The Christmas Self-Care Tips Mental Health Experts Use
7 minutes read
Do you find celebrating Christmas difficult due to social anxiety, depression, loss of a loved one, or do you find it exhausting and overwhelming? If yes, you’re not alone.
Over two in five Brits have felt stressed during the festive season, while about one in four has struggled with anxiety or depression.
“While the holidays are traditionally a time of celebration and the ‘most wonderful time of the year,’ for those who struggle with a mental health condition, the holiday season can be an especially tough time,” Dr Craig Beach, Psychiatrist, Founder & CEO Open Mind Health, and Co-founder of Work Your Purpose tells Beauty Daily.
Adding: “Feeling lonely, finding the holidays stressful, and getting into debt are quite common stressors. It could be the financial strain that accompanies gift buying, the cold and dark winter nights (including higher rates of seasonal affective disorder and depression), or the reality of spending Christmas alone.”
Here are the common mental health struggles we might experience during the holidays and the Christmas self-care tips mental health experts swear by to keep festive blues at bay.
Is Christmas good for mental health?
For the majority, yes. Christmas Day is the happiest day of the year by a significant margin, according to The New York Times. However, this is not the case for everyone.
You might find some parts enjoyable but others particularly stressful.
“Spending time with friends and family over the holidays should be relaxing, but that is not always the case. Deadlines, extensive travelling, party planning, and expensive shopping lists keep people up at night,” says Dr Richard Reid, psychologist, CEO of Pinnacle Wellbeing Services and Member of The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP).
And let’s not forget the pressure to enjoy ourselves and look happy thanks to idealised social media posts, which may intensify anxiety even further.
“Perfectionism peaks during this time of year. There is an overwhelming urge to be the best at everything,” Dr Reid adds.
And to those with social anxiety, the influx of seasonal gatherings can be a struggle and nerve-racking.
“People with social anxiety may find it difficult to talk to groups, eat in front of others, meet people, or visit new places. And since the holidays are a time for socialising, they may avoid celebrating altogether.
Being in close quarters with relatives can send a person over the edge. Even pretending to like all your work colleagues at the office Christmas party is often too much to handle,” Dr Reid says.
Those with clinical depression are more likely to experience worsening symptoms.
In the UK, the lack of sunlight and excessive food and alcohol intake further exacerbate symptoms.
13 Christmas Self-Care Tips Mental Experts Swear By
So, how do you look after yourself for Christmas? We’ve got you covered. Here are 13 expert-backed Christmas self-care tips to better care for your mental health during the festive period, as advised by mental and wellness experts Dr Reid and Dr Beach.
1. Be realistic
Christmas does not have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. So choose a few to hold on to and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children or other relatives can’t come to your home, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails, or videos. Meet virtually on a group video call, or sign-up for an online quiz or experience. So even though your holiday plans may look different this year, you can find ways to celebrate.
2. Set aside differences
Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they do not live up to all your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. Be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they are also feeling the effects of holiday stress.
3. Acknowledge your feelings
If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones for other reasons, realise that it is normal to feel sadness and grief. It is okay to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it is Christmas.
4. Reach out
If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events or communities. Many may have websites, online support groups, social media sites or virtual events. They can offer support and companionship. If you are stressed during the holidays, it may also help to talk to a friend or family member about your concerns. Try reaching out via text, a call, or a video chat.
5. Stick to a budget
Before you do your gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford. Then stick to your budget. Do not try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts.
6. Plan ahead
Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, connecting with friends and other activities. Consider whether you can shop online for any of your items. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list to prevent last-minute scrambling around.
7. Learn to say no
Saying yes when you should say no can leave you resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it is impossible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your plan to compensate for the lost time.
8. Take a breather
Make some time for yourself. Find an activity you enjoy. Take a break by yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing, and restoring inner calm.
Looking for some Christmas Self-Care ideas? We’ve listed plenty here.
Volunteering in the community, for instance, at a homeless shelter, is a fantastic way to connect with others and give back. Even temporarily, it can take your mind off your concerns, put your issues into perspective, and most people describe significant emotional benefits from helping others in need.
If you can’t offer your time, you can do so by giving Gifts That Give Back And Make A Difference
10. Prioritise self-care
Be kind to yourself and put yourself first. Intentionally incorporate deep breathing or mindfulness into your daily routine. Repeat it several times throughout the day for its calming and meditative effects. Get outdoors daily, which can be incorporated with a walk or exercise. Listening to music, a podcast, a series or a film, can provide a welcome escape.
Beauty Daily also swears by the relaxing effects of aromatherapy with the use of essential oils in our daily routine. We love the blend of essential oils in the new Eau Extraordinaire, £38.
This calming and mood-boosting scent is perfect for those feeling disconnected, unmotivated, and lonely. It has grounding essential oils, like cedarwood, uplifting notes of jasmine, patchouli, red ginger, and a sparkling citrus twist.
11. Avoid unhelpful social comparisons
If we don’t believe we measure up to those we see online, it can harm our self-esteem. Social media and consumer advertising can worsen this, leading to feelings of inferiority and damaging our mental health. These factors are only exacerbated during Christmas when it becomes the focal point of society. For this reason, limit your exposure to social media and TV ads over Christmas.
12. Everything in moderation
It can be tempting to overindulge at Christmas. However, excesses can have adverse side effects, such as guilt, feeling physically bloated and unwell, and increased negative emotions from alcohol or other drugs. Try to avoid overindulgence, whether you’re home alone or in the company of others. Don’t be afraid to politely decline if you’re a guest at someone’s house.
13. Don’t look back on the year
As Christmas is the end of the year, people often look back on what they have achieved and what they have not. If you’re struggling emotionally, reflecting on the past may significantly exacerbate feelings of underachievement or the past not living up to your expectations. Instead, focus on the positives and set realistic goals you want to achieve in the New Year.
Final Word: If, despite your best efforts, you still find yourself struggling, don’t hesitate to ask for help from a trusted family member, a close friend, or mental health professional.