Protecting your Mental Health at Christmas

Susan from The Wellbeing and Wellness Coach explains why it’s ok not to feel sparkly all of the time at Christmas.

Christmas is a time of year that can be full of joy, magic and happiness. It’s also a time of year that can feel very overwhelming and bring about really challenging emotions for many. A YouGov survey commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation found that a third of adults in the UK felt anxious or stressed at Christmas. It also found that over half of adults were worried about the mental health of someone they know over the festive period.

My story

For me, Christmas is always a little bittersweet. On the one hand I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to snuggle up with my husband and little girl. I love creating fun and spending more time with friends and our extended family. I especially love seeing my daughter’s eyes sparkling with the magic of the season.

On the other hand, the festive season brings back incredibly painful memories of both bereavement and loss, in addition to the loneliness and angst of Christmas’s following the breakdown of my family environment when I was young. I still recall the feeling of looking on and observing the cosiness and love that other families were immersed in, when I felt abandoned and alone. Those feelings can still get triggered now and I can feel the pain and sadness as real as it was back then. Many of you know already that I have a complex mental health history. As a result, I need to work hard to protect my mental health at this time of year and have learned a lot about how to stay well during the festive season.

Tips to manage mental wellbeing

While everyone is unique and will have different things that work for them individually, here are a few ideas that you can explore.

  • Remember that other people are only showing you their best bits – embrace the messiness that is real life!

It’s easy to think that everyone else is happy and surrounded by love and magic when you are scrolling through your social media feed. One thing that I’ve learnt is that people are only showing you their best bits. They’re not showing their burnt-out frazzled selves, the fact they’ve burnt the turkey or that they’ve just had a family row. Know that it’s actually ok to have messy bits as well as good bits. Embrace the imperfection and know this is the reality that others experience too but just aren’t sharing.

  • Know that it’s ok not to feel sparkly all of the time.

Even when you have lots of good bits going on you just might not feel sparkly all of the time. This is absolutely normal and absolutely fine. There’s so much pressure on people to be feeling happy and joyful throughout the festive season although this is an impossible expectation. When you do feel sparkly enjoy it and when you don’t, just go easy on yourself and let yourself feel whatever you need to feel.

  • Eat well and be mindful of your alcohol intake

I’m definitely not suggesting you ditch the Baileys and that box of Celebrations. It is important though to ensure you’re eating nutritious meals around those festive treats. It’s also important to be mindful about your alcohol intake. Enjoy a drink but build in some alcohol-free days too and drink plenty of water.

  • Get outside and exercise

As tempting as it is to stay curled up on the sofa, it is important to keep moving. You don’t need to do a hard workout (unless of course you want to!), but maybe just get outside and go for a walk before curling up for that next Christmas movie. Most people know I’m a huge fan of yoga and this is another great way you can exercise while also building in hugely valuable mediation and breathwork techniques.

  • Embrace the hygge lifestyle

Hygge is a Danish concept that embraces cosiness and warmth. Think curled up on the sofa, with a blanket and steaming mug of hot chocolate. Creating a warm, cosy space at home can help to reinforce feelings of safety and contentment which is great for mental wellbeing.

  • Be careful of overcommitting

It can be very easy to overschedule at Christmas which can mean we become overwhelmed and exhausted very quickly. Be mindful of how much you are trying to cram in and remember it really is ok to say no. Time out and rest is important too.

  • Connect with others

Growing numbers of people are experiencing loneliness at Christmas. If you’re able to do so, consider ways of connecting with others. This can include volunteering for local charities or reaching out to one of the growing number of schemes providing a space for people to connect with others on Christmas day.

Most importantly of all be gentle with yourself over this period and know there is no single way in which you are required to act or feel.

If you feel that you need immediate support with your mental health, you can text SHOUT to 85258 to connect with a mental health volunteer 24/7. You can find out more out shout on their website – https://giveusashout.org/

3 thoughts on “Protecting your Mental Health at Christmas

  1. Some good advice Susan ! Thanks for sharing. I hope you & your family have a wonderful Christmas.

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