How To Boost Your Mental Wellbeing This Christmas
Research on Statista shows that 31% of people have felt sad or upset over Christmas. This is a big contrast to the perception of Christmas that is promoted by society: a happy, festive time of year that is spent with people you love and who bring you joy. Often, the pressure of living up to the expectations of this ‘ideal Christmas’ can cause stress, anxiety and even depression if it is not achieved.
Christmas may be especially isolating for many people this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing restrictions. With ‘Christmas bubbles’ allowing only three households to connect over a period of five days in the UK, the whole situation can seem extremely restrictive, making it very difficult to connect with the people who love and support you.
However, as Lucille Balcombe, CBT Therapist at The London Psychiatry Centre explains: “There are many other elements associated with negative emotions during Christmastime, from battling social anxiety when relations visit, to dealing with the stress of organising and cooking dinner for your guests. What’s more, older people and those who spend Christmas alone may feel particularly low – Age UK found that 1.7 million older people in England can go for a month without meeting up with a friend. Additionally, 300,000 over 65s have not even had a conversation with family or friends over the same period. And, let’s not forget about the added challenge of COVID-19 this year.”
With all of this in mind, we have put together a guide to boosting your mental wellbeing over Christmas. These are tips that can hopefully help you reduce low and negative moods, and keep you safe during the festive period.
Prepare for your mental health ahead of time
If you know that you are prone to low mood during Christmas, prepare some activities for yourself that help you take some time out. This could be scheduling some ‘alone time’ for 30 minutes during the day, or going for a socially distanced walk by yourself or with a trusted friend or family member. You might even want to write yourself some affirmations that you can read to yourself when it gets too overwhelming at Christmas, or engage your brain with a game or puzzle that will help take your mind off a difficult situation.
Make responsible food and drink choices
Unhealthy eating habits can contribute to poor mental health, which means that you should encourage yourself to make good choices when it comes to food over Christmas. If you are in charge of purchasing food, make sure to avoid lots of salty or sugary snacks, and incorporate healthier options instead. If you are not in charge of food, ask the person in organising if they can purchase healthier options, or to keep the unhealthier choices out of sight.
If alcohol is a trigger for low mood, try to avoid drinking it during the holidays, and avoid situations where you may be pressured into drinking.
See friends and family in the run-up to Christmas
Fitting everyone in on Christmas and Boxing Day can be very stressful, especially for those with social anxiety. If there are lots of people that you need to visit during this period, try to spread out visits across December so that you still have time to yourself or to spend with your close family and friends. This will also help keep you and your loved ones safer during the COVID-19 pandemic, as you can avoid being in contact with too many people at once.
If you’re lonely, reach out
Those who are classed as ‘vulnerable’ may not be able to see family or friends at all during this time. As this group includes the elderly, and we know that elderly people are already heavily affected by loneliness at Christmas, it is imperative that we reach out to those who may fall within this category in order to lend them our support.
If you know you may be alone at Christmas, and you are not classed as ‘vulnerable’ in terms of the pandemic, don’t wait until the big day to reach out to friends and family to help you through it. Either arrange a time to meet up with someone that you trust, or ask that person if you can spend the day with them at their household (in line with social distancing laws).
If there is no one that you can ask, try to centre the day around you by arranging some activities that will help to take your mind off the situation. Many community groups have well-established volunteer networks who can provide practical help and social contact, e.g. churches, faith organisations, and Mutual Aid groups. Additionally, adults can access support with Samaritans, and young people with Young Minds.
With so much going on around the Christmas period, and lots of emotional and mental stimulation, it’s important to make rest a priority. In particular, sleep. Not getting enough sleep can impact your wellbeing on many levels, including causing irritability and mood swings, so try to ensure that you maintain a healthy sleep pattern, whether that’s by keeping up a relaxing evening routine or avoiding stimulants that may keep you awake.
At The London Psychiatry Centre we are offering telephone appointments for those unable to leave their homes before, during and after the holidays. Speaking to a mental health professional can help you get through periods of low mood, anxiety or other negative emotions, and aid you with coping techniques to help make Christmas a little less difficult. To arrange an appointment, call us on 020 7580 4224 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.