Christmas is nearly upon us. The city streets are filled with people, and market stalls offering mulled wine and candied nuts appear outside our offices. Gifts are given, champagne corks pop, and loved ones are once again around us. It’s a whirling cacophony of socialising, office parties, client dinners, and a whole host of events with friends and family.
Whilst this is an exciting time for many, the festive season poses significant challenges for some. A UK study from 2019 found that 25% of us experience mental health issues during the festive period. Specifically, two in five participants experienced greater stress levels, and one in four suffered from anxiety or depression.
Paradoxically we are faced with the pressure to enjoy ourselves from all avenues of life; the media, family, friends, and colleagues. However, the day to day stresses of our lives are still present, so we are forced to navigate these holidays with what can feel like insurmountable expectations.
Understandably this period sees a decline in our overall self-care and mood as we strive to keep our head above water. All areas of well-being can be affected as we overindulge in food and drink, exercise levels decline, and relationships become fractious due to a lack of ‘you time’.
At Revoke, we understand the difficulties that modern life presents, and our goal is to offer compassionate care to anyone struggling with mental health issues and addiction.
Our healthcare team have compiled their top four tips to help you navigate the Christmas period:
1. Plan Your Time
This tip is number one for a reason. We can easily become overwhelmed as our diaries fill up with events, meetings, errands, and gatherings, leading to anxiety and burnout.
Therefore, it is vital not to lose touch with your established well-being routines such as exercise, healthy eating, rest, and mood-boosting hobbies. These routines serve us well the rest of the year between our commute, employment responsibilities, family pressures, and free time. However, at Christmas, we can quickly lose sight of their importance, only realising the negative impact of their absence once they have fallen away.
We recommend that you form a daily or weekly plan to ensure that you keep up with your usual routines. Additionally, block out time in your calendar that is just for you. Be firm with your intentions, and do not succumb to the pressure of filling in these precious time slots to meet other people’s needs.
Be mindful about which events you accept and decline. Are they:
- Compulsory – i.e. a client event.
- Important – i.e. the office Christmas party, a catch up with close friends or a family dinner.
- Superfluous – i.e. casual drinks after work or lunch with an acquaintance.
By asking yourself which category an event falls into, you can better determine your course of action. Feelings of autonomy and independence are essential for our mental health. It is each of our responsibility to surround ourselves with people who motivate us and inspire positivity.
Once you have decided which events you will attend, the next step is to strategise your attendance. Strategic planning not only eases potential anticipatory stress but also enables you to enjoy the evening whilst remaining in control of your actions and reactions.
Some examples of strategic planning may include:
- Familiarising yourself with the event’s location, the venue, the attendees, and how you will travel there and back. This will ease anxiety and enable you to leave promptly if needed.
- Learning in advance if any aspects of the event will trigger you, then planning how to navigate them so you remain in control.
- Preparing mocktails using your favourite ingredients or asking the host or venue which alcohol-free options they can provide if you struggle with moderating alcohol consumption or are in recovery.
- Taking a sober friend with you to keep you on track if you know you are likely to be tempted by alcohol or recreational drugs. Additionally, you could also nominate yourself as the designated driver, so you have a great reason not to drink.
3. Set Boundaries
All of us experience triggers – those unhelpful, compulsive, and stubborn cravings that arise as a reaction to a situation – and they can be challenging to overcome. They can be certain substances, environments, people, and feelings.
Triggers can lead to us drinking too much alcohol, using recreational substances, and behaving in ways we ordinarily would not choose to or want to, especially in this social season.
By understanding our personal triggers, we can start to contain them by formulating healthy boundaries. Boundaries are vital tools when positively navigating triggers and cravings and act as a beneficially safe space between a trigger and our reaction. This space allows us to consciously respond instead of reacting instinctively or impulsively.
Boundaries at Christmas will likely include avoiding particular situations, specific people who negatively influence our choices, and certain activities and situations that encourage unhealthy behaviours or mental health deterioration.
This takes effort and mindfulness on your part, both of which can be challenging if you have not followed steps one and two and have not allowed space for reflection and insight.
4. Be Kind To Yourself
Finally, be kind to yourself. Self-care is not a weakness; it is a vital part of self-preservation and allows us to be independent, healthy, and happy.
In our fast-paced society, where we emphasise working long hours and being busy as signs of success, putting ourselves first can be a challenge. It is easy to draw comparisons or berate yourself for perceived failures or weaknesses.
Take a bit of time to investigate what in your life gives you pleasure. Is it walking in nature, a hot bath with a good book, or spending time with family? Allow yourself to indulge in these activities without the inner narrative of guilt and shame.
This season can be a challenge for everyone, regardless of their unique circumstances or position. So, put your needs first and do not compromise your health and well-being.
Navigating the indulgent Christmas period can be testing; however, with a bit of foresight, self-compassion, and understanding of your triggers, you can enjoy all of the positive aspects this holiday has to offer.
However, please do not suffer alone if you are experiencing stress or overwhelm around the Christmas period or need help with a mental health or addiction issue. Give us a call today to learn how The Revoke Programme can help you.