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Mental Health at Christmas

16 December 2021

As we draw to the end of the year, Christmas comes with many mixed feelings.

On the one hand, there are those popping up their trees in November, on the other? There are those who aren’t so enthusiastic. This is only natural. Christmas is a time that reinforces the idea of connection to others. For many, spending time with others isn’t possible.

In 2020, there were 7.9 million people living alone in the UK. (1) From this, it’s natural to assume that there are lots of people who will have a lonely Christmas. The end of the year is a time of reflection. People reminisce on times gone by, successes and failures.

December is often a month of remembering those who were loved and who have passed on. Grief can be especially harrowing. As well as loneliness, Christmas can exacerbate other unwelcome feelings.

There’s a huge amount of pressure on people to spend money on gifts, food, and in taking part in festive activities. Financial costs create serious worries for people throughout the country. 

Next comes a slight change in behaviour. People tend to eat more than usual, opt for foods which aren’t so healthy and also drink a lot of alcohol. (2)

Exercise might go out of the window. All these factors add up and can bring a serious decline in mental wellbeing.

How to look after your mental health this Christmas

There are many ways you can look after yourself this Christmas. It’s incredibly important to prioritise your mental health. When you do this, you’re also taking care of physical health. In fact, exercise improves mental health. (3)

Rather than slowing down to a stop on any usual exercise, it’s a good idea to keep some light activity in at the very least. This helps regulate mood through the release of dopamine. It also helps to balance any overeating or excess drinking that might occur.

Another way you can support your mental health is by planning ahead. This can be in relation to budgeting, but also in terms of planning when you go shopping.

Planning moments is also useful. If you know, for instance, that particular days or times are more difficult, then activities can be arranged to keep your mood lifted.

If loneliness is a reality, then finding out about local community events and groups can be really helpful.

These offer spaces to connect to others. It also redirects attention from your own feelings. Christmas is, after all, the season of goodwill and getting involved in charitable events can provide a positive experience which might last into the future.

Finally, it’s really important to remember some of the simple things. Mental health can be seriously affected by spending too much time on social media. Turn off your phone and tune into those people who are nearby whether it be family, friends, or neighbours.

Below, we visually present mental health at Christmas in this infographic shared by Rehab 4 Addiction: 

 Mental Health at Christmas infographic

References
[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/281616/people-living-alone-uk-by-gender/
[2] Discussed further in alcohol rehab in Birmingham article
[3] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.759987/full 

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