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Therapist The key to minding yourself this Christmas? Nurture your routine

Monica Jackman has some simple advice for keeping yourself calm and happy this Christmas.

AS WINTER UNFOLDS its frosty embrace, the Christmas season ushers in a unique blend of joy, festivities and a touch of magic.

However, amidst the glittering lights and cheerful carols, it’s easy to lose sight of our wellbeing. Maintaining a healthy routine during the Christmas season is crucial to navigating the colder months with both physical and mental vitality.

Here are some helpful tips to keep your winter well-being intact, ensuring a harmonious balance between celebration and self-care.

Establish key routines and plan ahead

Identify the main elements of your routine that contribute significantly to your well-being. Whether it’s morning exercise, meditation, reading, painting or playing a musical instrument, try to maintain these key routines as consistently as possible.

Engaging in hobbies can provide a sense of fulfilment and relaxation.

Anticipate your schedule and plan accordingly. Mark important events, commitments and deadlines on a calendar. This will help you visualise your time and allocate it more effectively. Research in the field of psychology indicates that having routines and having a sense of control contribute to emotional regulation and help to reduce stress levels.

Don’t hesitate to delegate responsibilities, whether it’s sharing the load for holiday preparations or asking for assistance with routine tasks. Enlist the help of family members or friends.

Prioritise physical activity

As the days grow shorter and the temperature drops, the temptation to hibernate indoors can be strong. However, maintaining a regular exercise routine and prioritising self-care is essential for combating the winter blues and ensuring your physical and mental well-being. Embrace winter sports or simply take a walk in the woods or by the sea. If outdoor activities aren’t feasible, consider indoor alternatives such as yoga or dance. Physical activity releases endorphins and gives you energy.

Nourish your body with seasonal foods

While the Christmas season often tempts us with an array of decadent treats, it’s important to strike a balance and prioritise nourishing, seasonal foods. Maintaining a balanced diet ensures that your body receives the essential nutrients it needs to stay healthy during the colder months.

Hydration matters, even in the cold

It’s easy to forget about hydration when the weather is chilly, but staying well hydrated is just as important in winter as it is in summer. Central heating and colder air can lead to dehydration, so make a conscious effort to drink an adequate amount of water or comforting hot drinks like herbal teas or soups throughout the day.

Cultivate mindfulness in merriment

During the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, it’s important to take moments for yourself. Incorporate mindfulness practices such as meditation or deep breathing exercises. These practices can help alleviate stress, improve concentration and foster a sense of inner calm.

Seek professional support

If you need extra support, don’t hesitate to contact a psychotherapist or counsellor. Professional support can provide valuable insights and coping strategies for managing stress and challenges. The Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy is an organisation that promotes and develops the practice of counselling and psychotherapy in Ireland. Their website provides information on accredited therapists.

Establish realistic expectations and boundaries

It is important to set realistic expectations and establish boundaries about how you will spend your time and energy. Recognise that you might need to adjust your routine temporarily. While maintaining a routine is beneficial, it’s equally important to adapt to the unique demands of this time of year.

Find a balance that allows you to enjoy the festivities while preserving your well-being. Prioritise events that bring you joy and align with your values, and don’t hesitate to decline invitations if you feel overwhelmed.

Ensure adequate rest for rejuvenation

In the midst of holiday preparations, late-night gatherings and festive excitement, adequate sleep can often be sacrificed. However, getting enough rest is crucial for maintaining both physical and mental health.

Aim for a consistent sleep schedule, by going to bed and waking up at the same time daily, creating a peaceful bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down. Quality sleep not only boosts your immune system but also enhances your ability to cope with the demands of Christmastime. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality sleep each night.

Connect with loved ones, near and far

The holidays are a time for connection and celebration with loved ones. Whether you’re spending the season with family or connecting virtually with friends from afar, nurturing these relationships is beneficial for your overall well-being. Share laughter, create cherished memories, and lean on your support network during times of stress. Social connections are a powerful antidote to the winter blues and can provide a sense of warmth and belonging during the colder months. Embrace meaningful traditions that align with your values. Whether it’s a special meal or a family outing, prioritise traditions that bring joy and connection. If you are alone at Christmas, reach out to community organisations that are there to help and support you at this time.

Quality alone time

Schedule moments of solitude for self-reflection and personal rejuvenation. This can include taking a walk, journaling, or simply enjoying quiet time. Having “me time” can help you recharge, and can also enhance your overall mental well-being, allowing you to approach the festivities with a clear and focused mind.

Embrace the joy of giving

A fulfilling aspect of Christmas is the spirit of giving. Whether through thoughtful gifts, acts of kindness, or charitable contributions, embracing the joy of giving can elevate your sense of purpose. Volunteer for a local charity, participate in a community project or simply extend a helping hand to those in need. Cultivating a sense of generosity can add a meaningful dimension to your Christmas celebrations.

Unplug from technology

Take breaks from screens and social media. Designate specific times to disconnect and focus on in-person interactions or activities that don’t involve digital devices.

Reflect, reset, and welcome the New Year with intention

As the year draws to a close, take time to reflect on the experiences and lessons of the past months. Consider what you want to carry forward into the New Year and set positive intentions for the future. This reflective practice can help you approach the holiday season with a sense of gratitude and mindfulness, fostering a positive mindset as you welcome the opportunities of the coming year.

Remember, self-care is a personal journey, and it’s important to tailor these suggestions to your individual preferences and needs. Regularly reassess your self-care practices and make adjustments as necessary.

If you or someone you know needs to talk to somebody professional, make sure that who you go to is qualified and accredited. The Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has a register of qualified, accredited and experienced counsellors and psychotherapists nationwide.

Monica Jackman is an Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy Accredited Counsellor (IACP).

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