Lisa Fathers, Director of Teaching School & Partnerships at The Alliance of Learning, is a National Trainer for Mental Health First Aid England, and a regular writer on mental health and wellbeing. With Christmas approaching, here are her eight top tips for looking after your wellbeing this winter.
1. Organisation is key
Avoid unnecessary stress over the festive season by planning ahead in the run up to Christmas and being careful not to take on too much. Try and be home promptly so you can get on top of some ‘home jobs’. Also, you are not being selfish by saying “no” to some things or asking for some help. For example, if you’re hosting Christmas dinner, could you ask some of your guests to bring a starter or dessert?
2. You matter!
At Christmas it can be all too easy to get swept up into other people's ideas of fun. It’s important to make sure that you do something you want as well – this is your holiday too! If you know this will be hard, try booking something in advance or setting a free day or two aside just for you.
3. Online life
If you do decide to use social media over the festive season, avoid comparing your experience to those of your friends. Remember that most people only share the best bits of their lives online and you don’t know what’s going on behind the smiling selfies and prezzie pics! The photos never show the stress and chaos of Christmas!
4. Get outside/exercise
The outdoors is so good for us! Going for a wintery walk, even if it’s just around the block, can be the perfect way to get some fresh air and exercise along with a change of place. Being in the same house for too long can get a bit intense, especially if it’s crowded, so a change of scenery will do everyone good. Exercise can be great for mental health and there are still ways to keep it up over Christmas; go for a swim, an exercise class, or have a dance-off to some festive classics.
5. Try to eat healthily
Whilst it’s fine to have a pig out over Christmas, try not to make it for the full two weeks off! In-between social events, try and keep a balance to your diet with some fruit and vegetables. This can help you to avoid energy lows that can have an effect on your mood.
6. Alcohol in moderation
While a bit of alcohol can make you feel relaxed, don’t forget that drinking too much can leave you feeling irritable and low. Alcohol can also play a big part in arguments and disagreements, so it’s sensible to drink in moderation.
7. The power of sleep
Recently a lot more research has been done on how crucial sleep is to happiness. I’ve recently read ‘Why We Sleep’ by Mathew Walker. Try to keep to regular sleep patterns as much as possible over the Christmas period – easier said than done but it will help.
8. Christmas alone
If you’re spending Christmas alone, have a think about what you want to do beforehand. You may decide to curl up with a favourite movie, book yourself a getaway, or arrange to go to a lunch. You could also consider volunteering – it’s no secret that giving something back can help you feel good about yourself. You might want to consider if there is an elderly person nearby who is also alone. We know half a million older people will be alone on Christmas day.
Sometimes Christmas can be a challenging time for lots of reasons. The best present you can give yourself is to prioritise your wellbeing!