Coping Through Crimbo : Looking after your mental health in the holidays

Holiday periods can be the most stressful time of the year for many of us. It is when we spend more time with out family than throughout the year. This in itself can prove more stressful than our daily working routine!

The phrase used in relation to Christmas is often ‘peace and goodwill to all men’. This should be a time when we are able to relax and be with family and friends but we need to sometimes be selective so that we don’t find our mental health compromised by feelings of anxiety and apprehension.

Surround yourself with people who make you feel good, who appreciate you and accept you as you are, warts and all! We often adopt a different persona to suit who we are going to be spending time with adapting ourselves to meet their expectations – putting on a mask. This may be a necessity in business but shouldn’t impact on our personal life. Be yourself, anyone who can’t accept that is someone to avoid.

Christmas can be particularly fraught with trying to find gifts for people, often at the last minute. Should it really be about stocking up with food as if there was rationing about to take place! Should it be about spending as much as you can on presents for people who really have everything already or the capacity to buy these?

Years ago children were content with an orange and a few nuts or a small toy – obviously we don’t want to go back to those times, but for many children even today that would be an amazing thing.

Instead of rushing around why not make time for yourself; ignore those emails which may still keep pouring into your phone, iPad and other devices.  Switch your work devices off – wow – can you actually do that or will that cause you to feel stressed?

Why not start the day with a short Mindfulness exercise or sit quietly listening to some soothing music or something that makes you feel good.  ‘Eat, drink and be merry’ but not to excess as this can have a big impact on how we feel both physically and mentally. Late nights may be the norm over the festive period but make sure you are able to catch a few ZZZs at some point in order to re-charge your batteries. A walk on Boxing Day can often help to refresh you, weather permitting of course.

Having planned your Christmas Day and Boxing Day be prepared for the unexpected.  This could be in the form of guests arriving that you were not expecting or some not arriving at all!  There can be situations where the turkey or whatever meal you are having doesn’t exactly go to plan so what it is not the end of the world.

The most important thing is to spend some quality time with your loved ones.

Have a wonderful time, make sure you return to work fully refreshed.

Sandra Vaughan is the Chief Executive of Dudley MIND, KMB’s Charity of the Year, which offers support services to people dealing with and affected by mental health issues. For more information about their services please call 01384 442938 or visit