Preparing for the festive season

2021 has been a roller-coaster of a ride. The Covid-19 pandemic and its related lockdowns and restrictions have brought about much stress, uncertainty, and anxiety. Understandably, this year has presented us with many challenges which has taken a toll on our mental health.

As we soon approach the end of the year, many of us can see the light at the end of the tunnel, restrictions are easing, and the festive season is right around the corner. Many of us have already started planning (albeit tentatively), the festive season in the hope of reuniting with family after months of being separated due to restrictions.

The festive season can be a time of joy and happiness, but it can also be a stressful and anxious time for some. This time of year can magnify financial issues, loneliness, or estrangement. It’s important that during this period, that we take care of ourselves and our mental health.

So, how can we navigate through the festive season?

Set Expectations: Expectations of the “ideal festive celebration” is assumed to be merry and generous; however, when we don’t meet these expectations, it can trigger feelings of sadness and depression. Set realistic expectations about festive celebrations, family gatherings and what we genuinely value during this period. This can help to make the festive season a time that is meaningful and cherished with memories.

Plan Ahead: When we plan ahead it can help us to avoid stressful situations. It can be helpful for us to have a plan ready on what to do over the festive season and who to see. We should also make sure to keep some time to ourselves. If spending Christmas alone, we recommend planning to do something that’s enjoyable, whether it’s baking, cooking a nice meal, or watching a favourite movie.

Check In with Ourselves: Checking in with ourselves during the festive season can assist us in understanding how we are feeling. When we are present with our emotions, we can tune into our mental health, which can help to alleviate stress, making us feel calmer and more relaxed.

Sleep: The festive season is a busy time of the year and many of us have our daily routines/ habits disrupted. When our routine changes, it can interfere with the sync of our circadian rhythm which can disturb our sleeping patterns. Maintaining a good sleep schedule through the festive period is essential for our mental health and wellbeing. It’s recommended that we get 7-8 hours of sleep per night to allow our body and mind to recharge.

Stay Active. Regular exercise (especially through the festive season) is crucial in maintaining our physical health, mental health, and wellbeing. Exercise releases neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin, and noradrenaline which are all “mood boosters”.  Whether it’s light or gentle exercise, keeping our body active can reduce stress and anxiety and boost our positive emotions, making us happier and content.

Relax: The festive season can be fun and jampacked full of activities. However, it can also be quite overwhelming, particularly if we are not used to socialising from living in lockdown for so long. It’s important that we take time to relax from a hard year’s worth of work to refresh and revitalise ourselves for the year ahead. Choose an activity that makes you relaxed, this could be reading a new book or heading down to the beach or spending time in nature.

Above all, if the festive season is a time during which you struggle, it is important to reach out for support to loved ones, your health professional or even the Employee Assistance Program.