Top Tips to look after your mental health this Christmas Time

Top Tips to look after your mental health this Christmas Time

Top Tips to look after your mental health this Christmas Time

Christmas is traditionally a time of celebration, eating, drinking, spending time with family and friends, and generally enjoying the festive spirit. However, for those who struggle with a mental health condition or have been bereaved by suicide, the festive season can be an especially difficult time.

Whether it’s the financial stress, the cold and dark winter nights, or the reality of spending Christmas alone, there can be several triggers for mental health problems during the festive break.

It’s important to recognise that if you’re struggling over the Christmas period, you are far from alone. Mental health issues at Christmas affect more of us than you might think. A recent survey by The Mental Health Foundation found that 26% of people say that Christmas time makes their mental health worse and that 54% of people were concerned about the mental health of someone they know around the festive season.

If you’re concerned about the mental health of yourself or someone you know this Christmas, we have put together some information to help you to recognise the symptoms early and put steps in place to cope – helping you to find some comfort over this Christmas period.

Loneliness and Bereavement at Christmas

If you’ve suffered a loss in your family, loneliness can combine with grief to make Christmas an experience that is endured rather than enjoyed. Even with the support of friends and family around you, feelings of isolation, loneliness, and not wanting to do anything are natural and entirely normal.

Around Christmas time, the constant reminders we see, from Christmas trees in the windows of neighbours to special episodes of our favourite TV shows, only serve as reminders of your loss and bring back feelings of pain.

Be it a recent or long-term loss, there are things you can try to incorporate into your Christmas routine that could help you to navigate through an incredibly tough period:

  • Plan your time: Fill up your calendar by deciding exactly what you want to do around the festive period and Christmas Day itself. If you don’t feel up to it, don’t feel coerced into celebrating with others
  • Say “no”: Don’t feel like you must do anything you don’t want to. Your loved ones and family members know what you’ve been through – they will understand
  • Don’t feel guilty: If you do choose to participate in Christmas festivities, don’t feel guilty if   you’re enjoying yourself. Think about how your loved one would have wanted you to carry on with your life
  • Ask for help: If you can’t cope with the overwhelming emotions surrounding your bereavement, reach out for support. Confide in a loved one or close friend or consider reaching out to dedicated support networks such as Samaritans. You can also reach out to one of our Counsellors via our Live Chat on the website.
  • Structure your days: Try not to limit yourself to just watching TV. Include some other activities, such as exercise, going for a walk or just going outside. Low-key events, such as a trip to the cinema, can also provide a welcome escape
  • Be kind to yourself: While it may help to be around others, it’s important not to overwhelm yourself with situations where you may feel obliged to be cheerful. Try not to isolate yourself for the whole time but know that it’s ok to put yourself first. Don’t feel like you have to do all that is traditionally expected of you

Coping with Loneliness at Christmas

Many of the social pressures of Christmas, fuelled by social media and the perception that we must have an amazing time, can also lead to sense of emptiness or loneliness. We don’t even have to be on our own to feel these things. A survey carried out by Mental found that 53% of men feel lonely at Christmas, even though they are around other people.

Your loneliness may be a symptom of a mental health problem, or it may become a more serious problem if you don’t take steps to try and address your loneliness.

There are self-care strategies for loneliness you can put in place to cope with how you’re feeling. Here are a few ideas:

  • Start a daily gratitude list: Every day, list five things in your life that you are grateful for or happy about. Focusing on the positives can help to lift your mood and put you on course for a more positive long-term mind set
  • Volunteer: Despite what you might think, there is lots going on around your local community at Christmas that doesn’t require you to be part of a big family. Volunteering in the community, at a homeless shelter or care home for example, is one of the best ways to connect with other people and boost your confidence
  • Be around people: When you’re feeling lonely, making plans can be the most difficult thing to try and do. But as social beings, our self-esteem receives a timely boost when we interact with each other. If you feel able to, put some time in with a friend you really value

Mental health is never straight forward, and our mental health problems don’t just go away for Christmas, but we can try to maintain an element of control at times when we feel overwhelmed and emotional.

We hope you have a lovely Christmas and remember there are still support services open over the festive period, please reach out if you are struggling.