Many of us may find Christmas especially difficult in 2020, for lots of different reasons. Whether you are struggling this year for the first time, or have found the holiday pressure of being “merry,” equally difficult in the past, it is important to be gentle with yourself and others.
Prioritise your mental health this holiday season with a few tips to help you get through it and relax.
Remember: you are not alone
2020 has been challenging in many aspects of our everyday life. If we have learned something from the struggles of this year, it has been the importance of community. Keep in touch with friends and family that make you feel good. Do not be afraid to reach out to people at LSE – whether it is on your courses, your accommodation, or student societies. There are many people who chose to stay in London over the break and LSE planned some activities available to staff and students here.
If you practice a different religion and feel overlooked in Christmas celebrations, reach out to people honouring your faith in the area - contact local places of worship or browse through Facebook groups to connect with others. Spend time doing charity and community work – helping others can bring great happiness. Christmas offers plenty of volunteering opportunities, such as those found on this LSE blog. Other places you can volunteer include organisations such as UN Volunteers and Translators without Borders. Even just helping a friend can be incredibly rewarding and boost your wellbeing.
You can also ask someone to keep an eye out for you and to?check how you’re doing to make sure you get help when needed.
Look after yourself
We have made it this far and it is time to wind down – treat Christmas as a time to rest. Find time to yourself – write down all the things you want and do not want to do this season, relax with your favourite book or a movie, cook something nice and nutritious or grab a hot chocolate to go and stroll through the nearby park. Make sure you get plenty of sleep, and if you struggle with insomnia, stick?as close as possible to your usual routine.
If you are spending Christmas with family, it may not always be easy. Prioritise your wellbeing over this period and permit yourself to say no. Let family and friends know when you need some time to yourself. If the thought of Christmas seems overpowering, make sure to plan something exciting to do after – whether it is a visit to your favourite art gallery or a meal.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
What we eat and drink has a big impact on both our physical and mental health. Christmas is the time when we tend to overindulge in unhealthy foods and drink one too many. Do not feel guilty about eating more than usual but also do not hesitate to refuse another piece of cake when you feel full. Drink responsibly and remember to get plenty of water in between glasses of wine. Although it may be tempting to stay in bed, try to incorporate some activity in your daily routine.
Physical activity releases endorphins, a “happiness chemical” so important for our wellbeing. Start by taking a short walk in your neighbourhood, and if you are staying in London for the holidays you will find a guide to the best walks in the capital here.
You might also give yoga a chance. With plenty of free tutorial videos available on YouTube, even just 10 minutes of exercise can make you more relaxed. If you would rather hit the gym, LSESU is offering gym access free of charge throughout this holiday season.
Worrying about money can make your mental health worse and poor mental health can lead to financial troubles, reinforcing the vicious cycle. Christmas is a time when we feel pressured to overspend, especially on gifts for friends and family. Do not go into debt over presents - the people you are buying for will not want this for you. Try some alternatives like writing a letter with nice memories you have together or making a handmade gift. Even if you do not consider yourself overly crafty, there are many simple ideas to be found online. You can also bake some goodies or buy second hand, contributing to a charitable cause close to your heart. It is, after all, the thought that counts and the small gestures have real power.
Try not to compare yourself with others
Especially in December, the media feeds us the idea of a “perfect Christmas”. Most adverts, social media posts, and movies perpetuate images which have nothing in common with how the season is experienced by most of us. Everyone does their Christmas and holiday season differently, and this is a good thing! Keep things in perspective and know that social media shows only the highlights and never includes things like family arguments or the feeling of isolation we may experience.?If you find that you’re comparing yourself to others, try to reduce your exposure to television advertising and social media during the Christmas break. Have a Christmas that works for YOU and allow yourself to relax.
How are you, REALLY?
In the Christmas period, we feel pressured to keep our struggles to ourselves. Speaking to someone can be helpful. Let others know how you are REALLY feeling. If you could benefit from speaking to an impartial, professional over the holidays, here are a few organisations that have dedicated helplines:
Mind?– 0300 123 3393 (9am – 6pm, Monday to Friday, closed on bank holidays)
Shout - 85258 (text SHOUT) (24 hours a day)
Young Minds?(helpline for parents) – 0808 802 5544
And here are a few more.
Blog written by Dani Gruszka.
Dani is an Advice Assistant in the LSE Students’ Union (LSESU) and a member of the LSESU Advice Service.
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