A Christmas Message
December 11th 2017
Once again Christmas is almost upon us. This can be a magical and cherished time. However, for many of us, Christmas represents a mix of emotions, memories, feelings and experiences, some of which are welcome, while others – not so much.
At this time of year we would like to acknowledge these varied experiences and share some tips for maintaining positive mental health during the Christmas break using Jigsaw’s 5 a day.
All I want for Christmas…
Sometimes it can seem like Christmas is all about money, and the financial strain of the festive period is all too real. It is clear that Christmas has become the biggest annual commercial event in the world, and this time of year can feel worrying for those with less money. As advertising urges us to purchase expensive gifts and attend glittering social events, financial pressures can give rise to stress, anxiety and low self-esteem.
It can be hard to look past all of the bells, bows and shiny wrapping paper of the commercially packaged festive season and focus on what is really important. Here are some helpful tips to get you started:
- What are your realistic limits when it comes to buying gifts and attending social events? Manage expectations by letting others know where your boundaries are.
- Instead of expensive presents, consider giving a gift of your time and your company to others. Agree to meet up for coffee and a catch up rather than exchanging presents. You may be surprised by how much those close to you will appreciate this genuine gesture.
- Switch your focus from what you can get, to what you can give. Do something nice for a stranger, thank someone… Smile! Check out our 5 a day for more ways to give.
Driving home for Christmas?
A big part of the Christmas message has traditionally been about coming together with those we love. Nowadays, we are bombarded by images of “happy” families celebrating under a perfect Christmas tree. For various reasons, this picture perfect scene is often far from the reality.
Perhaps the people close to you do not resemble a traditional family. Perhaps, you are missing a loved one who you may have lost through bereavement or a relationship breakup, and you may be wishing for the Christmas period to pass by quickly. Perhaps you feel pressured to spend time with people you don’t really want to be around. Family gatherings can be fun and enjoyable, but can also be tense, hectic and stressful.
Here are some ways to seek a more meaningful sense of connection during the festive season:
- Take some time to regularly check in with yourself and your feelings. Try to be kind to yourself, taking your own time and space when needed.
- Try to be mindful of those around you who have lost someone. Acknowledge that Christmas may be difficult for them and offer your support.
- Challenge the picture perfect representations of Christmas in the media by finding your own sense of belonging which feels meaningful to you.
- Connect with others in your own unique way – talk, laugh, sing, dance. See our 5 a day for more ways to connect.
‘Tis the season...
As Christmas falls close to the Winter Solstice, it marks the darkest time of the year and the lack of natural light can impact our mood. For some, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can trigger cycles of fatigue, poor motivation and depression during winter months.
The dark, dreary weather also makes it more difficult to get out and about and staying active can be more of a challenge at this time of year. This physical tiredness we often feel in the run up to Christmas then collides with a hectic schedule, a disturbed sleep pattern, a loss of routine and an increased intake of rich, sugary foods and alcohol. While it is important to enjoy the break and treat ourselves, being aware of what our bodies need can help to maintain a balance:
- Get out of the house at least once a day. Try to take a walk during daylight hours, this will help to regulate your body clock by getting enough natural light.
- Boost your mood with short periods of cardio exercise, a 30 min jog or cycle can help produce important feel good chemicals. See our 5 a day for more ways to be active.
- Strive for balance – if you have over indulged the night or day before, try to reduce your alcohol or sugar intake the next day to give your body time to recover.
Many of the difficulties of the festive season can be summed up into one word: expectations. Not only do we accept the expectations of others, but we often put even greater expectations on ourselves. Lots of self-reflection can lead to comparison, self-criticism, regret and blame.
Try to be aware of any expectations you have for yourself – how to feel, how to look, how to interact - do these reflect what is really important to you? Focus on what you truly value and rid yourself of these unhelpful standards, this allows you to take each moment as it comes and enjoy the time off:
- Try to be grateful for what is present in your life, rather than focusing on what is not present.
- Limit your exposure to media representations of Christmas which give rise to misguided expectations of yourself and others.
- Remember - “You were born to be real, not to be perfect”
We at Jigsaw would like to extend our thoughts and best wishes to all young people this Christmas season, and encourage you all to be mindful of and to reach out to those who find this time of year difficult. If you are struggling at this time, we encourage you to talk to those close to you, and seek professional help if problems persist or are severe. Most of all, we wish you all an enjoyable and restful break.