Christmas is usually the season of good cheer, however, ongoing Covid restrictions mean that festivities will be greatly reduced for most – and that many may be in isolation due to illness or Covid-exposure too.
Our GP Dr Chun Tang, offers some top tips on how to tackle compromised mental health during what is normally the merriest of times of the year.
A Christmas for two
“The rules around household bubbles mean that many Christmas celebrations will be much smaller than during a typical year. Guest lists will be cut right back and some may find themselves having dinner as a couple or a smaller family unit rather than meeting up with extended groups.
Those with a partner for company may find spending a prolonged period of time with just one person can cause a ruckus for even the strongest of relationships. These hostile situations leave us feeling stressed, anxious and emotionally drained, particularly at Christmas when we want everything to be ‘just so’ and when we can’t walk away from a situation to vent to others.
A good method for couples to adopt to prevent these emotional outbursts is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness activities comprise a whole range of mental health and wellbeing benefits and are easy to practice whilst you’re at home. Try meditation, particularly mindful meditation, which is a great way to focus on the present moment, breath by breath, and to maintain a healthy and positive mindset. Great apps for this include Headspace and Calm.”
“At the other end of the scale, those in a household bubble for the festive season may find themselves becoming stressed and frustrated as they have no space of their own. Similarly, this can cause arguments to occur within the family that, again, can be heightened by not being able to simply walk away.
A simple yet effective trick to allow an individual to feel more in control of the situation, and to feel more relaxed within the space that they have, is to declutter the home. By clearing those kitchen surfaces and putting presents away you can distract yourself from the current situation and stop feelings of being overwhelmed by Christmas.”
Spending Christmas alone
“Government guidelines mean that up to three households can meet in a ‘Christmas bubble’ but for many who are shielding due to vulnerability or age may choose to be alone due to worries around meeting others.
A common issue for any individual isolating is loneliness, which can affect us negatively in many ways – and this is especially true during the festive season when we’re normally gathering with family and friends. Not only can loneliness bring our general mood down, as we feel disconnected from society, but it can also increase our stress and anxiety levels. This can result in us neglecting ourselves through a poor diet, disrupted sleeping pattern and an increased alcohol intake.
A good way to tackle this issue is to use technology, but for the right reasons. Don’t spend hours scrolling through your Instagram feed watching your friends spend time with others, instead use technology as a way to communicate with your loved ones through video calls via apps and platforms such as Facebook Portal and Zoom.”
The ‘perfect’ Christmas
“There’s no such thing as the perfect Christmas – and that applies to this year more than ever. Be kind to yourself and don’t put yourself undue pressure to deliver the most sensational of celebrations. Speak honestly to relatives and friends about any struggles you’re facing – be they financial or emotional. Christmas is all about connection; not about Instagram-worthy spreads and mountains of presents!”
Boosting your Yuletide cheer
“Thankfully, there are many free of charge techniques that can be undertaken to boost our mood.”
Laughing is a positive response of joy to natural stimulus; from an organic point of view, a simple laugh naturally induces pleasurable feelings and an increased release of endorphins, allowing us to feel less stressed and happier. Laughing also means we take more oxygen into our bodies, which in turn stimulates our circulatory system and gets rid of cortisol, the stress hormone. So that Christmas comedy special or watching Elf for the one thousandeth time is actually good for your health!
There’s nothing like belting out a tune to help us feel more positive and one study that looked at people in workplace choirs showed those involved reported a 96 per cent reduction in work-related stress. Gather the family together and enjoy singing some festive favourites; after all, nobody can criticise your karaoke skills if they’re boosting your health right?
Have books aplenty on your Christmas list? Great news, curling up with a good book is the ultimate escapism and, even better, it helps decrease your stress levels and distracts from any current worries.
Getting our daily exercise outside is vital as it’s our best chance to boost our vitamin D intake and to destress; so, make sure you’re wrapping up warm for some wintry walks during your festive break.”
Getting professional help
“If you are struggling with your mental wellbeing, we would always recommend discussing your concerns with a GP who will be able to advise on the best next steps for you. If you are struggling to get an appointment with your NHS GP, at Pall Mall Medical we offer same and next day private appointments with GPs who can refer you to one of Pall Mall’s Consultant Psychologists like myself.”
At Pall Mall Medical, we offer private GP appointments, for more information call us on 03300 58 44 55 or click here.