Maintaining your mental health during the Christmas or Festive Season shouldn't be, in reality, any different to maintaining it at any other time of the year.
All year round, to ensure our mental health stays strong and positive, we should:
- Engage in regular exercise
- Eat a full and nutritious diet
- Relax and meditate often
- Be mindful of unhelpful thoughts, and manage them as best we can
- Foster and develop constructive thoughts, and use them well
- Acknowledge and accept all emotions, for what they are and what they’re telling us
- Set and work towards meaningful goals
Create a life of meaning and purpose
Keep in touch with family and friends, staying connected to those who’re important
And be grateful and appreciative, focusing more on what we have and less on what we don’t have
That being said, there are a few specific challenges that arise during this special time of the year and so in addition to all that’s listed above, application of the following tips would be well worth considering:
- Keep up your healthy behaviours as much as you can: although it’s hard, try to keep exercising and eating well and getting adequate sleep. At the same time, try to avoid too much excess (of food or alcohol or sugar or partying or anything that’s going to bring you down). Just because there’s lots on offer, doesn’t mean you have to accept it all!
- Quiet time: the festive season is typically busy with lots of socialising. Which can be great fun; but also exhausting, overwhelming and stressful. So, by all means enjoy what’s on offer but don’t forget to schedule in (and to allow yourself) some down time, some time to relax and rest on your own. Rest and recuperation are very important and often overlooked at this time of the year
- Reaching out: at the risk of contradicting my previous point, this time of year can also be one during which some people feel lonely and isolated. If this is the case, don’t be afraid to reach out and make an effort to schedule in time with family and friends. Further, if you’re really struggling, don’t be afraid to make a call to one of the great professional services available such as Lifeline (13 11 14 or https://www.lifeline.org.au)
- Volunteer: Xmas has, in many ways for many people, become a time of consumerism, materialism and excess. Yet there are many who barely have enough. Volunteering is a great way to give something to those in need, to help them enjoy themselves when they otherwise might not. And the great news is that when we give we receive; and so, doing whatever you can for others will inevitably be doing something also for yourself. Happiness is not just feeling good it’s also doing good; and when we do good we feel good!
- Set realistic expectations: whether it’s the gifts we give or the gifts we didn’t receive, the people we spend time with and what they do or don’t do, our mental health can take a hit if and when we feel disappointed; either in our own behaviour or that of others. In many regards, this is life. But this is a part of life that can be ameliorated by making sure, as best we can, that we don’t have unrealistic expectations. So, if Uncle Pete or Cousin Deb always seems to upset you at the family gathering, don’t let them hijack your holiday. Remember, forewarned is forearmed and if you know what to expect you can prepare yourself and not take such a blow to your mood.
So there you have it. Some tips for staying happy and strong this Christmas. I hope you find them helpful and I hope you have a very merry and happy one!