We’d all like to think of Christmas as a magical time filled with joy and love, but sadly for many it can be a source of stress.
Whether it’s worrying about affording gifts, or already existing difficulties which unfortunately don’t disappear just because it’s the festive season, there are many reasons why it might not be the ‘most wonderful time of the year’ for everyone.
To support those worrying about coping at Christmas, Paycare Wellbeing’s Kerry B Mitchell – a Mental Health First Aid England trainer – has compiled five top tips. She says:
“Don’t blow the budget:
Financial health and stresses around money come to the forefront of many people’s minds around Christmas, when there’s a lot of pressure to buy the latest toys for the children or fancy gifts for all your friends. Yet the reality is, spending more than you can really afford will see you starting 2022 with worries already piling up.
Almost 17 million people borrow money to pay for gifts each year[i]. While it might sound cliché, that’s really not what Christmas is all about – and smaller thoughtful presents or handmade gifts are likely to be highly appreciated by your loved ones.
Not only does spending lots of time on your phone or laptop have a proven detrimental impact on your mental health, it can be difficult at Christmas when lots of people will be sharing images portraying them having a perfect time (even if that’s not really the case behind the scenes).
The average person checks their phone 58 times a day (and over the year, we use our phones for the equivalent of 30 entire days)[ii], so it’s worth considering whether you can reduce this over Christmas no matter if you’re working, spending time with loved ones, celebrating, or simply carrying on as normal if you don’t celebrate the festive season.
Balance and awareness:
It’s easy to neglect your health, especially over Christmas when there’s food and drink aplenty at every social event – and booking that appointment to talk about your mental health or niggling backache couldn’t be further from your mind.
But overindulging and losing track of any awareness about what our bodies and minds need in order to flourish means many of us enter each new year full of regret.
That’s why the most common New Year’s Resolutions are losing weight, exercising more, and improving eating habits[iii] – yet just a quarter of us will stick to our resolutions, which is why intuitive and mindful eating, enjoying balance and moderation, and seeing food as fuel rather than a treat or reward are all fantastic alternative approaches to your health.
Be kind to yourself and others:
Acts of kindness release chemicals such as oxytocin and dopamine in our bodies – meaning they boost our own mental health as well as putting a smile on the faces of the people we’ve helped.
There are so many opportunities to give over Christmas: helping a neighbour out with shopping if bad weather hits, donating unwanted gifts to a local refuge, or completing a Reverse Advent Calendar (putting an item in a box every day from 1st December onwards then donating it to a food bank or other charity).
And being kind to yourself is just as important: reaching out to speak to someone if your wellbeing has taken a dip can make all the difference, whether it’s chatting to a loved one, using your Employee Assistance Programme, or reaching out to a charity such as Samaritans[iv].
Make it ‘your’ Christmas:
Gathering round the tree to sing carols and open presents with delight, sharing turkey and all the trimmings, and spending the entire time with every family member you have. These might be some people’s idea of a ‘perfect’ Christmas…but the reality is none of us are perfect. And for many of us that sounds like a nightmare rather than a dream.
So, that’s why it’s important to put your mental health first, and do Christmas your way. That might mean traditional family festivities, it might mean ignoring the existence of the holidays altogether, or it might mean sitting in your pyjamas and watching boxsets.
Whatever you do, prioritise your own mental health and wellbeing over the perceived ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ of the festive season – you’ll thank yourself for it once the decorations are down and the parties are over 🧡
Take care of yourselves this Christmas 🎄