The Christmas season is not always a festive time for everyone. It can be an emotional and challenging time for those who are isolated, lonely or struggling with grief.
Many people experience anxiety, depression or stress which can be magnified by feelings of not wanting to burden family or friends. Isolation can diminish resilience or the ability to bounce back from difficult situations. Coping strategies that are usually effective, may not work quite so well. Excessive alcohol consumption through the Christmas season can only make things worse.
Here are some ways to help overcome these feelings and improve resilience:
1. Stick to your budget: Planning ahead and sticking to a budget will ease the financial stress. If your list of gifts to buy seems endless, try a Secret Santa or set a limit on the price for each gift.
2. Set boundaries: Make plans and set boundaries, whether this is on the money you spend, the tasks you take on, or the parties you attend – whatever helps to reduce the stress.
3. Don’t shop till you drop: Avoid crowds and the stress of finding a car park. Try shopping locally, online, or schedule your shopping when it will be less busy – and ALWAYS stick to your shopping list.
4. Avoid the pressure cooker: Cooking can be stressful enough, let alone for large numbers of family and friends who you really want to impress. Remember that you do not have to be a masterchef! Delegate guests to help with the meal, or request them to bring a plate to share.
5. Manage your expectations: Let’s face it, Christmas in real life is nothing like the movies. It tends to shine a light on the cracks that already exist in relationships. So try and accept this, and be mindful of the triggers that can cause arguments or tension. Relaxation techniques can also help manage feelings and anxiety.
6. Everything in moderation: Yes it is the season to be jolly, but overdoing it – especially with alcohol – can negatively impact on health and wellbeing. Try to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, and limit the amount of alcohol.
7. Get out and about: Regular exercise helps boost serotonin levels and reduces stress. Plus it helps to walk off the calories if you did enjoy that second mince pie.
8. Don’t overdo it: Lack of sleep, or doing too much, can often trigger anxiety and depression. So try and get a good night’s sleep, and schedule some ‘me time’ during the holiday period. Be kind to yourself.
9. Don’t be a stranger: Do not isolate yourself from people who care about you, even if it is the last thing you feel like doing. If you know someone who will be alone over the Christmas period, consider inviting them to join you. Or try to keep in contact to make sure they are alright.
10. Look back – and look forward: The end of a year can bring mixed emotions, particularly if you have experienced difficult or disappointing times. If this causes distress, try to focus on the positive outcomes of the past 12 months, and view the New Year as a fresh start.
11. Pay it forward: Giving to others – whether this is looking out for a neighbour on their own, volunteering, or a random act of kindness – can improve mental health, and will lift spirits especially at this time of year.
12. You are not alone: It is important to remember that many organisations offer support over the holiday period. While some services will be closed, support from trained staff may be available via websites and support lines.
If you need support during the festive season, download the free My Wellbeing Mate app for easy access to a wide range of useful resources.