CHRISTMAS can be a challenging time for our stress levels, and it’s even harder for those with any mental ill-health issues. So many things that are part of our routine, and that we take for granted, become disrupted by the sudden change of pace in our lives.
Leaving all your preparations for Christmas until the last minute can cause unnecessary stress, but planning ahead can save you both time and money. Making lists of jobs to do, presents to buy and groceries you’ll need helps to organise your thoughts, prevents you from forgetting something (or someone), and makes it easier to stick to a budget.
If the cost of Christmas causes you anxiety, you may find this advice from a money expert useful.
Eight rules of Christmas and beyond
THE following pieces of advice are worth considering over Christmas, and can also be incorporated into everyday life. They can be rules for life
The celebratory spirit of Christmas and New Year often involves social drinking, and while alcohol might make you feel more relaxed, it is important to remember that alcohol is a depressant, and drinking excessive amounts can cause low mood, irritability or potentially aggressive behaviour. By not exceeding the recommended number of safe units, you will be better able to sustain good mental and physical wellbeing.
The festive period often prompts a desire for many to lose weight in the New Year. Where possible, maintain a good balance of fruit, vegetables, carbohydrates, protein and omega 3 sources all year to be in good physical condition and have sufficient energy. Maintaining a healthy diet and weight can improve your mood and can work towards preventing symptoms of lethargy and irritability.
Physical activity releases endorphins which help you to relax, feel happy and boost your mood. By undertaking simple tasks such as cycling to work, walking in the park, or joining in with Christmas games, you can experience reduced anxiety, decreased depression and improved self-esteem. Research indicated that regular exercise can help to boost our immune systems, enabling us to fight off colds and flu viruses that are prolific in winter months.
The festive period provides us with an ideal opportunity to talk to, visit or engage with people. Face-to-face communication is known to improve mental and physical wellbeing as it produces the hormone oxytocin, which can benefit our immune system, heart health and cognitive function.
A third of us have a close friend or family member we think is lonely. A New Year resolution to see our friends and family more often can help to boost our own mental wellbeing and that of others.
If you are apart from your family, then volunteering for a charity or local community organisation can provide human contact, as well as help provide support and encouragement for others in need. These interactions can be sustained throughout the year and need not just be for Christmas.
Stay in touch
There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face-to-face, but that’s not always possible. Give them a call, drop them a note, or chat to them online instead. Keep the lines of communication open; it’s good for you! Christmas can be an opportunity to reconnect with a card, email or call.
Talking is a good way to cope with a problem you’ve been carrying around in your head. If something is worrying you, just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. It works both ways: if you open up, it might encourage others to do the same and get something off their mind.
Try to relax
Christmas can be a very busy and stressful time. These feelings of being under pressure can produce symptoms of anxiety, anger and difficulty with sleeping. This could have a long-term detrimental impact on your mental health and wellbeing. Exercising regularly or practicing mindfulness can help to alleviate the symptoms of stress and give you more control to cope with difficult situations. Implementing an exercise regime or signing up for a course in mindfulness could be a great idea.
Helping others is good for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your mood, increase self-esteem and happiness, and even benefit your physical health. Christmas is a good opportunity to volunteer for a charity or local community organisation and provide support and encouragement for others in need.
Despite having time off during Christmas and the New Year, sleep patterns can be disturbed catching up with friends and family, and partying. There is clear evidence of the link between sleep and mental wellbeing. Improving the quality of your sleep could result in better mental health.
There are many steps you can take: get back to your regular sleep routine as soon as possible; consume less alcohol; implement regular exercise into your routine; and take measures to alleviate your stress.