Christmas can be a great time of year for many people. It is a time to catch up with family and friends, have fun, eat good food and enjoy the festive season. However, Christmas can also bring about lots of stress and anxiety for some. With so much pressure to spend Christmas in particular ways, it’s not surprising that Christmas mental health issues may arise when we don’t meet these expectations or when our own high standards are exceeded by Christmas expectations on us. So if you are working or have time off for the Christmas period, the tips below will help you manage the stress.
Make a Christmas list
Let’s start with the positives. Make a list of your favourite things about Christmas. Create a list of what makes Christmas special, for you. It can be anything from spending time with family and friends, to cooking, decorations or opening presents. It is good to have a list of what you love about Christmas so that when things start getting too much, you can refer back to it for some positive reinforcement!
Let’s also be realistic and create some balance. Create a list of situations, people, and events that you may find challenging. For example, you might find that too much alcohol is consumed by family members or your festive commitments are exhausting. You may be struggling to meet the expectations of friends and family about what everyone should do at Christmas (i.e., where they will spend it). Perhaps things like excessive shopping before December has even begun to stress you out. No shame or judgement. Just list out what could be challenging for you.
In the name of balance, you may also want to create a list of what you’re grateful for this year. Christmas is just one day out of the year. Remember to keep things in perspective.
Create a plan or schedule
Create a schedule for how much time is spent on activities with friends, family, work, hobbies, etc., so everyone has enough time for themselves without feeling too overloaded during this busy season. Keep an eye on the time so you can take breaks from all the festivities. Share as soon as possible with your loved ones, what your commitments look like. Ask them to do the same. This gives everyone time to understand what time can be given at this time and allows time for mindset changes and the blending of family ideas, ahead of the main event.
Create an emergency plan
There can be various trigger points when friends and family come together during the festive season. Plan some activities to do with friends and family that don’t involve shopping or drinking. Also, plan ahead for when you feel stressed or overwhelmed by all of the holiday festivities with ideas of alternative things to do. Consider creating an emergency plan that includes who to call and what to do if you need someone’s help. Having a plan B in place, just in case those situations and moments don’t go smoothly, gives you more ability to deal with issues that arise.
Check-in with yourself and others
Check-in with yourself every day to make sure you’re taking care of yourself and not getting too stressed out. Maintain your usual activities, hobbies, or workout routines as much as possible during the festive season. This will keep you grounded in reality and not too overwhelmed by all of the festivities that can be going on around you at Christmas time. Be a little selfish with some “me” time. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take a break from all the festivities until you feel more like yourself again.
Check-in with friends and family as well to see how they are doing. This will help create a support network during what can be a difficult time for many people. Show your willingness to help and support others through this time.
Refer back to the list of your favourite things about Christmas, and the challenges. Praise yourself for doing your best at what can be a difficult time for many people. If necessary, seek advice from a mental health professional or family member/friend.
Mental health is an important issue during the holiday season. It’s crucial to be aware of the signs of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
Recognize signs of depression in yourself or others around you
Some common signs of depression include:
- Feeling sad or hopeless most of the time
- Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you normally enjoy
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Tremors, restlessness, or slowed movements
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions
Recognize signs of anxiety in yourself or others around you
Some common signs of anxiety include:
- Feeling restless or keyed up
- Feeling constantly on edge
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Trembling or shaking
- Nausea or vomiting
- Diarrhea or Constipation
Recognize signs of substance abuse in yourself or others around you
Some common signs of substance use disorder include:
- Denial of the problem or refusal to address it
- Continued use despite issues with personal, academic, social, occupational, and/or financial stability
- A feeling of powerlessness over one’s addiction
- Inability to stop using even when there are negative consequences
If you or your friends and family are experiencing any of these signs, please seek professional help as soon as possible. Friends and family can also be a great resource in getting someone the help they need. Christmas can be difficult for many people and it’s important to remember that.
Acknowledge the need for space
Remember that it’s okay if people don’t want to participate in everything – be understanding when they need space, too! Not everyone is in the mood for Christmas cheer and eggnog. Some people might just want to go to their own homes, watch some movies, and relax. This is perfectly normal!
It’s important to take care of your mental health during the holiday season. The pressure that Christmas can put on your mental health can be too much for some people. It’s okay to take a break from all the festivities until you feel more like yourself again.
Balance and moderation at Christmas
The Christmas season can provide many opportunities for us to cherish the moments with friends and family that we often miss out on. It is, therefore, important that we take care of ourselves too. Christmas can also be a time to overindulge, especially with all the treats and events that happen. Do try and reflect on your choices, and consider moderation. See if this Christmas you can balance the festive cheer with being kind to yourself.
Finding time for activities you enjoy and taking part in traditions without forgetting your own needs. Making sure you have a little time for yourself so you don’t burn out or feel overwhelmed by all the Christmas festivities going on around you is a major priority.
Find ways to show self-kindness this Christmas. Have a think about the things that make you happy and try to do at least one of those each day. This might be listening to your favorite Christmas album, reading your favorite Christmas book, or watching a Christmas movie. Whatever it is, make sure it brings you joy!
It’s important to remember that the holidays are about spending time with loved ones, not just about the gifts. Focus on what’s really important to you and don’t get too wrapped up in the materialism of Christmas.