Izzy Harris provides advice on how to take care of our mental well-being over the festive period
Christmas can be the perfect time for resting, taking a break from uni work, seeing family and indulging in festive treats. However, the festive period can be hugely stress-inducing for lots of people, particularly those who already suffer from poor mental health. Even for those who do not usually suffer from mental health problems can feel pressure and stress at Christmas, and that stress can come from a number of places, from family to finance or food. The important thing to remember is that it is perfectly normal to feel anxious around such an intense time of the year, and that there is nothing to be ashamed of if you are feeling the strain. It is physically impossible to feel at your happiest all the time, so if you are feeling a little on edge at a family gathering, or a bit dispirited as your friends are dancing round the tree, take a moment to tell yourself that it is okay not to feel okay all of the time. By allowing ourselves moments to feel ‘medium’ rather than ‘best’,we can appreciate the good times, and stop feeling guilty when we are not up to scratch.
Even if you are not prone to poor mental health, there are lots of ways we can keep our mind at its healthiest over Christmas. And to make it easier to remember, I have come up with the acronym SAFER, which stands for all the important things you should pay attention to in order to maintain a healthy mind over Christmas:
Self-care is a brilliant way of making sure you take some moments to yourself in December. It is so important to take time to breathe, think and relax in the party season. With so much shopping, socialising, carol singing and partying to do, it can sometimes be hard to find time to rebalance. Every now and again, allow yourself to spend a few minutes or even a few hours doing what you need to do to stay calm and collected. Allow yourself to say ‘no’ to certain parties. Tell yourself it is okay to take the afternoon off to watch a Christmas film in your pyjamas. It is okay to want some quiet time occasionally, and quiet, calm time to yourself is actually very beneficial for your mental health.
To lots of people, Christmas is synonymous with mulled wine, prosecco, bucks fizz and lots of warming Baileys. If you are used to it, a couple of alcoholic drinks can enhance the Christmas spirit and relax you. However, always remind yourself of the importance of moderation. One too many drinks can cause low mood and irritability, and can potentially ruin a festive event for you and others. A simple rule is drink in moderation, be merry in excess.
Baby it is cold outside, but a healthy dose of fresh air and Vitamin D from the winter sun can do wonders for your mental health. Spending a couple of moments outside with the wind in your hair and the sun on your face can help maintain a healthy mind.
The Christmas holiday is the perfect excuse to cosy up on the sofa and hibernate there for a month, but spending too long being inactive can make you feel trapped, or even low. Blast the Christmas tunes and dance around your kitchen. Grab your friend or a family member and make the most of your holiday by taking a brisk winter walk. Your mind and body will thank you for it.
This one should be easy for students! But I am not just talking about lie-ins. December is the month of the late night parties, whether that is a Christmas social or New Year’s Eve. But remember to be kind to your mind and treat your brain and body to an early night every once in awhile. Staying well rested over the festive period can help you focus on relaxing, recuperating and of course, spreading good will!
So give yourself the present of good mental health care this Christmas. More than anything, do not put pressure on yourself to be merry all the time. Christmas is a time for being comfortable, whether that means going out partying or curling up in bed with a good book.