The festive season is nearly upon us and it can be a challenging time for many people. The idealistic image of the Christmas period is one of families spending time together, with magic in the air as the smell of mince pies baking wafts from the kitchen, and love and laughter flows as freely as the mulled wine. However, in reality the festive season can be a time of stress, exhaustion, anxiety and loneliness.
It is a common fact that many people feel more stress, rather than less, over the festive season, so it is more important than ever to manage our mental health and wellbeing. There are a number of ways in which we can do this.
For many Christmas is a time of financial worry as there are gifts to buy, meals to cook and parties to attend, so it is important to take a step back and make a plan of how you are going to manage your finances without getting into debt. One of the easiest ways of doing this is to have conversations with family and friends about gifts. Agree not to buy gifts for each other, as after all, the true spirit of Christmas is not about receiving gifts. Spending time together is more important than an unwanted pair of socks.
Plan your meals carefully and don’t go overboard with all the unnecessary trimmings. Choose wisely which Christmas events you attend and limit your alcohol consumption to keep costs down and your health – both physical and mental – in check.
Set yourself a budget and stick to it – only spend the cash you have. If you get carried away and use credit cards it may come back to bite you in January when it’s all over.
For some people spending time with their family at Christmas is a wonderful, happy time, for others it can be more challenging. For many students returning home the lack of independence and the return to house rules can be tricky. For other families travelling can be tiring and expensive so tensions can run high.
For some people extended and blended families can result in stress over differences in opinions and traditions. And for many people Christmas can be a very lonely time as they don’t have any family at all and friends are suddenly absent as they visit their own families.
It’s important that we check on the people without family and include them in our celebrations. Spending time with friends is just as important at this time of year. If you feel alone or isolated, don’t be afraid to tell someone. Planning ahead is also a good idea – look for groups to join (maybe people going through a similar experience), events to attend or even volunteer for a local charity.
If you find your family challenging to be around, try setting some boundaries – maybe spend less time together and be prepared to compromise on some issues. Be prepared to say no if you really can’t fit in seeing everyone that you feel you should over the festive season – some people won’t mind and may even be relieved anyway!
If you’re travelling to visit family plan for travel conditions and allow extra time to get to your destination on time to reduce stress.
For some people Christmas time can be a painful reminder of loved ones lost but including them in your thoughts and plans can help with this. Starting a new tradition can be a way of turning your emotions into a positive and by incorporating your loved one’s interests into this can be a way to keep their memory alive.
Over-indulgence over the festive season is common practice – whether it’s eating too much or drinking too much alcohol. But too much over-indulgence can have a detrimental effect on our physical and mental health and wellbeing, as well as our wallets.
There are usually many opportunities at this time of year for alcohol to be consumed and it can be particularly tempting for young people and students to get involved in the festivities. It is important to remind ourselves that it is not necessary to drink alcohol at every single event. To avoid this, make a plan before you arrive and stick to it.
If you decide to drink alcohol make sure to pace yourself as alcohol overload can end up ruining a good night out as well as the next day. There’s a whole holiday season to get through and you don’t want to burn out.
Alcohol can also add fuel to the fire of already stressful family situations, so keep this is mind when dealing with relatives. Although alcohol can feel like it is reducing stress at the time it can make things worse in the long run.
It is just as easy to over-indulge on food and while it is a time to enjoy some treats there is no need to pile on the pounds or be completely unhealthy. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, as after all it is a time for celebration and fun, but some attempts at moderation will help you to feel better in the long run.
Exercise routines, or routines of any kind, tend to go out of the window over the festive season and to some extent this is understandable and acceptable but trying to maintaining some form of routine and remaining active is essential for good mental health.
As we have already discussed, Christmas can be a time of stress, anxiety and worry for many people and exercise is the perfect tonic to reduce those feelings of stress and lift your mood. Whether you just need to escape from the family for a little while or gather your thoughts even just a walk in the fresh air could do the world of good. It is acceptable to want some ‘me time’ and if your way of getting it is to exercise then you should stick to it.
Exercise gets our endorphins flowing and improves our mood, making us feel more able to face any challenges that lie ahead. It’s the perfect way to stave off those winter blues, boost self-esteem and keep you feeling fit and healthy.
- Be realistic
It is important not to get caught up in any ideal images of what Christmas should be – it is different for everyone and we should try to make the best of our unique situations. If you are realistic about what the festive season holds and manage your expectations you will not feel disappointed.
If reality doesn’t match up to your pre-conceived ideas the disappointment can be damaging to your mental health. It is a good time of year to practice some mindfulness techniques and enjoy each moment as it arises. Appreciate the things you have and do not dwell on what you do not have.
Be kind to others and look after your physical and mental wellbeing as it will all be over before you know it.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
We cover many of the things discussed in this blog in our lesson modules as we believe they are all important life skills for young people to learn in order to help them build resilience and live happy, successful independent lives at all times of the year, not just at Christmas. Our Finance and Money Management module teaches students how to budget and ways to save money. Our Food and Nutrition module teaches students about healthy eating. And our Health and Wellbeing module teaches students about the benefits of managing our mental and physical health, including teaching basic mindfulness techniques. To find out more visit our Modules page or get in touch with us via our Contact page.