Not so ho-ho-ho? Here's to Coping with Christmas

Christmas isn’t a happy time for everyone – even if it is a happy time it can be stressful, and we’re very rarely at the top of our own priority list in the festive season, so stress can sometimes escalate and make it difficult to keep on top of things.

We’ve seen some really lovely thoughtful, informative posts and messages on social media reminding folk to lookout for friends, family and themselves over the festive season – reminders that sometimes people need your company and a listening ear, that often buying someone a drink to cheer them up might not be what they need (it might even make things worse – and if you’re in need of company, and that is all that’s on offer it can be hard to say no), that some folk are alone over Christmas – a quick visit or phonecall could help them get through it, or a nudge that if you’ve got an extra space at your table, why not invite a neighbour or friend, or a friend of a friend? Some thoughtful reminders at a time of goodwill.

Christmas stress and festive lows aren’t picky – they can affect anyone. Feeling a bit low, worried or anxious is very common – sometimes it comes out in other ways – being short-tempered, grumpy, lacking energy, not being able to sleep, losing your appetite, or eating or drinking too much, sometimes it can mean physical aches and pains or illness.

Unfortunately some of the things that come along with the festive season can exaggerate these things – being out of your normal routine, chocolate for breakfast (we’ve all done it...food can have a big effect on your mood read more on Mind's page), more alcohol than usual, money worries, family being thrown together who might not get along, weather keeping us stuck inside not getting much fresh air and exercise...it could be a very big list!

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to look after yourself over the festive season, have a look at the Mental Health Foundation's Christmas and Mental Health page for more detailed info. Sometimes being aware of how you are feeling, and giving yourself a break will be all you need – you can’t do everything. Sometimes you need a more detailed plan:

  • Food

There’s a lot of shiny, sparkly things we’d never normally buy on offer out there, and Christmas has come to mean over-indulgence, which can leave you feeling out of sorts. See if you can keep your eating in check, have a decent breakfast and avoid too much sugar and caffeine.

  • Exercise

Getting moving is a really good mood booster, and it gives you a bit of time out from everything else. Plan 20 minutes to yourself, get outside if you can, have a dance, do some stretching – anything that gets you moving can help (outside is even better – even in bad weather, as long as you're safe)

  • Alcohol 

Tthe festive season can see you drinking more than you normally would, alcohol is actually a depressant and can make low mood and anxiety worse – watch how much you’re having, it sometimes helps to plan ahead how much you’ll have – this can make it easier to say no to well meaning friends and family. And make sure you have soft-drinks/non-alcoholic options in if you’re hosting and someone doesn’t want to drink. (see our hosting tips here)

  • Stay in touch and get involved 

Speaking to someone face to face can be a really great mood booster (though see notes on alcohol above if you’re planning an evening out), make plans to do something with someone – if you can’t manage face to face, a phone call or skype can be good too.

  • Relax and sleep

Your body and mind need time out to switch off and recover. Make time to wind down so you can get a good night’s sleep, and make time in the day to stop and relax. Some people find meditation can help them relax - search for free mindfulness apps or free meditation, or have a look at the Glasgow Wellbeing online resources, searching for kids relaxation on Youtube comes up with some good ideas too.

  • Help out

Helping other people, volunteering and doing something new can be really good for your mental health. You could do something with a local charity, or help out a neighbour or friend.

  • Remembering a loved one

Christmas can be a difficult time if you’ve lost loved ones, no matter how long it has been – Cruse Bereavement Care has some really good tips on how to manage. Everyone has different ways of coping and remembering loved ones, talk to friends and family about how you are feeling and plan ahead what you are going to do. Including a way of remembering and celebrating loved ones in your plan for the festive can make it a little easier. If you've lost someone to suicide these booklets from Choose Life and NHS Orkney might be helpful

  • Kids

Christmas can be difficult for children and young people too, they can usually tell if you are stressed, and would normally rather you were happy than have all the Christmassy things be perfect! The CBBC has some really good pages here aimed at children and young people – they might want to have a read. Speaking to them about how you are feeling can help, and all the tips above apply to them too.

We hope you can have a healthy Christmas and New Year – if you're really struggling and need more than just advice you can get in touch with Breathing Space or Samaritans to speak to someone.

Try to make some time for yourself in among it all – and if you’re thinking of making some changes in the New Year remember you can book an appointment with your local Health Improvement person to talk about what might be the best way to go ahead.

Breathing Space: 0800 838587

Samaritans: 116 123