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Maintaining your mental health during the festive season

As the holiday season approaches, it brings with it a whirlwind of emotions, festivities, and often a unique set of challenges for our mental wellbeing. While this time of year is associated with joy and celebration, it can also be a period of stress, anxiety, and heightened emotional challenges.

In this guide, Dr Rachel Kemp, Clinical Director at Purple House Clinic Rugby, will explore practical strategies and thoughtful insights aimed at helping you preserve your mental equilibrium during the festive period. Whether you’re grappling with the pressures of social engagements, dealing with feelings of loneliness or loss, or simply trying to balance the hectic pace of the season, this article aims to provide you with tools you can use to help maintain a healthy, happy mindset.

Navigating grief and loss

Dealing with feelings of loss around Christmas can be particularly challenging. Plan ahead and recognise that this may be a different and perhaps difficult time for you. It’s okay if you don’t feel like celebrating as you usually do. Consider what traditions might still bring you comfort or pleasure and plan a Christmas that feels right for you at this time.

Finding ways to remember your loved one can be comforting. This could include lighting a special candle in their memory, looking through photos, or incorporating their favourite traditions into your celebration. Allow yourself space and time to grieve. Grief can come in waves, and it’s important to acknowledge and accept your feelings, whatever they may be. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to handle or navigate the festive period after a loss.

Self-care for a solo Christmas

Spending Christmas alone can be challenging. The festive season, typically associated with family gatherings and joyous celebrations, can become a starkly isolating time for those without companionship.

One effective strategy for coping with spending Christmas alone is to focus on activities that bring personal joy and fulfilment. Engaging in hobbies, such as watching television, reading a book, or indulging in any other enjoyable pastime, can provide a meaningful and comforting way to spend the day. For some people, limiting exposure to social media during this time can be helpful as this can lead to unfavourable comparisons and exacerbate feelings of loneliness.

For those seeking greater connection during the Christmas season, there are alternative ways to foster a sense of community and belonging. Virtual connections via Zoom or FaceTime with friends and family can offer comfort and companionship, bridging the physical distance with technology. Additionally, volunteering for community events or charitable organisations can be a fulfilling way to make a positive impact while connecting with others. This approach can not only alleviate the sense of isolation but can also contribute to a broader sense of purpose and community engagement.

Balancing financial pressures

Christmas can bring with it significant financial pressures, especially in light of the current cost-of-living crisis. Many individuals feel the strain of buying gifts for their loved ones during this festive season. The expectation to purchase presents can create a heavy burden, especially when finances are tight.

One effective method is to create a budget and stick to it steadfastly. It’s important to remember that the value of a gift is not measured by its price tag. Gifts that are creative, thoughtful, and personal often hold much more significance than expensive items. By focusing on the sentiment rather than the cost, it is possible to give meaningfully while also safeguarding one’s mental health. It can also be helpful to agree with others to limit gifts to a particular amount or not give gifts at all, as many people are struggling with similar financial challenges at this time of year.

Winter wellness

With its shorter days and longer nights, winter contributes to an increase in cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. To combat this, it’s particularly important to get as much natural daylight as possible. Exposure to daylight helps regulate mood and sleep patterns and can significantly improve our mental health.

In addition to seeking daylight, exercise is another powerful tool in maintaining mental wellbeing during the holiday season. Engaging in physical activity has been proven to release endorphins and also reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.

Another helpful strategy may be practicing mindfulness as this can provide us with an opportunity to connect with the present moment rather than spending time focusing unhelpfully on the past or present. There are many apps and internet resources for accessing mindfulness-based material.

Whether it’s dealing with feelings of loss, managing financial pressures, staying active, or spending Christmas alone, it’s crucial to remember the importance of mental health amidst the cheer and celebration.

For more information about how Purple House Clinic Rugby can help support your mental health: www.purplehouseclinic.co.uk/psychologists-rugby/

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