Coping at Christmas

DIYMH

Coping with Christmas

Christmas can be stressful and can heighten loneliness, financial and relationship problems. Here are ten tips to help you take care of your mental health during the festive season.

1 Keep things in perspective
At Christmas we often put ourselves under a huge amount of emotional and financial pressure in our quest for perfect festivities - but try not to expect too much of yourself. Imagine how unimportant the stress of Christmas preparations will seem in a couple of months' time - or even in a couple or weeks' time.

2 Do one thing at a time
Make a list of the things that you need to do to prepare for Christmas. Review it and cross out anything that isn't essential, then decide which item is the most important. Do that one thing and ignore everything else on the list for the time being. Then prioritise the next thing and so on. As you achieve each thing, the rest of your list will seem easier.

3 Take time out for yourself
Even if it is just 10 minutes, lose yourself in something unconnected to Christmas - read a few pages of a book, watch part of a favourite DVD, listen to some music or go for a walk. Or if you can make more time, treat yourself to a long bath, a massage or a night out at the cinema.

4 Live in the moment
There's no point dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. Living in the moment is easier said than done but simple mindfulness exercises can help to focus your mind on the present. Find out more at www.bemindful.co.uk

5 Talk about your anxieties
Talking with a friend or relative about the things that are worrying you can help you to realise that some of them aren't so important after all, and help you to focus on one or two things that are at the root of your worry.

6 Don't have a competitive Christmas
If you believe social media, everyone else will be enjoying merrier, better decorated, more delicious, infinitely better planned Christmases than you, topped of by the most thoughtful gifts huge salaries or highly skilled home-crafting can achieve. Don't be fooled or sucked in. Although it can be fun to swap festive wishes online, a core driver of social media is the instinct to show off and out-do others. Don't try to keep up with the Facebook-Joneses: do your own thing and leave them to compete on social media.

7 Limit alcohol, eat well and keep active
It can be tempting to turn to alcohol to cope with stress, loneliness or to keep up the party pace, but alcohol is a depressant so limit your intake to within safe guidelines and avoid too much sugary food, which can leave us lethargic and feeling low. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and lean meat, and drink lots of water in between the occasional festive indulgence. A brisk 20 minute walk will release endorphins, helping you feel relaxed and happy, as well as boosting your immune system, helping you avoid seasonal viruses.

8 Help others
Helping others or performing small acts of kindness is great for our own mental wellbeing. You could listen to a colleague's Christmas anxieties, do some festive volunteering at a local charity, take a festive treat to a lonely neighbour, or even tie a cellophane-wrapped gingerbread on the door knocker of each house in your street. Try it - you'll feel good!

9 Sleep well
Avoid using smartphones, tablets or laptops before bed as they disrupt our ability to sleep - try reading a book or magazine instead - and don't sleep with a television on. Avoid coffee, cola and energy drinks for a few hours before sleep; caffeine is a stimulant and can stop us sleeping but recent research shows that it also resets our body-clock, postponing our sleep and subsequent wake times. A dark sleeping space is also important - try blackout blinds - and try a simple relaxation exercise before bed: lie on your back with your eyes closed, tense all your muscles, then concentrate on relaxing each part of your body in turn.  

10 Breathe
The simplest mental wellbeing trick of all. Before sleep or whenever you feel stress or anxiety building, concentrate for a minute or so on taking slow, steady, deep breaths, emptying your lungs as much as possible in between each breath. Breathe in for four counts and out for six, in through your nose, out through your mouth.

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