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Our 8 ultimate tips for Christmas wellbeing

Christmas on TV always looks warm and happy with living rooms stuffed full with smiling families, but the reality for most people feels very different.

For many people Christmas can feel lonely, alienating and stressful, and the dark days and financial pressures fill many of us with dread and panic, rather than festive cheer.

Here’s our 8 ultimate tips for making this Christmas a healthy and happier one:

1. Try and stay in the present. Anticipating family tensions and difficulties before they even arise can create huge a huge amount of stress before Christmas has even started. Try seeing and reacting to your family as they are in front of you right now, not how you’re expecting them to be from previous years.

2. Don’t forget your routine. What do you usually do to help you relax? A Christmas break doesn’t mean that normal life has to go completely out the window, so set an alert on your phone to remind you of the things you usually find healing, whether it’s a good book, an early night, sticking the radio on in the morning or a cuddle with your dog.

3. Do something different. If Christmas always brings painful memories, feelings of guilt or loneliness, try breaking the mould. It could be dinner-out, a tripaway or a film-night to help you build a new kind of Christmas.

4. Practice gratitude. Reflect on and appreciate what’s important to you by listing 3 things every day that you’re grateful for. It could be a relaxing bath, a text from a friend or a delicious dessert. Emma says Some of these tiny joys are so insignificant that they would be forgotten if I didn’t deliberately contemplate them, and I know that writing is good for me. The mechanical activity of putting one word in front of another keeps my thoughts away from the bad neighbourhoods of my mind”

5. Don’t go through it alone. For most people Christmas isn’t a whirlwind of parties, and for many it’s the most lonely time of the year. Our Friends in Need community can help if you’re looking to make friends in your local area, or just to talk. Phil says I’ve found that the people on Friends in Need are my real friends, as they are all so considerate and willing to listen - some of the nicest people I know.”

6. Have an escape plan. If it all gets too much, try taking the dog out for a walk or leave the room for 5 mindful minutes to breathe and to notice how you’re feeling. It can help you to stay calm and to manage emotions before they become overwhelming.

7. Look after your body. You don’t have to be a saint, but keep an eye on your caffeine, alcohol and sugar consumption and try noticing how they affect your mood. Owen Raybould from The Health Academy says, “As mammals we are designed to reduce our overall activity levels during winter, but walking during daylight hours will raise your metabolism, improve your circulation and boost your mood.”

8. Forget perfection. Decide what matters most to you at Christmas and concentrate on that. It might be quality time with a loved one or a break from work, rather than the perfect turkey or expensive gifts. Emma says “Having recently separated from my husband, this year there’s no better gift to than having my parents by my side.”

Photo: Markus Spiske

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