By Kim Moore, Lecturer in Mental Health, Birmingham City University

Whatever your views, December can be one of the most difficult months of the year to manage how you feel. It can bring a whole host of emotions from joy and excitement, to envy and even a sense of isolation and loneliness for some.

But however you may be feeling, there are things you can do to improve your ability to cope during the festive season.

Acknowledge and manage your feelings

The expectations of Christmas can be overwhelming and stressful as we try to get everything right and picture perfect; but life is not like a postcard, it can be messy and difficult when you try to please everyone, so staying true to yourself by playing to your strengths and giving yourself regular breaks can help. You might make some new traditions, where everyone contributes and you share the load.

For some of us Christmas and the New Year can be exceptionally difficult. You may be facing your first Christmas without a loved one, or be far away from your family support. It is ok to feel sad and this can often be a normal response to loss; however for some of us, different triggers can make us dwell on negative thoughts and feel low or depressed.

  • Know your triggers for any depressed feelings. Talk it through with someone you trust, or seek professional help if you need to. The Samaritans and mental health charities such as MIND or SANE can offer support.
  • Take action – join in a group activity, you might consider popping out to say hi to a neighbour, or joining a voluntary group helping others on Christmas day.
  • If you are far away from friends and family you might text, phone or Skype them.
  •  You might consider some befriending schemes that help others who are isolated to meet up to share their Christmases (look up adopt a grandparent scheme).
  •  Are there any local and accessible services you can ‘drop-in’ for informal support that you might visit?  Check local papers, church, community groups or local councils for available services during the festive period.

To do list

Make a plan

Advanced planning can make the festive season seem more manageable and less overwhelming.  Planning ahead can help you to manage your day and give you something to look forward to.

  • Make a plan and keep it simple and achievable.
  • Remember to give yourself some days off or some time out on the day to help keep calm.
  • Join a local support group in advance of the Christmas period; there are many in Birmingham for carers, mums, older adults, and those experiencing mental health issues.
  • Consider how you might treat yourself.  There are many activities in Birmingham that are accessible and free of charge. Visit the Birmingham Mail or Visit Birmingham websites for a range of ideas and local events.

 

Get active

Regular exercise can be good for improving how you feel both psychologically and physically. If the gym is not appealing, there are many other activities you could consider to help lift your mood.

  • Visit one of the many parks and green spaces in Birmingham such as Cannon Hill Park where you can walk, run, cycle or explore at your own pace, you could challenge yourself to join the ‘get walking Birmingham’ rambles running throughout December.
  • Alternatively consider supporting your local pet rescue and help to care for the animals.
  • If that sounds too tiring, why not try stargazing. Check out the stargazers lounge.
  • Or join a local choir or singing group.

Remember many of these activities you can do from the comfort of your own home and if you’re not confident about singing in a choir perhaps just put on your favourite tune and sing along.

Keep active

Looking after yourself

I am sure Christmas dinner was never really meant to be an exercise in how much I can eat after I have munched on snacks throughout the day, however there are times when despite my full stomach the call of that last chocolate cannot be endured and I manage to squeeze it in.  Maybe like me, you realise that being that full can be uncomfortable – literally weighed down.

  • Taking care of yourself can include balancing your food and alcohol intake.  Christmas does not have to be a dietary challenge. You can provide yourself with a selection of foods that are healthy and nutritious without drowning in excess calories – take a look at food guides available in libraries or the internet for some ideas.
  • Life’s little indulgences – these do not have to be food based!  Have you thought of treating yourself to a bath bomb or some scented candles? If that is too feminine or girly, why not treat yourself to a mood cube or a good book.
  • Remember the effects of excess alcohol are not always pretty. Try not to use alcohol as a reward but do plan ahead and if you are going to drink stick to sensible limits.

Hopefully these tips will help you on the way to good mental health this Christmas.

Wishing you all a lovely festive break!

 

 

 

 

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