Five Ways to Look after Your Mental Health this Christmas and New Year

Christmas is about celebration, goodwill, indulgence and spending quality time with your loved ones. However, for many, it can also raise significant mental health challenges even in a ‘normal year’, but with increased financial pressures, job insecurities and Covid health worries all contributing to additional seasonal stress, it’s going to be a tough one for even more people this year.

Take a look at our five top tips for looking after yourself this Christmas and into the New Year.

Give Gifts a Handmade Touch

It’s natural to want to spoil your loved ones at Christmas. This year, however, the financial squeeze of lockdown has been putting the strain on everyday costs for many families, let alone factoring in elaborate presents. Ask yourself which loved ones would enjoy handmade or home-cooked gifts this year?

Social media and television adverts pile on the pressure to go all out, but you’ll find that most relatives and friends aren’t as concerned as you might think about presents. Even if you’re not a brilliant artist or baker, it’s easy to make a thoughtful gift.

  • Do you enjoy gardening? Write names on mini terracotta pots and give your friends their own personalised plant.
  • Like the idea of baked goods but can never get it quite right yourself? Weigh the dry ingredients for a brownie or gingerbread man, pop into a jar and label with handwritten instructions.

Take Time Out from Socialising

Usually quite a busy, social period with lots of parties, the festive season will look quite different this year. None of us quite know exactly how Christmas and New Year will pan out, but it’s key to remember that social burnout is increasingly an issue with virtual events.

Remember that Zoom party invites are just that: invites, not obligations. It’s perfectly fine to say no to joining every single weekly quiz/drink/karaoke party. If you have a busy evening of calls, hang up early and take ten minutes before hopping onto the next one. Don’t just power through. Stay hydrated, grab a snack, walk around or pop to the loo before joining your next quiz.

Manage Your Relationships

Christmas can bring together people who, at any other time of year, wouldn’t normally sit in the same room. If you anticipate feeling uncomfortable at family gatherings, practising your social responses ahead of time can help. Prepare answers to difficult questions and practise ending a conversation you don’t wish to carry on. It’s okay to say that you’d prefer to talk about something else or to change the subject.

If you’re usually the life of the party, but you have been experiencing challenging emotions recently, it’s likely that some friends or relatives may not yet be aware of this or understand. Make time to be honest and explain your feelings to them before any group events. That way, they won’t put the pressure on you to be social the whole time and will understand if you need to step away from the festivities for a while.

Stay Active

This is advice often repeated but for good reason. Shorter days, temperature drops and an easy atmosphere of indulgence makes it harder to exercise, but also contributes to melancholy more than summer does, as there is less opportunity for light, unstructured exercising such as walking or kicking a ball around.

If you hate the cold, indoor workouts such as HIIT, yoga, YouTube exercise videos and weights can be done with little to no equipment and are free or relatively inexpensive. Exercise during your lunch break to make the most of the daylight.

You can plan day trips to look forward to around the Christmas season that aren’t to do with celebrating at all. With the right clothing, picnics aren’t just for summer. A long walk with a packed ‘Christmas leftovers’ lunch on the 27th December is a great way to wind down after all the partying and keep yourself moving.

Be Kind to Others and Yourself

In celebrating Christmas, we make the most of other people. Gifts are bought and wrapped for our loved ones and we often make personal compromises to keep the family peace.

Remember that the season of goodwill extends also extends to yourself. New Year is often difficult for those with low self-esteem, especially if your life is not exactly where you planned it to be this time last year.

  • Try not to compare yourself with others.
  • Celebrate having come this far and reflect on (or even write down) what you’ve achieved. You’ll likely have a list much longer than you thought.

Positive Goal-setting

If you’re one for setting New Year’s resolutions, be realistic with your goal setting. 

Lots of people make resolutions not to do something, such as not eating chocolate or not being lazy. This is harder because you haven’t got a concrete aim to work towards. Saying that you will do something, such as committing to ‘eat x amount of vegetables per week’ or ‘exercise at least twice per week’ keeps your mind focused on your goals and will help with a more proactive and positive mindset.