Maintaining Mental Health and Surviving Christmas
As I wrote last year, while Christmas is a time of joy and family for many, it can also be a source of pain, discomfort, and anxiety for others. For those who have lost or have no family, it can be a period of sadness with constant reminders of a ‘family Christmas’ lurking everywhere. For those who suffer from anxiety, it can be an extremely stressful period as they consider if this overload to the senses (or to their wallet) may leave them feeling apprehensive and on edge. Even just as a ritual in itself, Christmas can potentially trigger a lot of uncomfortable feelings for people that they would rather not experience annually.
Then you have those people who are trying to maintain a healthier lifestyle. For those who are trying to lose weight or reduce their drinking or stop smoking, Christmas can prove to be a series of obstacles making their end goal just that little bit more challenging. Let’s face it, you would need to be a saint to get through Christmas without at least a handful of moments of self-indulgence. For some people, giving into this temptation may leave them feeling disappointed or frustrated with themselves, especially if they hold unrealistic high expectations of themselves.
Only in the past week, a the Huffpost in the UK posted an article that explored why your mental health can get worse over Christmas. It might be hard to accept for those who associate Christmas with big meals, laughter, family, jolly fat men who give out presents and tasteless knitted jumpers, however for many people, it can be a source of pain and discomfort. On top of that, who wants to be seen as The Grinch over the Christmas period? As a result, many people may choose to keep their thoughts private.
Top Tips TO Help Maintain Your Well-Being During Christmas
Last year, I wrote an article that looked at some top tips to healp maintain your well-being during the Christmas period.
There were some key themes within that article although it could be argued that becoming mindful to your thoughts and feelings was paramount. This self-awareness can help to ensure self-preservation when you get the sense that the uncomfortable feeling is becoming overwhelming. From there, tapping into your values to understand what is important for you is going to help you in determining what decision you need to make in that situation.
Being Mindful during the Christmas period
For example, imagine that you’ve decided to watch your weight. You feel that it is beginning to become unhealthy and you know that you need to take action now to ensure that you can maintain your figure. You’re doing this because you value being healthy and you value looking your best. You also value being a good role model for people around you that you care about. You also value being productive and getting the best out of the day and you know bad, fatty food is just going to make you feel uncomfortable and tired. When you tap into the emotions around those values, it can help you to build a resilience to the temptation and help drive you towards your decision to be mindful of how much and how fast you eat.
Let’s take another example; being anxious. You experience a social anxiety. You are often caught up in thoughts in your head that leave you feeling uneasy and wanting to run away from the situation. THen you often feel lonely and frustrated at yourself for your actions. You’ve been seeing a therapist about your issue as it has begun to impact on your day to day life and your therapist has taught you some new techniques to help quieten the mind when it wants to tell you a thought as fact. You value being connected with people you care about. You also value courage and being able to be proactive in your recovery. You value being authentic and real with people. When you weigh together all these values, you can sense that it is driving you towards engaging in a social activity where you can be with friends. You can also be mindful of small steps to ensure that you do something that is slightly outside the comfort zone and still aligned with your values.
Let’s take financial stress as another example. For many people, this stress will lead to an anxiety response. An anxiety response is basically the body responding to a fear; in this instance, while it might seem obvious that it is a ‘fear of being poor’, it may lead to a greater underlying fear, such as a fear of being seen as a failure or a fear of being rejected or a fear of losing control or a fear of being alone. Often people who overspend are caught very much in the moment and this habitual behavior is coming forward out of a need that isn’t being met. After all, it is possible to buy people presents without breaking the bank, is it not? It is also possible to budget, or to learn how to budget, or to ask a family member or friend to manage your budget, is it not? A habit in the now will often sneak past without the person realizing unless they become mindful to their habit, slipping into a position where they can observe their thoughts and to be able to address them.
Mental health all year round
You might ask if these aren’t all just your normal day-to-day mental health tips and the answer is, yes, of course! The problem being is that Christmas and the holiday period has the ability to magnify these issues to such intensity that it can become overwhelming. It requires more mindfulness and more mental energy to ensure that we’re not consumed by them and, even then, declaring a ‘me day’ and taking that necessary time out to rest and recovery is nothing to be ashamed of.
If you have a family member or friend who is experiencing difficulty at this time of year, make sure you show them the kindess and compassion they deserve at this time of year. You can do that by offering them your time to just sit and chat if they want to. Being able to talk about their issue can often help to relieve some of the pressures associated with it. You can help by being supportive and showing you genuinely care. Again, come back to your own personal values on how you would like to be treated and how you feel your fellow man should be treated, and let those values guide your behaviour during what is always a very busy time. We may often feel like we have little time spare during this period, but even the smallest of gestures can help make a difference for someone who is struggling.
I wrote on my Facebook wall the other day that I hope 2018 is ‘the year of healing’ because I could see many of my friends and loved ones need it at the moment. An opportunity to reflect, to resolve an to restore. Of course, you can also sign up to my newsletter (form below) which will include articles, tips and special offers to help maintain your mental wellness into the new year.
You may also like to read:
How to Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions – Getting Ready for Jan 1st
Release Hypnosis’s Lawrence Akers on JOY FM
Embrace Your Confidence and Eliminate Toxic Shame Workshop
Positive Change 2017 Campaign