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The stress of Christmas

Christmas is one of the most eagerly anticipated times of the year and its celebrations can span upwards of a month!

During the festive period there is a huge importance placed on family, traditions and gift giving. Whilst this is an exciting prospect for many people, for some the festive period can be isolating and can negatively impact their mental wellbeing.  

All too often we overlook the harsh reality that comes with the annual holiday and how deeply some people are affected by it. At a time of year when most are enjoying time spent with family and friends, there are many who are unable to be part of the celebrations because of their mental health.  

At Dorset Mind, we believe it’s time to make a change.  

It’s time to look at Christmas from a new perspective and understand how challenging it can be for people. We will also look at how we can take steps to prepare for this time of year – and offer some practical strategies. 

So, what are some of the ways the festive period will impact people this year? And if you are affected, how can you manage? 

Pressure to spend

One of the biggest pressures of Christmas is the expectation of buying presents. It’s a time where people come together and show appreciation by  giving gifts. Unfortunately, big business and social media take advantage and add pressure on people to spend money they might not be able to afford. All with the excuse of making Christmas ‘special’ for those around them. 

For many people, whether family members, partners, friends, or even colleagues, this can be overwhelming. Coming out of the pandemic money is scarce and bills are rising. A quarter of people are worried about going into debt this Christmas.  

If you or someone you know is struggling financially, don’t be afraid to talk about it openly. Suggest alternatives such as creating a budget, making gifts – or spend time together instead. 

Voice your worries and tell your loved ones – they should understand and help you. 

If your financial situation is serious, there are organisations that can help. Follow this link to find out more. 

Expecting your time

We can freely visit family members and friends this year. This Christmas will be the first since lockdown that we are (currently) able to physically come together to celebrate.  

This is exciting for many, who want to make up lost time for missing out last year. But for some, the prospect of this may be cause large amounts of stress.  

It might be they aren’t ready to socialise with people again, or might be struggling with the increasing threat of lockdown and rise of the new Omicron variant.

Or perhaps they might have a difficult relationship with a particular person. Being forced into spending time with them and being expected to enjoy it can be challenging for people’s mental health.  

You may want to think about healthy boundaries you can put in place. Try limiting your time with people and manage their expectations. Keep time together short and make sure they know how long you’ll be spending time with them in advance, so they won’t be upset when you leave. 

Calm yourself by practicing breathing techniques in the lead up to an event. If you’re feeling uncomfortable don’t be afraid to say you can’t make it this year. We’re not encouraging you to lie, but to set healthy boundaries you’re comfortable with. 

There is so much you can do to prepare for visiting – but do seek help and guidance from a trusted friend or professional, so you don’t face it alone. Are you experiencing feelings of anxiety as Christmas approaches because of this? Make sure you speak to someone you trust and try to focus on the positives of being around people again.  

Rising bills

During wintertime we see household bills soar because of gas and electric usage in a bid to keep warm. In addition to this, fuel and food prices have recently increased, and supplies will be scarce.  

Christmas brings a large amount of pressure as it is. This added financial threat will add more stress to those who are already struggling to make ends meet.  

This winter let’s try to alleviate some of the stress people face. Try car sharing to keep petrol costs down, eat together to help family members if you can, or contribute to a local food bank or good cause. Every gesture of support contributes towards positive change. 

Short days and long nights

Everything just seems to feel a little bit easier when the sun’s out.  

This is true for many people. That’s why the darker and colder days that come with winter can have a severe effect on how an individual feels. Seasonal Affective Disorder is common at this time of year, due to depleted levels of vitamin D. Your energy and mood might decrease, motivation to connect or move might plummet. This can lead to isolation and withdrawing from the world into a depression. 

We encourage you to get outside and feel the little sun there is on your face, every day if you can. Fresh air and getting active will help you, as will eating healthy, drinking enough water and getting quality sleep. And don’t forget to keep in touch with your loved ones, even if only by text. Try not to lose connection to people or your community. It’s harder to get back in touch after a break.

If your symptoms last, make an appointment to see your doctor, who will be able to help you. 

Importantly, let’s try to take some of the stress out of Christmas. It should be a time of peace and joy for all.  

Huge thanks to our blogger…

Our guest blogger this week is Gayleen Hodson, find out more about her here.

Support

If you are struggling with your mental health and need support, follow this link. It’ll take you straight to our Help and Support section where you’ll discover 1-2-1 and group support we offer across Dorset. Please note that some services don’t operate over Christmas as our staff need a well-earned break for their own wellbeing. 

Lastly, don’t be afraid reach out to those around you for support. Whether it’s a friend you haven’t seen in a while, your GP or trusted family members, people do care and will be there for you. 

In addition, there are organisations that can help you over the Christmas period, whatever your situation. Here’s a link to local and national resources by subject. 

For all information regarding Covid-19 and restrictions in the UK, visit gov.uk.

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