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Look after your mental health this Christmas

Man reading by window, festive Christmas tree indoors.

Christmas is supposed to be a joyful time of the year, but that’s not always the case for everyone.

Christmas can be a struggle for some people for many reasons:

It can be an expensive season with presents, work dos and friends gatherings, and money worries can make it all less enjoyable

It can be exhausting! Social gatherings, deadlines to complete before the end of the year, travelling to see loved ones, finding time to see everyone- you may end up feeling drained and low

Family problems. Difficult family dynamics can become more intense around Christmas, and create a lot of stress or conflict.

It can feel lonely. If you have experienced bereavement, estrangement, separation or similar issues, Christmas can bring up intense feelings of loss and grief.

You may feel the pressure from the outside world to be happy, have fun and enjoy the “Most wonderful time of the year”

Your personal situation may not allow you to enjoy Christmas for practical or health reasons. For instance you might live far away from your family or have a medical condition that affects your ability to do Christmas the way portrayed by society.

If you recognise yourself in any of the above, you’re not alone. According to Mind, “one in ten people feel unable to cope at Christmas (11%), and over a quarter of people feel the pressure to have the perfect Christmas (28%).” (https://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/mind-finds-one-in-ten-feels-unable-to-cope-at-christmas)

So what can you do about it?

Just like everything else, the power is in your hands: you can choose to do small things to help yourself and your mental wellbeing.

Here’s a list of things I believe could help you during this time:

1) Accept things as they are. Accepting that this is a difficult time for you is the first step. It’s not always easy to admit when we’re struggling, but accepting this is the case can help you take away some of the pressure. On top of that, accepting the way you are can help you understand that it’s ok to say No to a social event, and that you may have days when you have to prioritize yourself

2) Reach out. Talking to someone you trust can help you lessen

the burden and feel lighter in yourself. Sharing your story can also increase feelings of belonging and connection to the people you love. Having a supportive community of people you trust is extremely important.

3) Create space for you. This can be hard, but having some time out for yourself can help you feel recharged and better able to cope. You might need one night a week for yourself, 5 minutes a day to read a book or practice mindfulness, or perhaps time in nature or regular exercise. Whatever it easy, create space and time for you.

4) Move your body. I know I always mention exercise, and for a good reason- it’s a great mood booster, especially if done outdoors. Choose something you enjoy, so you’ll stay motivated to do it, and it won’t feel like a chore.

5) Look after your body. Getting good sleep, eating well, limiting alcohol intake are all ways to practice self-care, event thought they seem boring and a bit too simple. Mind and body aren’t separate – our biological functions affect our mood and mental health.

6) Practice boundaries. You can say No to things, you can choose what’s best for you rather than what makes other people happy. Preserving your energy and looking after yourself isn’t only good for you – you will be more available for the people around you, and better able to show up in the world as your best self.

7) Create your own Christmas. Traditions are lovely but we don’t have to adhere to them if they don’t suit us from a practical or wellbeing perspective. Creating your own tradition may be a way for you to enjoy the festive season in a way that resonates with you.

8) Ask for professional help. If things get too much, contacting a therapist or mental health service is the best option. Google local therapists and choose the one who resonates with you the most. If you’re in need of urgent help, the Samaritans phone lines are always open and their number is 116 123.

Remember that we are all different and you might have different ways to deal with difficult times. The first step is always acknowledging what is truly going on for us, so we can find ways to deal with it.

I wish you all a peaceful festive period.

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Man reading by window, festive Christmas tree indoors.