By Finola Colgan, Development Officer, Mental Health Ireland
The festive season can offer many moments of joy and happiness; however, it can also be fraught with tension, stress, and anxiety. Here are five practical and manageable tips to help you have a happier festive season.
Have Realistic Expectations
A good starting point is to understand that the festive season does not have to be perfect. Remind yourself that it is okay if things do not go exactly according to your plans. Unexpected things will happen and upset your plans, so it is helpful to be flexible and grant yourself the permission to let things go. My kids often remind to “build a bridge and get over it.” Be realistic about what will work for you and what you can accomplish. Focus on what is most important. Try to avoid the inevitable external pressure set by others, including social media and the persistent advertising that is at a particular high at this time of year. Read about having a Christmas that’s not typical of the movies and accepting it for what it is.
2. Plan and Prioritise
It can be helpful to make a special plan for the festive season, including a budget. If possible, minimise your use of credit cards which is difficult as we go more into a cashless society. But in January, the credit account must be settled. Creating a spending plan for food, gifts and entertainment will help reduce stress. At the top of your Festive Planning Page write “It’s okay to say no!” This will help you not to be overwhelmed by obligations and sense of occasion.
3. Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of your physical and mental well-being are key to managing stress and anxiety. It is something we need to be mindful about almost every day of the year. However, it needs to be given extra attention at this time of year. Try to eat nutritious food and well-balanced meals, build in regular daily physical activity, and maintain a good sleep pattern which can be difficult with many late nights! Ensure you still make time for the activities you always enjoy doing though out the year and try not to abandon these aspects of your life because of the extra demands that may be made of you. Activities that help you relax and unwind may include meeting a friend for a cup of coffee and a chat, going for a walk, reading, listening to seasonal music, and songs and films. Check out our video on how exercising in nature can be beneficial for your mental health, even in winter!
4. Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques
Including mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your routine can help you manage stress and support your mental health. Doing things such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga, can help calm the mind and reduce anxiety. Check out our YouTube channel for lots of helpful meditations and mindfulness practices.
5. Set Boundaries
It is important to set boundaries to protect our time and availability, at any time of the year. It is even more important at this time of the year where there are an awful lot more of social events to choose to attend, work, family, friends, community and so on. Such demands can be overwhelming leading stress and anxiety. Remember you are in control of your time and can choose to limit the events you will attend. One useful way to manage such potential conflict is to communicate openly with family and friends about your personal needs and what is best for you. Try not to feel guilty or selfish for creating boundaries, as it helps you look after your well-being.
6. Seek Support
The festive season can bring up difficult memories and reminders of times past with our loved ones. You may have family members living far away who cannot be with you or miss those who have passed away. Remember that it is okay to ask for help and let someone know how you are feeling. This can be with family members, friends or by seeking professional help. As the saying goes “a problem shared is a problem halved.” Sharing your worries and concerns can make a significant difference to how you cope and help you find some level of hope and optimism.
By prioritising your wellbeing and being aware of your own needs, you will contribute to a more enjoyable and less stressful festive season.
For more information on supports www.bit.ly/mhisupport