Christmas is a time for celebration with friends and family. It can also be an overwhelming time for many people who are experiencing difficulties with their mental health and emotional well-being.
The pressure to have a good time during the festive season with the addition of the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic can bring lots of additional stress that make it a challenge to relax and enjoy the holidays.
If you are feeling anxious, you are not alone. Here are some simple ways you can look after your mental health over the Christmas period and have a positive start to the year ahead.
1. Stay in touch
A problem shared is a problem halved. As much as you can, try to avoid isolating yourself over Christmas. It may seem like the most comfortable option at the time, but staying connected to friends and family is a must for your mental well-being.
It does not always have to be in person – whether it is a phone call, video call or a simple text message, keeping in touch with people who care about you and listen to you makes a significant difference.
2. Eat well
What you eat and drink will have an impact on how you feel mentally, not just physically. It can be tempting to overindulge over Christmas. You want to relax and enjoy yourself but be mindful that there can be side effects from overconsuming highly processed foods and alcohol such as, feeling physically bloated and increased negative emotions from alcohol.
Instead, make sure the majority of your diet is high in nutrient-dense whole foods, with the odd treat added in here and there. Moderation is key.
3. Stay active
Exercise is not just about the physical benefits – studies have shown time and time again the numerous benefits an active lifestyle has for our mental health.
Regular exercise improves our mood and stress levels by releasing endorphins, our feel-good hormones. It promotes better self-esteem and reduces anxiety, depression, and social withdrawal. Not to mention, it has a positive effect on sleep and memory retention.
It can be something as simple as a 20–30-minute workout, or if you want to make it more of a social occasion, invite friends and family for a walk in the fresh air.
It will do your mental health wonders to keep your body moving.
4. Prioritise your sleep
Improving your sleep quality and quantity is a completely free way of improving your mood during the holidays. Getting 7-9 hours per night of quality sleep is a good amount for the average person.
Practicing good sleep hygiene and incorporating a regular bedtime routine will make a big difference.
Small changes you can make are to darken your room, block out excess noise, ensure your bedroom is at a low but comfortable temperature, and avoid blue light from electronic devices in the hours before bed.
It can also help to cut caffeine out six hours before bedtime and do something relaxing before you go to sleep, such as reading a book, meditating, or taking a bath.
Alongside nutritional improvements, supplements such as magnesium can also be highly beneficial in promoting better sleep.
5. Take time for yourself
During the hustle and bustle of the festive period, do not forget to pause and practice some self-care.
Allow yourself to take time out if you find your stress levels are rising. That can be hard to do if you have a lot of responsibilities, so planning these opportunities for relaxation and ‘me-time’ in advance will help.
Mindfulness and relaxation techniques are examples of tools you can turn to in times of high stress and anxiety – some examples would be yoga, meditation, and daily gratitude practice.
Even something as simple as setting aside a quiet time to write your Christmas cards can give you a task to focus on and prevent a racing mind.
Whatever plans you have this Christmas time, remember to keep these tips in mind to help with having a more positive festive period.
Need some advice to help you keep on track over the Christmas period? Here is our ultimate guide to surviving Christmas. It has all you need to know, from workouts you can do at home to healthy recipes you can cook up for the family.