7 Ways to Be Gentle with Yourself This Christmas Season: A Guide to Protecting Your Mental Health

7 Ways to Be Gentle with Yourself This Christmas Season: A Guide to Protecting Your Mental Health

The Christmas season, and the lead up to it, while filled with fun, excitement, and joy, can be stressful. The pressure to create the perfect celebration, the cascade of social engagements, shopping for presents, and the expectations of fulfilling traditions can become overwhelming. As Christmastime approaches, it’s crucial, and for some can be critical, to prioritise your mental health. The EPiC HOPE team have put together seven ways to be gentle with yourself and protect your mental health.

1. Set Realistic Expectations

One of the most common causes of stress during this season is the pressure to have a ‘perfect’ Christmas. The mainstream media and social media often portray an image of what the ‘perfect’ Christmas is. A beautifully decorated home, lavish meals, and harmonious family gatherings. And to be honest, these are pretty rare! These images can be really detrimental to our mental health when we strive to replicate them. The reality is that each person’s celebration is unique and special in its own way, and it’s OK if yours doesn’t look like a scene from a Christmas film. This year, try to let go of the idea of ‘perfect’ and instead focus on what makes you and your loved ones genuinely happy.

Action Step: Write down what you envision for your Christmas, keeping it realistic and focused on what truly matters to you.

2. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment, taking in your surroundings without judgment. This can be particularly useful during the run up to Christmas, allowing you to fully enjoy each moment without worrying about the immediate future, or dwelling on the past, observing and accepting your feelings and thoughts. During this time, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of activities and forget to enjoy the moments themselves. Mindfulness can help us to truly appreciate the holiday spirit.

Action Step: Try a simple mindfulness practice such as mindful eating of a Christmas treat, savouring each bite, or mindful decoration, fully immersing yourself in the experience of making crafts or preparing homemade Christmas gifts.

3. Make Time for Self-Care

While it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle, remember to take time for yourself, time for self-care. This will help you recharge and face the next few weeks with more energy and positivity. The time of year often becomes about caring for others, leaving little time for ourselves. But self-care is very important for our mental health. Schedule some ‘me time’ where you indulge in activities you enjoy. It could be reading a book, taking a warm bath with your favourite bath bomb, or simply sitting in silence enjoying your Christmas tree and the glittering lights.

Action Step: Allocate at least 15 minutes each day (or more if you can manage it) for self-care and stick to it as you would any other important appointment.

4. Stay Active

Physical activity is a proven stressbuster and mood-enhancer! Make it a point to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. It could be a brisk walk around your neighbourhood taking in all the Christmas decorations, a stretching session, or chair exercises, or even dancing to your favourite Christmas tunes. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout session.

Action Step: Set a simple exercise goal for each day, such as that 15-minute walk or a quick dance-off to a Christmas jingle!

5. Maintain a Balanced Diet

This time of year is often associated with indulgence. While it’s absolutely OK to enjoy the Christmas treats, remember to maintain a balanced diet. Eating healthily can significantly influence your mood and energy levels.

Action Step: Make sure each meal has a good balance of proteins, carbs, and healthy fats. And remember, it’s OK to enjoy that piece of Christmas cake or a glass of Prosecco. Just balance it out with healthier choices through the day.

6. Stay Connected

Connection is at the heart of this time of year. Yet we know for some it can feel like the loneliest time. Reach out to loved ones, make time for some meaningful conversations, and create memories together. And if you’re unable to practice some traditions you’ve usually done in the past, maybe create some new traditions. Keep up with the old ones if you want to, and if you’re able to. In case physical distance is a factor, technology can be a great friend. If you are alone, reach out to local organisations and find out about groups you can join, whether in person or online.

Action Step: Schedule video calls with distant family members or friends, or consider hosting a virtual get together, whether with friends or others who may be spending Christmas alone.

7. Seek Support If Needed

Lastly, it’s vital to remember that it’s OK to ask for help. If these weeks leading up to Christmas become overwhelming, reach out to a trusted friend, family member, one of our EPiC HOPE Harbours, or a mental health professional. You’re not alone in this, and there are resources available to help you navigate through it.

Action Step: Download the helplines list from our Resources page and keep it handy.

Remember, Christmas is not about perfection, but about love, joy, hope, and connection. Being gentle with yourself is the best gift you can give yourself this season because you matter! As Ellie Palma-Cass, our founder, often says, “All our stories are different, but one thing is the same. WE MATTER.”

So, this Christmas season, let’s prioritise our mental health, be kind to ourselves, and truly enjoy it, remembering that there is always hope.

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