How to look after your mental health over the festive season


December 24, 2021 - 251 views

Without a doubt, much of the last couple of years have been tough for everyone. At times like this, it’s even more important that we look after ourselves and those around us.

The need to look after your mental health and wellbeing doesn’t stop at Christmas. A small amount of planning can really help us to make the best of things.

This Christmas you might like to try something new or adapt your usual festivities. Rituals and keeping in touch with loved ones are what makes the festive season special for many of us. Christmas is a good time to ask how people are doing and be that listening ear that everyone needs.

Some people find it hard to ask for support if they are struggling so it’s more important than ever to ‘reach in’ and make a point of asking people how they are – how they ‘really are’.

Here are some handy tips on how to reduce stressors over this Christmas period:

Christmas isn’t just one day! As important as 25th December is to many people, the Christmas period is much longer. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have ‘the perfect day’. For some, the expectation and pressure to do something special may make them feel more stressed than usual. 

Get outside: Try to get some fresh air and move your body, whatever the weather wrap up warm and get some fresh air. Even just walking for 10 minutes can have physical and mental health benefits. Green spaces can have an important positive impact on our wellbeing so even better if you can get outside into nature. It’s also a great chance to see others; if you can’t meet inside for any reason you can team up for a socially distanced walk.

Be honest about what you want to do - it's OK to say ‘No’  We may feel pressurised into doing  things we may not want to do, because we want to please others. This can put extra pressure on an already difficult situation if you’re struggling. If we feel we can’t meet others’ expectations, we may feel conflicted or guilty and we forget that it’s okay to say ‘no’ or to postpone something until we feel up to it. If we respond politely and respectfully, we should feel confident and ok with ourselves for having done this. The key is finding a balance without sacrificing our own health or wellbeing.

Try something new! By avoiding doing the same thing you’ve done every other Christmas you’re hopefully less likely to spend the whole day comparing (and perhaps unfavourably!) against previous Christmases.

Don’t stress about presents. If money is tight or if you haven’t been able to buy presents, why not try giving home-made vouchers for ‘kindnesses’ like organising a picnic, a day out or watching their ‘favourite TV show and not moaning’ or doing household chores.

Plan a treat for after the festive season Give yourself something special to look forward to after the festive season. This could be a get-together with family and friends for when COVID-19 allows, or time just for you.

Make a Self-Care Box A self-care box is something to make, filled only with things that make you happy, help you feel good, feel calmer and help you to recharge. The idea is to make the box in advance so you have it for when you need it. Some people like to make a ‘real’ box (e.g. specialty tea/coffee, biscuit, scented candle, pack of cards, a book or puzzle) - others create a virtual box and include music or film downloads.

Nothing is perfect – don’t expect too much! There’s bound to be at least one flare up over the holidays. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself for everything to be perfect. It’s normal to have different views and if you do clash over something, try to ‘dig deep’ and forgive quickly – everyone has been under pressure, so it’s not surprising that tempers may become a little frayed.  The key is for us all to try to be extra kind and understanding and find that middle ground if we can.

Schedule ‘me’ time and self-care Finding time for you can be difficult at the best of times so when the holiday season rolls around we often forget to prioritise ourselves. By planning ahead and identifying simple ways to make me-time it can help bolster wellbeing. Ideally, we need to invest in our wellbeing every day. If we don’t look after ourselves, how can we look after others? ‘Me’ time is not something you should feel guilty about. Scheduling can help you identify what really needs doing in the day, before having that time that you have set aside for yourself. If you’re not sure how you would spend time for yourself, try writing down things you enjoy doing. By having a list of things you enjoy doing it can really help you to avoid the temptation to skip ‘me-time’. Even if it’s just an uninterrupted cuppa in the morning for 10 minutes when you wake up.

Be Open Christmas is often a stressful time for a lot of people and being able to share your concerns, worries and also your aims and goals with someone is great to help feel that you have an outlet over the festive period. Often by sharing our worries to a good listener, it can help to unburden ourselves and get a fresh perspective on the things that are worrying us.

If you are really struggling, please reach out for support. You may also consider making a Safety Plan. This is a mental health equivalent of putting on a seat belt to keep you safe.

It will usually include things you can do for yourself, ways to make your situation safer and how to access emotional, social, and emergency support. For further information visit: Help for suicidal thoughts - NHS (www.nhs.uk)

There are a number of agencies who you can contact if you’re feeling overwhelmed this Christmas and need someone to talk to. Their details are:

C.A.L.L. Mental Health Helpline for Wales: C.A.L.L. Mental Health Helpline - Community Advice and Listening Line (callhelpline.org.uk) - Tel: 0800 132 737

A 24/7 service offering free emotional support and information/literature on mental health and related matters to people in Wales. Text 'help' to 81066.

Samaritans: 24/7 – Phone (free): 116 123

Email: jo@samaritans.org (response time 24 hours)

Samaritans Welsh Language Line: phone (free) 0808 1640123 open 7pm-11pm every day

Mind Cymru Infoline: For information on types of mental health problems, where to get help, medication, alternative treatments and advocacy. Call 0300 123 3393, email info@mind.org.uk or text 86463.

Papyrus provide a HopeLine for young people under 35 struggling with thoughts of suicide, or anyone who is concerned that a young person is feeling suicidal. They provide a safe space to talk through anything happening in life that could have an impact on staying safe.

Open: 10am-10pm weekdays 2pm – 10pm (weekends and bank holidays).  Call free: 0800 068 4141 Text: 07786 209697 Email: pat@papyrus-uk.org Visit: www.papyrus-uk.org/hopelineuk

Childline provide children and young people up to 19 in the UK with a safe place where they can be themselves and feel safe to talk about anything. Trained counsellors are on hand to listen, offer help and support with any issue or worry, big or small, 24 hours a day. 

Call free: 0800 1111. 1-2-1 counsellor chat and email (accessed via Childline | Childline or For Me App)