy themselves. Make them something. Put together a book full of fun photos from the year.
I enjoy wrapping all the presents. I normally put on some Christmas music to sing along to and get in the spirit while I’m wrestling with sellotape and rolls of wrapping paper!
8 – Talk about your feelings if you need to
It’s not your fault if you don’t feel happy on Christmas Day. Just like it’s not your fault if you feel low on a Tuesday or Sunday. Our mood goes up and down and there’s not always a reason. Be open about the way that you feel and find someone that you can talk to, even though it’s Christmas. And especially because it’s Christmas.
9 – Cheers! Everything in moderation
Don’t have too much of a good thing – too much sleep, too much food and too much alcohol can all have a detrimental effect on your mental health. Eating different food and drinking more alcohol can really affect your mental health. Maintaining a healthy diet and weight can have a positive effect on your mood. If this changes rapidly with lots of chocolates and cheese, it can make you feel bad about yourself. Try and balance the treats with some fruit and vegetables. While alcohol can make you feel more relaxed and happy at first, it is a depressive. Alcohol can make you feel low and aggressive, so it’s best drunk in moderation. I’ve started drinking a lot less all year round as I don’t feel like it mixes very well with my medication.
10 – Embrace your Christmas with no comparisons
It can be really hard not to compare yourself to other people all year round but there’s extra pressure during the holidays. With photos of happy families appearing on facebook and instagram it can be tempting to look around at your own life and spot what is missing. Just remember that these photos are the ones that they have chosen to share with the world. They are their highlight reel and don’t always tell the full picture. Try and focus on the here and now. Embrace your Christmas and don’t compare it to anyone else’s. Do not aim for the picture perfect Christmas. Remember that it is the fun, relaxation and time spent with friends and family that is important, regardless of what that looks like.