How to look after your mental health over the Christmas period.Tom Brennan | Published: 11th December 2020
According to the Andy Williams’ classic Christmas is the ‘most wonderful time of the year’. However, for some of us this is not always the case. For many people Christmas encourages and exacerbates mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety and depression. This blog will highlight some of the reasons why this can happen and the things we can do for ourselves to prevent this from happening.
Why is Christmas a difficult time for some people?
- With social media, we are now able to see into the lives of others on a 24/7 basis. This can often lead to us comparing ourselves to others, especially during Christmas time. We may compare the gifts we have received or given, or the amount of fun and laughter another person is having at Christmas. When we compare ourselves to others and seemingly do not match-up, this can cause us to think negatively about ourselves, which impacts our mental health.
- Christmas time can often stir up memories of years gone by, triggering problems for those people who may have lost someone close to them in the past. It may lead to increased feelings of loneliness – particularly if you are seeing others surrounded by loved ones.
- Christmas often feels like a very long to-do list of things like buying presents, visiting family, and preparing a Christmas dinner. These festive activities can overwhelm some people, causing them to feel stressed and anxious.
- Over the Christmas period we sometimes find ourselves over-indulging in food and drink. Too much sugar, caffeine or alcohol can lead us to ‘crash’ and cause an increase in feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Despite pandemic restrictions, we’re still expecting some socialising around the Christmas period. The prospect of socialising, however, can be anxiety-provoking for some people particularly for those suffering with social anxiety disorder.
5 tips to help you maintain good mental health over the Christmas period.
- Try to reduce your use of ‘should’ and ‘ought’ statements. These might be things like ‘I should buy more thoughtful gifts’ or ‘I ought to spend longer at my family home this year’. This is a negative way of setting unrealistic expectations for yourself and can set you up to fail. You might want to use thought diaries to track your use of these statements. By tracking them, you can begin to challenge them. Try analysing what evidence there is for and against these thoughts and whether there is another, more positive way to look at this.
- Cut down on your social media usage over Christmas. Not only can this help to prevent you from comparing yourself to others, it also gives you more time to focus on being present during the holiday season.
- If you are feeling lonely and you find yourself without plans for Christmas, try to be proactive. Have you reached out to all of your friends to try and make plans? Alternatively, consider starting a new tradition, for example you can get involved with the community and spend the day in a positive way.
- If you are feeling stressed or anxious take some time out for yourself. Maybe exercising, reading a book, or simply spending the day relaxing in your pyjamas.
- Know your limits with regards to alcohol and stay safe. Keep hydrated by drinking water and other non-alcoholic beverages. You can also moderate your caffeine and sugar intake this will prevent you from ‘crashing’.
Overall, try to consider your own needs this Christmas. There are plenty of pressures associated with this time of year, so taking the time to check in with yourself is really important. If you’re finding that you’re not enjoying something about the Christmas period, it might mean that you need to set a boundary or re-evaluate it. Most importantly, be sure to talk to someone if you’re in need of support. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or mental health service like ourselves, there is always someone who can listen.