Although it can be a festive period of celebrations and time with family, Christmas can also be a time when the additional pressures of financial strains, the expectation of putting on the ‘perfect Christmas’ and even family conflicts can have an impact on your mental health. Rachel Boyd, Information Officer at mental health charity, Mind, shares some top tips for coping with the stress of Christmas…
Dads and mums can react to mental health problems at Christmas quite differently. Mind found that men often try to find ways of dealing with their problems independently rather than reaching out and sharing what’s on their mind. Instead of talking about their problems, many men prefer to watch TV or drink alcohol, whereas women were twice as likely to talk to their friends, when trying to unwind.
Men are actually half as likely to talk to their friends about problems as women and only 31 per cent of men would discuss worries with their relatives, compared to 47 per cent of women. While women tend to have a solid network of friends and family with whom they are comfortable discussing emotional issues, men are much more likely to rely solely on their partner – if anyone at all. This puts men at a greater risk of emotional isolation and at Christmas time this could make things seem even harder to deal with.
Not addressing mental health problems early can mean that men store up more severe problems in the long run, so if you are concerned about your mental health, it’s important to seek support as soon as possible, preferably by opening up to someone you trust or going to speak to your GP.
The good news is that there are lots of small things you can do to look after your mental wellbeing at Christmas. Here are Mind’s top tips:
1. Ask for help
Delegate family members to help with shopping, cooking and clearing up. If you’re feeling the pressure, speak out – it’s likely others might not even have realised how stressed you were feeling.
Take time out to do something you enjoy, whether it’s reading a book, spending time with a friend or watching or listening to your favourite TV or music. Don’t feel guilty about doing something completely unrelated to the festivities – time for yourself is just as important.
3. Take a stroll
Physical activity is a known stress-buster and is a great way to improve mood, and taking a walk will give you a welcome break from Christmas preparations.
4. Find a listening ear
If family life is all getting too much for you, spend time with a mate. It can be really helpful to talk to someone a little removed from the situation and let off steam, so you can go back to your family calmer and with everything in perspective.
Helping out with a charity or good cause can help you feel good, and give you a chance to meet people. For information on local volunteering opportunities visit Do-it.org.uk, which lists volunteer positions within 5km of your postcode, ask at your local library, or keep an eye on your local newspapers.
6. Don’t take it all too seriously
They don’t say laughter is the best form of medicine for nothing, it’s known to provide short-term stress relief. Why not sit down with a classic feel-good film – there are so many on at Christmas.
7. Get support
If you find it tough to open up about your mental health face to face or on the phone, you may find it helpful to try Elefriends.org.uk, a supportive online community run by Mind where you can listen, share and be heard.
For more information on coping at Christmas, visit mind.org.uk/christmas