Feel Good Focus: 10 ways to look after your wellbeing during the Christmas holidays.
by Amber Cowburn
The holidays can be a really overwhelming time, and despite the endless glitzy adverts showing everybody enjoying the festive season, this often isn't the case for many of us. While it can be a great occasion for joy and spending time with loved ones, it can also be stressful, emotional and lonely.
But with some self-care, forward planning, and these handy tips, we can all focus on looking after our own wellbeing during the holidays. The holidays can be a great time to rest, recuperate, and revitalise ready for the New Year.
Read on for the UWE Bristol Feel Good guide to looking after your own wellbeing during the holidays…
1. Prioritise your rest
When planning your diary, try not to overstretch yourself with too many activities, events and tasks. It is important to have some good night's sleep, some lazy afternoons, and a chance to really re-group after what may have been a very busy and challenging term.
2. Reach out and connect
The holidays are an important time to feel connected and supported. Reach out to old friends to meet for a catch up, make simple plans with family members, or join in with community initiatives. Community groups, churches, volunteering projects are all open over the festive period with lots you can get involved in. If you are alone over the festive period, then check out the Campaign to End Loneliness (external link).
3. Give back and care for others
December isn't just a month for giving presents… we can also give our time, give back to the community, and do kind deeds for others! Over the holidays, it is easy to forget about altruism – we tell ourselves we don't have time for volunteering, or adding extra work to our load. However, altruism is an important part of our wellbeing as it helps us to look outwards and think of others, and it has personal benefits too: it can improve our sense of belonging, reduce stress, and increase positivity and a sense of hope.
Here are some great causes that you might like to get involved with:
The Jo Cox Loneliness Project has a list of national volunteering initiatives to help combat loneliness and isolation, which peak in the winter.
You can sign up to be a befriender, or a telephone befriender, for Age UK, and be a much needed source of human contact for an isolated elderly person.
'Caring at Christmas' is a local initiative run by Caring in Bristol. Over 800 volunteers help to run the Christmas Shelter providing safe overnight accommodation, food, company and clothing for people in need over the festive period. You can volunteer to join this wonderful effort here.
Every year, staff also kindly donate items to support the Caring at Christmas shelter. Find out more about the Caring at Christmas donation drive at UWE Bristol.
4. Do a random act of kindness
If you feel a bit daunted by the idea of volunteering, then why not start by doing a few random acts of kindness over the holidays? Some easy ideas include:
Give up your seat on public transport for somebody who may need it more.
Give way to another driver who is waiting to join your lane.
Drop in on an elderly relative or neighbour – at this time of year, people can feel especially isolated.
Buy a hot drink or a hot food item for a homeless person, make eye contact, and have a conversation.
Smile at a stranger, or offer to help if they are struggling.
Surprise a friend with a kind text, a small treat, or even just pop in to say hello unexpectedly.
5. Talk about your feelings
It can seem difficult to admit that you're not feeling great, when you feel like everybody else is enjoying such the festive time of year. But talking about your feelings can be really therapeutic, and help you to manage them. And you might also realise that your friends and family members have experienced similar feelings. Sometimes keeping a journal, or writing things down, can help if you are feeling anxious. Try and make time to speak to somebody you trust about how you are feeling – it can just be an informal conversation over a coffee. And do also remember there is always help available if you want to speak to somebody about your mental health.
6. Take it day by day
Sometimes we can get overwhelmed with everything that is coming up, financial stress or panicking about upcoming events, and the contrast of the manic build-up to Christmas and the slump afterwards. Take each day as it comes, and remind yourself to do one small thing for yourself every day like lighting your favourite candle, listening to your favourite song (festive or not!), or going out for a short walk.
7. Watch your alcohol intake
By all means, raise a glass to the festive season, if you want to. But do be wary of increased alcohol consumption as it can affect your sleep, your mood, and your body. Sometimes people drink alcohol to deal with low mood or feeling lonely, but the effect is only temporary, and can actually make things worse in the long run. Be aware of your own drinking habits, and your alcohol intake, over the festive period.
8. Keep active
Light exercise is a brilliant tool for lifting your mood, taking your mind off any festive stress, and it's free! It's also a good counterbalance if you are enjoying some festive food over the holidays… It doesn't mean hours in the gym, but a bracing winter walk, a short body-weight workout at home, or even a fun activity like ice skating, can get those endorphins pumping!
9. Enjoy the small things and practice mindfulness
Focusing on what you're grateful for, and the small things that can brighten up your day, can help refocus your mind to think positively, and take your mind off stress. You could perhaps think of 3 things you are grateful for every day, take 10 minutes to practice a short meditation on the free Headspace app, or take the time to do something small for your own wellbeing every day. Activities like making a festive craft, watching an old favourite movie, or taking a relaxing bath, are all great ways to self-care that can all contribute to you feeling good over the festive period. Mindfulness is a great way to unwind and clear the mind, check out www.bemindful.co.uk, the Headspace app, or the Calm app.
10. Remember there are always people there to help you…
If you are struggling and you feel like you can't cope, then it is important to speak to somebody.
You can contact Kooth student via online chat, or they can give you a call. They are fully qualified counsellors and it is a free, safe, and anonymous service for young people. Visit student.kooth.com for more information
You can also contact The Mix Crisis Messenger service for free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, and are experiencing any painful emotion or are in crisis, you can text THEMIX to 85258.
Alternatively, the Samaritans are available year round, and their free helpline number is 116 123. They are a confidential and non-judgemental service, and their number won't appear on your phone bill.
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