How to Look After Your Wellbeing This Christmas
The holidays might be a time of joy and merriment for some, but not everyone shares in the festive delights.
Christmas can be really triggering for a lot of people: even if your mental health is usually ‘good’, this time of year can be difficult for many reasons. You might be lonely, anxious about finances, stressed about how much there is to do, missing loved ones, worried about seeing people, pressured to have the ‘best time ever!’, or enveloped in sensory overload.
If you relate to any part of that (non-exhaustive) list, you’re really not alone.
Christmas Wellbeing in Stats
According to YouGov, 26% of people say Christmas has a negative impact on their mental health — a figure that rises to 31% for people who are widowed, 35% for those who are divorced, and 38% for the unemployed.
December also brings feelings of stress (more than two in five), anxiety (three in ten), depression (a quarter) and loneliness (just under a quarter) for many. Interestingly, anxiety and loneliness is most prevalent among 25 to 34 year olds — meaning that loneliness isn’t something that impacts elderly people alone.
It seems that stress impacts women (51%) more than men (35%) at this time of the year; a nod to the often unequal distribution of festive responsibilities. And if you have children at home, you’re both more likely to feel stressed (no surprises there), and more likely to feel the positive impact of the festive period on your mental health. You’re also less likely to have felt lonely or depressed, at 19% and 24% respectively.
So there you have it. Whatever social media (and Hallmark movies) would have you believe, plenty of people feel the lows, as well as the highs, at this time of the year. But however much you may be struggling, there are lots of little actions you can take to improve and protect your mental health this Christmas.
Top Tips for Boosting Your Wellbeing in December
Be patient with yourself
It’s important to be kind to yourself and treat yourself with the grace and patience you’d show to others. Try to pinpoint anything that negatively impacts your mental health, and avoid these wherever possible. Instead, prioritise the things that help your wellbeing, and spend time with people who bring you joy.
Setting healthy boundaries and learning to say no is also crucial around the holidays, so don’t feel guilty for taking the necessary steps to look after yourself. Do your best to be honest with people about how you’re feeling, and what they can do to help — even if that’s about behaviours you need them to stop.
If you know that Christmas is going to be difficult for you, plan ahead by identifying those triggers and writing down healthy coping mechanisms. This will help you to feel more in control, and give you an action plan if things get tough.
Whether or not you have family and friends around you, it’s well worth keeping a list of support services to hand (take a look at Mind’s list of useful contacts). It’s also a good idea to plan something to look forward to in the new year: Christmas might not be ‘your time’, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look to the future with hope in your heart.
Feelings of loneliness can be exacerbated at Christmas. Everything ‘festive’ is geared up to having fun with family and friends, and if you don’t have people to celebrate with (or you can’t be with them this year), it can feel like the whole world is in on something you’re not. But that’s really not the case.
A great many people feel alone at this time of year, so why not reach out through an online community — like Mind’s Side by Side — to connect with people who may be able to understand what you’re going through. If you do have people you’re not able to see, try to arrange video calls to help keep you connected.
Another great way to alleviate loneliness is by spending time doing activities you enjoy; these could be creative pursuits, long walks outdoors, or indulging in a good box set. You could also do something to help others — like volunteering at a food bank, or lending a hand at a soup kitchen.
Look after yourself
Our wellbeing is hugely impacted by how we treat ourselves, so try to be intentional about your nutrition (enjoying festive treats, but balancing these with healthier options); keeping up with your exercise; spending time outdoors every day, and being sure to prioritise self-care — whatever that may look like to you.
Even if you’re busy creating the magic for others, it’s important to leave a little for yourself.
Oh, and one last thing: enough with the pressure. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t bake batches of cookies, create elaborate Elf on the Shelf escapades, or decorate eleventy-billion Christmas trees. You are enough.