'Tis the season to be jolly

9 December 2016

Yes, it’s that time again – Christmas. Whilst it can be a happy time of year for many, this is not the case for all.

Behind the twinkling lights, log fires and television adverts promising joy for all, there are many people who really struggle to cope with the pressures surrounding the festive season.

Isolation, separation and family division can all impact a person’s mental wellbeing – not to mention the dark nights, influx of social gatherings and the cost of buying presents. For someone living with a mental health problem, this time of year can make symptoms like anxiety and depression more acute. Anxiety and depression may increase, and it’s no surprise to hear that suicide rates are found to rise in the Christmas/New Year period.

So how can you look after your mental wellbeing during this time of year? Here are some top tips that I encourage you to try:

  • First and foremost, remember that winter will pass! Do you remember what you did in December 2015? Chances are, the details will have faded. Time goes on, and it will be spring before you know it.
  • Reflect on your year and write down one achievement for each month of 2016. This could be anything from getting in touch with a friend, to cutting down on your alcohol intake, to volunteering with a new project. Or it could be more specific to your mental health – practising mindfulness, telling your friend or a GP about how you’re feeling, or maybe taking steps to combat any phobias, anxieties or obsessions.
  • Buy a TV guide and circle all the films or TV shows that you might not have seen for years. If you have Spotify, Windows Media Player or iTunes, perhaps you could create a new music playlist with all of your favourite songs.
  • Take a walk in your local park. Go first thing in the morning, find a quiet spot and take in in your surroundings: the frosty leaves, the dewy grass, the sound of the birds. Calm and clarity with nature is a great way to step away from the intensity of Christmas.
  • Try not to isolate yourself. Visit a local café and order your favourite drink, chat to someone over the phone (there are several helplines that run throughout Christmas and New Year), listen to your favourite radio show.
  • If you’re at a social event or hosting a gathering with family and friends, find a quiet space that you can go to if things become too overwhelming. Prior to the event, make a list of coping strategies that have worked in the past. This might include taking a book or magazine with you, texting a friend, listening to some music, or closing your eyes and taking some slow, deep breaths.
  • Find time to relax and do something just for YOU. This could be having a bubble bath with candles, going for a cycle ride, reading a new book or listening a meditation podcast.

These are just a few ideas that I encourage you to try over the festive season.

Most importantly, remember that you are not alone in how you feel this Christmas, and there is always someone out there that you can speak to. 2017 is a new start with new opportunities. Stay strong and look after yourselves.

Follow Emma on Twitter @MindfulEm