Coping At Christmas
by Brian Woods
Christmas can be a good time of year for our mental health. It is when we come together to share the positives in life with family and friends. It is a time to be grateful for the things that we have in our lives.
However, many people struggle with their mental health during the festive season. We are presented with the image of a perfect family Christmas – particularly through television advertisements. But the reality is often very different.
Pressure is put on us to, “have a good Christmas“. But many people still struggle with depression, anxiety, and bereavement issues. These do not take a day off just because it is Christmas.
Sometimes people put on a mask to cope with their mental health issues at this time of year. We do not want to be the odd one out – the so-called “party pooper“. It can also be tempting to over-indulge with alcohol as a means of coping at Christmas. However, the downside of this is that alcohol is ultimately a depressant. It actually worsens many mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
Taking time out for ourselves is important during the festive season. This is in no way selfish, it is merely looking after our own mental health. We might escape for a while with a good book. Exercise can also be a valuable coping mechanism. A brisk walk can help to clear our minds and improve our sense of well-being.
Indulging in a favourite hobby can also be a great antidote to the rigours of the festive season. One of my own interests is drawing and painting. So last year when I was away for Christmas, I took a sketchbook, pencils, and pens with me. I did several sketches which gave me some much-needed quiet time.
Meditation can also be of real help to our mental health during Christmas. It can still our mind and centre our thoughts. Even just five or ten minutes of mindful meditation a day can really boost our sense of well-being. Those who are new to meditation can find plenty of online resources to get started.
There are several other online resources with hints and tips for coping at Christmas. These include the Mind website, Mental Health UK, The Mental Health Foundation and the Samaritans. Mind run an online Peer Support Community, Side by Side, while Mental Health Uk have Clic, which is their online community resource. These are both designed to support people with their mental health.
Connecting with family and friends is important at anytime, but particularly so at Christmas. However, it is not always possible to do this face to face. This again is where technology can come to our aid. I was not able to travel one Christmas, so I arranged a Zoom call with my family. This helped me to cope with feeling isolated and boosted my mental well-being.
Christmas can also be a time when our finances are stretched to the limit. Presents, food, decorations, and travel all add to the final total. The Mind website includes a link to MoneyHelper. This has some useful advice on managing money at Christmas. Further help can also be found on the Mental Health UK website.
We spend a lot of time, effort, and resources in trying to have a good Christmas – but once we have seen in the New Year there is something of an anti-climax. Then we are faced with the cold, dark months of January and February.
However, planning to do something enjoyable and positive can help. This might involve taking up a new activity or joining a group. Just treating ourselves to something can also boost our well-being. This need not be expensive, as there are plenty of online links to ideas for free or low-cost activities. Those who are housebound can also find details of hundreds of events and activities every week on Eventbrite.
Christmas is there to be enjoyed. With some planning and the right approach, we can get much from the festive season.