Christmas is not always the most wonderful time of the year. For some, it’s the most stressful time of the year. And many people find that Christmas puts a huge amount of pressure on their mental health. Perhaps they associate Christmas with bad memories, or are lonely, or miss loved ones, or struggle with family issues, or simply find the pressures of Christmas overwhelming. Whatever the issue, Christmas is a lot even for the most mentally resilient of folk, so there is nothing at all to be ashamed of if your mental health reaps a toll during Christmas. However, it is important that you put your mental health first and do your best to stay healthy during this tricky time. If you’re not sure how to do that, here is some advice which may help.
Don’t try and please everyone
There’s a lot of pressure at Christmas, and sometimes it can feel like everybody wants a piece of you. Perhaps your parents want you to spend Christmas with them while your partner would rather you stayed at home. Or perhaps you’re hosting a Christmas dinner with what feels like hundreds of conflicting dietary requirements. There are a lot of cultural expectations around Christmas which can ramp up this pressure even further - Christmas is supposed to be great fun for everyone, so letting anyone down even slightly feels like a terrible betrayal. But the simple fact is, you can’t please everyone. Allow yourself to compromise, and don’t give yourself sole responsibility for everyone else’s happiness.
Remember that it’s ok to refuse
You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to at Christmas. If it’s not fun for you, it’s ok not to participate. For example, lots of more introverted people feel pressured at Christmas to join in with big, noisy gatherings which quickly become torture for them. Learning to leave when they’ve had enough or even learning the art of a gracious refusal can, for these people, mean the difference between a pleasant Christmas and a hellish one which they spend all year bracing themselves for. If you know that the Christmas arrangements being made for you are going to make you miserable, it is absolutely ok to make your excuses and do something more to your tastes instead.
Ask for help if you need it
If you’re lonely, if you’re missing loved ones, or if you’re struggling for any reason at all, do reach out for help. You’d be surprised how caring communities can be. If you don’t know anyone in your local community, or if you’d rather keep things private, helplines like those operated by Cruse (0808 808 1677), Mind (0300 123 3393), the Samaritans (116 123) and moremay be able to help.
Eat as healthily as possible
Christmas is a time of indulgence, and that can be great fun. But it’s worth remembering that what you put into your body has an impact on your mind. If your mental health is prone to wobbling over Christmas, it’s probably a good idea to try and keep your mind strong and fortified with the healthier options available around your Christmas dinner table.
Again, the healthier your body is, the more chance your mental health has of staying strong. Although going for a run may be the last thing you want to do in that drowsy, post-turkey period, keeping active will have a positive impact on your mental health.
Don’t overdo it with the booze
Alcohol flows like water at Christmas, but do remember that alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol and poor mental health are never, ever a good combination. While alcohol may make you feel better in the moment, you’ll pay that good feeling back with interest later on. Keep your intake moderate.