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Mental Health

Minding Your Mental Health Over The Festive Period

By September 28, 2023April 29th, 2024No Comments

While the festive season is often heralded as “the most amazing time of the year,” it’s important to acknowledge that it can also be the precursor of difficult times, heightened emotional stress, and vulnerability.

Dr Eddie Murphy, a clinical psychologist, warns, “The festive season can intensify underlying issues for many people,” adding that “the festive period can be particularly vulnerable times for those with emotional well-being or mental health challenges.”

This guide sheds light on the less-discussed emotional complexities that can accompany the holiday festivities. Whether you’re facing emotional hurdles or wish to maintain your mental equilibrium during this bustling time, we’ve compiled a set of actionable strategies and essential components to assist you.

These insights will empower you to experience the festive period in a way that aligns with your emotional and mental wellbeing.

7 Strategies for Navigating the Festive Period

The festive period, while a time of joy and celebration for many, can also bring challenging times filled with emotional complexities for others.

From the extra pressure to be joyful to the personal feelings of stress that can arise from family dynamics, financial concerns, and maintaining a sense of emotional wellbeing – the holiday season can be a lot to navigate.

Whether you’re dealing with emotional difficulties or simply looking to maintain a balanced mental state, it’s crucial to have strategies in place. Here are seven suggestions for ways to deal with the festive period:

1. Avoid Unhealthy Comparisons

Comparing ourselves with others can have a considerable impact on how we feel. Sometimes, this can be positive, motivating us to do better. However, if we don’t think we can be as good, it can have a negative impact on our self-esteem.

Social media and consumer advertising can compound these feelings of inadequacy and lower our mood. Limiting our social media usage over the Christmas period can help with this.

2. Reflect on All That You Have Achieved This Year

Even if the year has been particularly stressful and overwhelming, try not to become fixated on some goals that you may not have achieved in the past twelve months.

During this festive period, reflecting on how far you have come and all you have achieved would be beneficial. Writing down a list of your achievements and reading over them will help with this!

3. Show Compassion for Yourself and Others

A simple act of kindness to another can change any experience altogether. Over Christmas, people are vulnerable to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

St Patrick’s Mental Health Services says loneliness and isolation have significantly increased, especially during the festive season. They highlight how a thoughtful gesture can make a huge difference to yourself and others.

It could be taking time to catch up with someone or offering them a listening ear.

4. Set Realistic Expectations

The festive season often has high expectations for perfect gatherings and joyous celebrations. However, it’s crucial to remember that it’s okay if things don’t go as planned.

Setting realistic expectations for yourself and others can alleviate unnecessary stress. If you feel disappointed, take a step back and focus on what truly matters—your well-being and the joy of the season.

5. Create a Budget and Stick to It

Financial stress can mount quickly during the festive period, causing undue stress. To avoid this, create a budget for gifts, food, and other holiday expenses. Stick to this budget as closely as possible, and remember that the value of your presence is more important than any present you can give.

Need help creating a realistic budget that fits your goals and aspirations?

6. Limit Exposure to Toxic Relationships

Family gatherings can sometimes bring about tension and conflict. If you find yourself in a toxic environment, it’s okay to set boundaries or even distance yourself for the sake of your mental health.

Your wellbeing should always be the priority, and it’s all right to say no to situations you find draining or harmful.

7. Seek Professional Help if Needed

If the festive period significantly impacts your mental health, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapists and counsellors can provide valuable coping strategies. Sometimes, talking to an unbiased third party can offer a fresh perspective.

The Importance of Self-Kindness

Extending kindness inward can increase our wellbeing, too. Self-kindness refers to the tendency to be sympathetic and supportive toward ourselves when noticing personal inadequacies rather than being critical. It involves relating to our mistakes and failings with tolerance and understanding and acknowledging that perfection is unattainable.

     Examples of Practising Self-Kindness:

  • Instead of dwelling on a mistake you’ve made, acknowledge it and forgive yourself. Remember, everyone makes mistakes.
  • When you notice self-critical thoughts, counter them with positive affirmations like “I am enough” or “I am doing my best.”
  • If you’re overwhelmed, stepping back and taking a break is okay. Use this time to relax and recharge.
  • Instead of setting unattainable goals that set you up for failure, aim for smaller, achievable objectives that boost your confidence when met.

Why Self-Compassion is Essential for Wellbeing

Self-compassion is expressed in internal dialogues that are caring and encouraging rather than cruel or derogating. Instead of berating ourselves for being imperfect, we nurture ourselves with warmth and unconditional acceptance.

Instead of getting fixated in a problem-solving mode and overlooking our suffering, we pause to comfort ourselves emotionally when confronted with painful situations. With self-kindness, we give ourselves warmth, sympathy and gentleness so that proper healing can occur.

     Examples of Practising Self-Compassion:

  • Spend a few minutes daily focusing on your breath and releasing judgmental thoughts.
  • Write down your feelings and thoughts, especially the negative ones. It helps you confront them and fosters self-compassion.
  • Don’t hesitate to talk to friends or family when you’re going through a tough time. Sometimes, just knowing someone is there for you can be comforting.
  • Did you leave bed and face the day even when you didn’t feel like it? That’s a win worth celebrating.

Embracing the Season with Self-Compassion and Mindfulness

As the festive period unfolds, it’s natural to encounter moments of self-doubt or criticism. However, it’s essential to remember that you have the tools and strategies to navigate these emotional complexities.

Whether limiting social media exposure, setting realistic expectations, or simply showing kindness to yourself and others, each step contributes to your overall well-being.

If you’re feeling like the holiday season is getting a bit overwhelming, don’t worry—you’re not alone. We’ve all been there! If you could use a little extra support, why not check out our employee assistance programme? It’s a friendly place to find resources and talk things out, making your festive season a whole lot brighter.

Practical Steps for Emotional Wellbeing

If you find yourself slipping into a cycle of self-criticism, pause and offer yourself a compliment. Redirect your focus to something that brings you joy, whether diving into your favourite hobby, reading an engaging book, or simply taking a moment to do breathing exercises and appreciate the present moment.

These small acts of self-compassion can make a significant difference in your emotional landscape, allowing you to fully engage with the festive season in a more balanced and fulfilling way.

Remember, the ultimate goal is not to create a picture-perfect holiday but to cultivate a season filled with self-awareness, compassion, and genuine joy. And if at any point you feel that the emotional toll becomes too overwhelming, don’t hesitate to seek professional help.

Therapists and counsellors are there to provide additional coping strategies and a fresh perspective that can be invaluable during this time.

*Please note that while these strategies can be helpful, they are not a substitute for medical advice. If you find that you’re struggling significantly, it’s crucial to consult a mental health professional for further assistance.

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