Keeping in good mental health during the festive season
It’s the most wonderful time of the year….or is it?
Christmas; an event that spans the best part of a month can be a wonderful time for many, but there are others who find the dizzying array of parties, the frantic shopping for what feels like 5,000 gifts and the condensed family time just a little too much to handle.
Whether you love it or hate it, for most of us it’s a tiring time at least, but at worst it can lead to a slip in mental health, which is the reality for many, especially if you’ve experienced mental illness in the past. Here are a few tips to try and keep in good mental health around the festive period.
Keep up your routine (where possible)
So you might skip a workout or two during December but try not to throw your whole fitness routine out of the window. This also goes for meditation and your diet. It’s easy to overindulge this time of year; be kind to yourself if this happens, but try to keep up some level of routine when it comes to your wellbeing. If you have two or three social events in a week, try and stick to a good diet the other four days. It’s easy to quit on a healthy routine all together when you have several days of indulgence, but try not to do this. It will only make you feel worse in January when you have to start all over again. I always enjoy the gym being a little quieter this time of year!
Don’t over commit
Remind yourself that you don’t need to go to everything. Be selective about the social events you attend at this time of year as trying to go to each event you’re invited to can be overwhelming and exhausting. Choose the events you really want to go to; you’ll enjoy them more and will avoid feeling burnt out at the end of the month. Schedule in evenings of rest and recovery in between the social engagements to make sure you’re still taking care of yourself.
Notice your triggers
When we spend intense periods of time with our families, we can be reactive to old triggers, which can cause us a lot of stress and upset. A trigger is when an event causes a disproportionate emotional reaction in us, and is usually caused by events in the past or is linked to a perceived inadequacy about ourselves. Try and identify what these triggers are. Why does it bother you so much when your sister seemingly overshadows a recent achievement you had a work? Is it because you always felt compared to your sister growing up? Or you never felt your achievements were recognized by your parents? Why do you feel emotional when your siblings squabble? Or when your family teases you for the way you dress?
Try to recognise when you have a strong emotional reaction to a certain activity. It is almost always linked to a negative experience from your past. Understanding why you react like that can help you deal with that trigger better. It will lose the seemingly large amount of power it has over you and make spending time with your family a little easier.
Be mindful of materialism
December tends to be a month of excess and this includes with our spending. We can go mad buying presents, Christmas outfits and seasonal sale items. Try and make Christmas a time to connect with friends and family, rather than an endless stream of spending which can be extremely stressful and cause further problems such as long-term debt. Suggest secret Santa schemes for family and friendship groups or donations to charity (which is much more likely to boost your wellbeing, rather than make you feel worse). Don’t put pressure on yourself to find the perfect gift for everyone; most people would rather your company than expensive gifts.
Dealing with loneliness
Not everyone feels they have a family or a group of friends to spend Christmas with and this time of year can feel particularly lonely for some, especially when everyone else seems to be having the time of their lives. Remember things aren’t always as they seem; just because people appear to be having a wonderful time, it doesn’t mean that’s the reality. Volunteering can help us feel more connected to others and can reduce our feelings of loneliness, plus it’s a wonderful thing to do this time of year. There are so many charities to lend our time to, including charities focused on helping the homeless, the elderly and the unwell. There is a real community feeling in volunteering and it can also boost our levels of wellbeing.