By Admin | 15 Dec 2023

Safeguarding your mental health over the festive period

While the festive season is a time of joy and celebration, it can be challenging for some people.

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Historical data shows that mental health enquiries and referrals decline throughout December, only starting to increase after Christmas Day. The same is true for Google searches around finding mental health assistance.

While Christmas can be challenging if you struggle with a mental health condition, the reason we see the above trend around mental health is unclear. Maybe people are great at managing their mental health through December, and it's Christmas Day that triggers anxiety and other conditions.

Here are some tips for safeguarding your mental health over the festive period.

Plan your Christmas if you know your triggers

Are you dealing with a mental health issue already? Do you know from previous experiences that Christmas can harm your mental health, even if you don't ordinarily struggle with yours?

Whatever your history with mental health, if you know what triggers a deterioration in yours, having a plan is an excellent idea.

For example, if boredom or isolation causes your mental health to suffer, can you plan Christmas to ensure you're always busy and around people? In contrast, if you struggle to deal with the stress of Christmas and seeing the whole family at once, can you plan some alone time for yourself?

Ensure you have a plan for the whole Christmas period, too. The time between Christmas Day and returning to "normal life" a day or two after New Year's Day can often feel like a wasteland of nothingness.

Whatever triggers mental health concerns, try and have a plan that covers you for the ten or so days from Christmas Eve onwards.

Try to turn things into positives

The festive season can bring added angst if you've lost a loved one in the past year.

While you’ll undoubtedly miss them and wish they were with you, try to see this as an opportunity to reflect on them and your happy, festive memories. If you know you'll find things challenging, consider organising something with other loved ones, like a trip to a particular place or even just some time to reflect together at home.

Continue any positive self-care you ordinarily practice

What daily activities do you already do to practice positive self-care and safeguard your mental health?

Christmas is no reason to stop doing these things.

As part of your plan, make time for the things you know you need to do that will help your mindset. If you'll be spending time with friends or family this Christmas and aren't particularly looking forward to it, make your usual routines a non-negotiable part of your plan.

Do you exercise for 30 minutes a day? Make sure that continues! Are you committed to daily meditations or activities like yoga? Keep them on your schedule!

We often surprise ourselves with how difficult it is to get back into good habits, even if we only break them for a few days over Christmas. It's far healthier to keep your good practices going over Christmas rather than fall out of them and have to walk uphill in January.

Be good to yourself

For anyone who struggles with mental health, one of the biggest challenges every Christmas is how easy it is to beat yourself up.

  • Why am I alone?
  • Why am I not having fun with the people I'm with?
  • Why don't I enjoy Christmas?
  • Why do I let people talk me into doing things I don't want to or enjoy?

These are all familiar sources of anxiety around Christmas.

Be good to yourself, and try to avoid a negative mindset.

Accepting not everyone enjoys Christmas is massive if the middle two points above are a common source of anxiety. If you don't enjoy Christmas or spending time with specific family members, that's okay. Review your plan and think about how to manage these situations.

This Christmas, make sure you do you

Adopting a positive mindset and setting boundaries can help you get through Christmas on your terms.

  • You don't have to say yes to every suggestion.
  • Nothing "needs" to happen over Christmas; the sky won't fall in because a "family tradition" didn't occur.
  • It's okay to tell people you're setting boundaries, don't want to see them daily, and are putting yourself first.

How many Christmases have you spent unhappy, dealing with mental health issues because you've done things "because that's what you do" or have felt unable to say no?

While the events of recent years have helped bring home the notion we should be more appreciative of social connections, it should have helped you realise you need to put yourself first sometimes, too.

Know where to get help if you need it

You can have a great plan and set clear boundaries yet still face mental health challenges over the coming weeks.

As part of your planning around safeguarding your mental health this Christmas, know where to get help if needed. Ensure you understand the support available and who you can contact if you need to speak to someone. If your employer has employee assistance or well-being programs, find out when these services will be available over the Christmas and New Year holidays. If you have one of our international health insurance plans, you’ll have access to your employee or member assistance programme throughout the festive period.

Put yourself first this Christmas. Maintain any good habits and behaviours you've worked on this year. And have the Christmas you want, whether surrounded by loved ones or happily spent in your own company.