Here are 5 suggestions for ways to deal with the holiday period:
- Avoid unhelpful social comparisons
Comparing ourselves with other people can have a big effect on how we feel. Sometimes this can be a good thing – motivating us to do better, when we think we can do as well as those we admire. However, if we don’t think we can be as good, it can have a negative impact on our self-esteem. Social media and advertising can make this worse. Limiting exposure to social media and television advertising over the Christmas period can help this.
- Have realistic expectations about family gatherings
We put special significance on Christmas as a ‘time for family’, perhaps because many families live far apart. Unfortunately this expectation can place additional pressure on already strained relationships, particularly among people who do not see each other very often and are not used to spending so much time together. Being realistic about what you can expect from this time together will help avoid disappointment and arguments, which might then make it easier to heal family rifts.
- Participate in your local community
For some, Christmas can be a time of increased isolation. It can be particularly painful for those who have suffered bereavements. However, many organisations offer support at Christmas and finding out what is available in your local area may provide a lifeline. Local libraries, community centres and newspapers are good sources of information. Volunteering can be a good way of reducing loneliness and having a sense of purpose if you would otherwise be spending Christmas alone. The Samaritans provide a free, confidential, 24 hour a day, 7 days a week support on 116 123. They also have local branches in many areas where you can drop in to speak to someone face-to-face. For more information visit: www.samaritans.org.
- Take a break
Allow yourself to take ‘time out’ if you find your stress levels rising. This could be a walk, going out for a coffee or listening to music – whatever will help you to relax or unwind. Of course this can be hard to do if you have domestic responsibilities – looking after children or feeling obligated to entertain visitors – so it can help to pre-plan. For example, arrange with your partner to take the kids out for a few hours to give you a break, or manage relatives’ expectations by saying that you have planned some ‘down time’ for everyone to do their own thing. Saying ‘no’ can be difficult if you feel pressured to join in with family parties, however setting limits is important for your own wellbeing. Sometimes having a ‘script’ can be helpful – recognising the other person’s position, but clearly stating your own preference. For example: ‘That sounds like a lot of fun, but I’m quite tired/not feeling 100% and would prefer to get an early night.
- Everything in moderation
It can be tempting to over-indulge at Christmas both due to the availability of food and drink and as a way of covering up difficult feelings. However there are likely to be negative side-effects from guilt or feeling bloated and unwell, as well as the possibility of alcohol leading to increased emotions or interfering with prescribed medication. Try to avoid overindulgence and to do some exercise, outdoors if possible, as evidence increasingly suggests that outdoor activity can provide additional benefits to health and well being.