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Christmas can be stressful - here are ways to mind your mental health during the festive period

It isn’t an easy time for everyone, so we’ve taken a look at how this Christmas can be better for everyone.

Image: Shutterstock/AlexMaster

SCREAMING CHILDREN, BUSY shops and family gatherings … the Christmas period can be an awfully stressful time for many people.

With so much going on and so many demands on your time and attention, it’s no surprise that many people find the festive period to be a tough time. 

It’s not unusual for people living with mental health conditions to feel overwhelmed by the festivities.

It’s also not all that unusual for people without one to feel overwhelmed either.

Many things that are part of our routines that we take for granted become disrupted by the change of pace in our lives during this month.

Mental Health Ireland points out that leaving all your preparations for Christmas until the last minute can cause unnecessary stress, but planning ahead can save you time and money. 

If you’re not a fan of crowded spaces, shopping online can help avoid some stress. 

This year, again, has the added stress of Covid-19 and the restrictions that come along with it. 

Mental Health Ireland has a section on its website dedicated to Covid-19, with tips and worksheets to support individuals during this time. 

The service also has some other tips on ways we can be kind to ourselves this Christmas…

Be careful with alcohol:

Alcohol is a depressant and drinking excessive amounts can cause low mood, irritability or potentially aggressive behaviour. By not exceeding the recommended number of safe units, you will be better able to sustain good mental and physical wellbeing.

Exercise

Physical activity releases the feel-good chemicals, endorphins, which help you to relax, feel happy and boost your mood. By undertaking simple tasks such as cyclin to work, walking in the park, or joining in with Christmas games, you can benefit from experiencing reduced anxiety, decreased depression and improved self-esteem.

Socialisation

The festive period provides us with an ideal opportunity to talk to, visit or engage with the people around us. Face-to-face communication has been shown to improve our mental and physical wellbeing as this interaction produces the hormone, oxytocin, which can benefit our immune system, heart health and cognitive function.

If you are planning to see friends or family this festive period, remember to be mindful of the Covid-19 restrictions and guidelines still in place, and to adhere to social distancing.

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Mental Health Ireland says:

There’s nothing better than catching up with someone face-to-face, but that’s not always possible. Give them a call, drop them a note or chat to them online instead. Keep the lines of communication open – it’s good for you.
Christmas can be a good opportunity to reconnect with a card, email or phone call.

Try to relax

By exercising more regularly or practicing mindfulness – a combination of meditation, yoga and breathing techniques – you can help to both alleviate the symptoms of your stress and gain more control when coping with difficult situations.

Volunteer

Helping others is good for your own mental health and wellbeing. It can help reduce stress, improve your mood, increase self-esteem and happiness and even benefit your physical health.
Christmas is a good opportunity to volunteer for a charity or local community organisation and provide essential support and encouragement for others in need.

Get some rest

There are several steps you can take towards achieving a better night’s sleep: attempting to get get into your regular sleep routine as soon as possible after the festive period, consuming less alcohol during the festivities, implementing regular exercise into your weekly routine and taking measures to alleviate your stress.

More information on how to care for your wellbeing can be found here.

If you need to speak to someone, contact: 

  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org
  • National Suicide Helpline 1800 247 247 – (suicide prevention, self-harm, bereavement)
  • Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  • Pieta House 01 601 0000 or email mary@pieta.ie
  • Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  • Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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