Although it should ideally be a time for rest and relaxation, Christmas can actually be pretty damn exhausting. Combine that with the added emotional strain of the everchanging coronavirus situation we’re currently dealing with, and it’s likely many of us will be feeling rather frazzled in the run-up to 25 December.
As a result, it’s all too easy to forget to take care of yourself and your wellbeing. But doing so is important – and just a few acts of self-care could help you to shoulder some of the additional strain you’re feeling this Christmas.
With all of this in mind, the Christmas period is the perfect time to flex your self-care muscles and show yourself a little more TLC. There’s no ‘right’ way to do self-care – taking part in any activity, routine or practice that helps you to take care of your mind and body is a great place to start.
To give you some ideas to get you started and inspire your self-care this Christmas season, we asked a range of therapists and mental health advocates to share their top tips and recommendations. From the benefits of hydration to using essential oils, here’s what they had to say.
When the weather is miserable and you’ve stuffed yourself full of chocolate, the last thing you might want to do is head outside – but making this simple act part of your daily routine can have benefits for both your mental and physical health and help you to feel less ‘cooped up’ during the festive period.
“Getting some fresh air and sunlight is always an excellent way to boost your mood and energy levels,” explains Jo Love, an award-winning mental health advocate.
“At this time of year getting outside can be challenging if the weather is wet and cold. But you don’t have to do anything too ambitious. Even if you just take 10 mins out of your day to walk around in the neighbourhood and take in the fresh cold air, by the time you get home, you’ll hopefully feel refreshed and ready to tackle the day.”
It may sound pretty obvious to say so, but drinking water regularly – especially if you plan on drinking alcohol throughout the festive period – is pretty important. Not only does staying hydrated help your body to function properly, but being well-hydrated can even improve cognition, sleep quality and mood.
“This tends to be a time when we allow ourselves to overindulge in rich foods, sugars and alcohol, so staying hydrated is important for the body and skin,” explains Claire Deane, a counsellor and member of the Counselling Directory. “Try kicking off each morning with a large glass of warm water with a slice of lemon to stimulate the liver and flush out any toxins.”
Taking a moment to remind yourself of the things you’re grateful for can help you to ‘reset’ your perspective and adopt a more positive mindset in the long run.
“Listing three things you are grateful for can be a soothing way to start and end the day,” Deane explains.
“They don’t have to be big, but this helps to refocus the mind onto all the simple things we overlook and take for granted in life –to the stuff that really matters.”
She adds: “Keeping a journal or gratitude jar that you add to each day can help remind us of how lucky we are.”
Move your body
Similar to getting outside, setting aside just 10 minutes every day to move your body is a great way to avoid feeling restless and suffocated – especially in that weird period between Christmas and New Year.
“Try activities like walking, dancing or yoga,” suggests Erica Spencer Green, a psychodynamic counsellor and member of the Counselling Directory. “Whatever your ‘thing’, don’t let your body get stuck, because negative thoughts and feelings will too.”
Regular exercise during the winter has also been proven to improve our immunity against seasonal illnesses – what’s not love?
Take a break from technology
Technology and social media can be a great way to connect with friends and family, but it can also have a negative impact on our mental health – especially when it leads us to compare ourselves to others. If you’re feeling a bit frazzled, why not take a step back over the holidays?
“I almost always feel better when I have a bit of a break from technology,” Love says. “The constant social media updates, not to mention gloomy world news and the uncomfortable temptation to check work emails (guilty as charged) means we end up overloaded by information and disconnected.”
She continues: “It can also be all too easy to assume everyone else is having the ‘perfect’ Christmas, but don’t forget they’re only posting their best bits and sharing snippets of their reality. Use it as an excuse to disconnect for a while and enjoy the place you are, even if that’s just enjoying some peace and quiet.”
For more information on taking care of your mental health this Christmas, you can check out our guide.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on the mental health charity Mind’s website and NHS Every Mind Matters or access the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and organisations here.
If you are struggling with your mental health as a result of loneliness, you can also ask your GP for a referral to NHS Talking Therapies, or you can self-refer.
For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.