Look After Your Mental Health This Christmas
While for many people Christmas and the holiday season are times of joy and fun for others this time of year brings up feelings of sadness, loneliness, depression and anxiety. This may be down to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which comes on when the days get shorter. It may also be due to difficult family relationships, or because they feel the loss of loved ones who are no longer with them. Some people simply don’t have people to celebrate with and this becomes even more apparent when everyone else is having fun being together.
Even if we do have people to celebrate with SAD and other forms of depression may still arise.
This is certainly a time to pay attention to our mental health as well as the state of those around us. Our usual coping mechanisms, such as going for a run or being in nature may be more difficult when the days are shorter and colder.
Here are some tips to help you stay mentally healthy over the holidays and beyond:
- Start your day with a brisk walk or jog outside. Getting out into daylight first thing can reset the body clock, stimulate the pineal gland and improve mood and energy for the day ahead. Physical exercise is known to improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression through the production of feel good endorphins.
- Write a list of things you enjoy and do something from the list every day. The list may include having a candlelit aromatherapy bath, meeting up with a friend for a walk, watching your favourite comedy, phoning someone special, drawing, painting, dancing or singing.
- Plan ahead. If you know there are going to be difficult days, such as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve, make plans to fill your time doing things you enjoy from your list.
- Being part of something bigger than yourself can help to keep things in perspective. Many organizations are in need of extra help over the holidays. Community centres, charities, women’s shelters, and religious buildings often host activities over the holidays to bring people together and to make sure no one is lonely or left out.
- If you prefer not to socialise plan how you will spend your day alone. Spend time cooking your favourite dishes that evoke happy memories, enjoy the cheesy Christmas tele or borrow some films you know will make you smile, put on some music and sing or dance along, arrange video chats with people you can’t be with.
- Rest your brain and body. Allow yourself extra time to sleep and do nothing. Practice meditation, yoga and breathing exercises. Stare out the window at the quiet earth.
- Get a light box. If your malaise is specific to the darkness using a light box in the morning can be a good way to boost your mood.
- See blog post Celebrate the Winter Solstice for ideas on how to honour the time of year and the turning of the earth around the sun.
- If you enjoy cooking see recipes in the blog post Christmas Treats to Share for some ideas of tasty treats that are easy and fun to make. You don’t have to share them but it’s nice to offer them to friends and neighbours as well as enjoying them yourself.