Valley of the Mad

Your Mental Health at Christmas

Valley of the mad christmas mental health

Christmas is traditionally a time of celebration. Eating, drinking and spending time with family and friends, and generally enjoying the festive spirit are great for the majority, but what about those who struggle with a mental health condition? For some, this season can be an especially difficult time.

Now, with the current economic trouble, there is an additional financial strain for some. The money might not be there or stretched far enough when buying gifts. Winter can be difficult for some. The lack of vitamin D from insufficient sunlight to the isolation some feel when the evenings are cold and dark, the reality of spending Christmas alone can be very difficult.  

There are many triggers for mental health problems during the holiday season. First of all, it’s important to recognise that if you’re struggling over the Christmas period, you are far from alone. Mental health issues at Christmas affect more of us than you might think. A survey from YouGov found that a quarter of people say that Christmas makes their mental health worse.

If you’re worried about your mental health or if someone you care for is struggling, this article can give you some ideas about how to deal with these issues.

Depression at Christmas

Christmas brings out the best in most people. But for those who suffer from depression, it exacerbates the symptoms. And while there are things we can do to help ourselves through the season, some common triggers worsen things. Here are five ways that the holiday season can trigger depression:

1. Expectations – Maybe you have been very outgoing or generous in the past, and you now feel that you need to maintain that.

2. Social media – Having access to the lives of others and seeing how they are spending Christmas can set unrealistic expectations

3. Family gatherings – If there are elephants in the room or unresolved tension 

4. Presents – Parental responsibility and being seen to gift everybody you know

5. Food – having enough money to put food on the table on Christmas Day

Coping with Anxiety over the Christmas Holidays

Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year for everyone, but it can be especially stressful for those who suffer from anxiety. While the festivities themselves aren’t inherently dangerous, they do bring out some of our worst fears. For example, many people feel overwhelmed by the number of people around them, and they worry about making mistakes in front of others. Others fear being left alone or spending too much money. With so much pressure on us, how can we cope? Here are three tips that can help.

1. Plan ahead

If you know that something is likely to trigger anxiety, try to have a plan. Make sure you’ve got enough food and drink, and think about where you’ll go once you arrive at your destination. This way, you won’t spend your whole trip worrying about what might happen next.

2. Keep calm

Try to keep yourself distracted throughout the day. Play games like Scrabble or cards, read books or magazines and listen to music or podcasts. Anything that takes your mind off your anxieties can be helpful.

3. Talk to someone

Talking to another person helps take your mind off things. You could call a friend, talk to a family member, speak to a counsellor or therapist, or join a support group. Talking to someone else can help reduce stress levels.

Stress

Christmas is one of the busiest times for many families, especially those with young kids. And while there are plenty of reasons why this season can be hard, one thing that often gets overlooked is how much it impacts our mental health.

According to research by YouGov, 51% of women have felt stressed during the festive period, compared to just 35% of men. This difference is even greater among parents, where 58% of mothers say they’ve been feeling overwhelmed, compared to 44% of fathers.

The survey also revealed that over half of women feel guilty if they don’t spend enough money on gifts for their partners, children and friends. In fact, nearly three quarters (72%) of women admit that they worry about whether they’re spending enough on presents.

Women are also more likely to report experiencing anxiety around food and cooking during the holidays, with almost half (48%) saying they find preparing meals difficult.

Coping with Loneliness at Christmas

Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year for many families. But what happens when everyone else seems to be having fun while you struggle to find something to do? You might start to feel isolated and alone.

We know Christmas can bring up lots of different feelings – some good, others less positive. And Christmas isn’t just about being with family and friends; it’s also about enjoying yourself. However, there can often be a lot of pressure to enjoy everything during the festive season. This can make us feel like we have to have an “amazing” time.

But sometimes it can seem impossible to relax and unwind, especially when you are surrounded by people who are always happy and excited. If you’re struggling to find anything to do, or you’re finding it hard to relax because you keep thinking about what you’d rather be doing, it could be that you’re experiencing loneliness.

Loneliness is a real issue for many people, particularly those living independently. When we spend time alone, we tend to think about ourselves and our problems. Sometimes this leads to negative thoughts and feelings. For example, you might worry about whether you’ll ever meet someone special. Or you might focus on how much money you have compared to others.

If you notice that you’re spending too long worrying about things that aren’t important, it could mean that you’re suffering from loneliness. And if you are feeling lonely, you might want to consider talking to someone about it.

There are ways to deal with loneliness. These include taking time out to do things you enjoy, such as reading a book or listening to music. You could also talk to a friend, relative or counsellor about your feelings. They can help you determine what you need to do to manage your loneliness and devise solutions that suit you best.

Bereavement at Christmas

Christmas brings many memories of times gone by, particularly for those who have lost someone close to them. For some people, however, the holiday season reminds them how much they miss loved ones, causing them to feel lonely and isolated.

For others, the holidays can be even harder because they know that their loved one isn’t here anymore. In either case, the holidays can be difficult for anyone who has experienced bereavement.

While there are no set rules about grieving during the holidays, experts say that planning can go a long way toward helping you cope with the emotions that come with losing someone you love. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Plan your time: Fill up your calendar by deciding precisely what you want to do during the festive period and Christmas day. This might include spending time with friends and family, attending church services, baking cookies and making decorations, participating in charity events, or just relaxing and enjoying yourself. Whatever you choose to do, make sure that you enjoy it.

If you don’t feel up to doing anything, don’t feel pressured to celebrate with others. Remember that everyone else is probably feeling the same way you are, so being alone doesn’t mean that you are unloved.

Don’t compare yourself to others: While it’s tempting to think that if you aren’t having fun like everyone else, you must be sad or lonely, remember that comparing yourself to others can often lead to feelings of inadequacy. Instead, focus on what you can accomplish, whether it’s getting out of bed every morning or reading a book.

Stay busy: Taking care of yourself during the holidays can be challenging, especially if you are trying to balance work responsibilities with caring for children. But staying active and keeping busy helps you avoid becoming too overwhelmed by sadness. Try volunteering, joining a local choir, playing sports, or learning something new.

Social Media

Social media and consumer advertising can make us feel like we do not measure up to others – whether we look good, sound smart or know what we want. This can cause us to compare ourselves unfavourably to people we see online and become unhappy with how we come across.

This is particularly true around the holiday season when we spend hours scrolling through Instagram feeds full of smiling faces. We start comparing ourselves to everyone else and feeling down about our appearance, intelligence or ability to buy gifts.

The problem isn’t just limited to social media, though; ads on TV and radio can make us feel inadequate, especially when they target specific demographics. For example, ads targeting women tend to focus on beauty products, and men often talk about cars – both things that we might associate with being “successful.”

Try to avoid comparison whenever possible, and try to find ways to boost your confidence rather than constantly looking at yourself in the mirror. Focus on the positive aspects of your life, such as your relationships with friends and family, and remember that you’re doing well compared to most people.

Have realistic expectations about family gatherings

Christmas is supposed to be the best time of the year – a time for giving and sharing, for peace and goodwill towards men. But for many families, Christmas isn’t quite like that. There’s a good chance some family members feel left out and excluded during the festivities. For others, it’s just too hard to deal with the tensions and arguments that arise.

The truth is that while we want our families to be happy and peaceful, most of us don’t know how to make that happen. We’re usually too busy trying to keep up appearances and worrying about whether we’ve done enough for everyone else. So it’s no wonder that sometimes things go wrong. And even though we try to put on a brave face, it doesn’t always work.

Be honest about what you can offer. If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed by the prospect of having to entertain your whole family, take some time to think about what you can do to help. You’ll probably find that you enjoy doing something for others – perhaps cooking a special meal or ensuring everyone has somewhere comfortable to sit down.

Of course, you could spend hours planning elaborate meals, decorating the house, buying presents, and generally putting yourself under stress. But if you’re honest with yourself, you won’t need to do that. All you need to do is show up and give your loved ones the attention and affection they deserve.

Take a break

If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious about work, it might be worth taking a step back. This doesn’t mean that you must stop working altogether, but it does mean that you need to allow yourself some downtime. Taking regular breaks helps us recharge our batteries and gives us the energy to carry on without getting burnt out.

A study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that people who took short breaks throughout the day reported being less tired and having better concentration than those who didn’t. If you’re feeling under pressure, it makes sense to take a little breather now and again.

Everything in moderation

Christmas is one of those times when it can be easy to go overboard. Whether it’s with food, drink, gifts, parties, decorations, family gatherings, or even just being around people, it can be hard to track how much we eat or drink. And while some of us are naturally good about keeping track of calories and sugar intake, many aren’t.

There’s no doubt that eating well during the holidays is important; however, it can be difficult to do so without falling into unhealthy habits. The holiday season can be stressful enough without adding extra pressure to your plate. Make sure you set aside time each day to relax and unwind – don’t try to fit everything in during “family time.”

Keeping a food diary can help you identify patterns in what you eat, allowing you to better plan meals ahead of time. You might want to start tracking your calorie consumption and exercise routine now rather than waiting until January. And finally, be realistic about your goals.

Look after yourself

You know what I mean. You’re probably getting ready to spend a lot of time indoors during the festive season. And while there’s nothing wrong with spending lots of time inside, it’s worth remembering that we don’t always feel our best when we’re cooped up.

The thing about being indoors is that there’s less light reaching us, and often it’s colder too. This combination makes us feel tired and low energy. But there are ways to combat this.

First things first – make sure you eat well. A healthy diet full of fruit and vegetables is essential. Avoid sugary treats, alcohol and caffeine, and focus on eating foods high in fibre and protein.

Exercise is another great way to boost your energy levels. Even a 20-minute brisk walk each day can do wonders for your mental health. If you prefer, you could sign up for a local gym membership or participate in one of the many free classes offered throughout December.

Finally, make sure you get enough rest. Sleep is vital to keep you feeling refreshed, alert and energetic. Aim for seven to eight hours per night, and try to go to bed earlier rather than later.

Focus on the positive

As we approach the end of the calendar year, many people reflect on their achievements and failures over the past 12 months. This is especially true for those who do not live up to their potential. Research suggests that focusing too much on the negatives of the past year could make us feel worse about ourselves.

A study published in 2010 found that people who focused too much on the negatives in life felt less happy than those who looked forward rather than backward. In another study, researchers asked participants to recall either positive or negative events. Those who recalled negative experiences reported feeling more depressed.

The same effect occurs when we focus on the negatives of the present day. A 2016 study showed that people who think negatively about themselves feel even lower happiness than those who do not dwell on their shortcomings.

So how can we improve our moods without dwelling on the past or worrying about the future? One way is to focus on what we have already accomplished rather than what we still need to do. Another is to set realistic goals and work towards achieving them in the coming year.

If it was helpful, share this article!

About Us

Ray and Dan started Valley of the Mad as a brand focused on mental health. Our aim is to raise awareness of mental health, support those that may be finding it difficult and improve access to resources.

Recent Posts

Weekly Post

JOIN OUR MAILING LIST AND

Enjoy 10% Off

Your First Order

Please check your email (and SPAM folder) to confirm.