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Self-Care at Christmas

Christmas can be an especially difficult time for those of us struggling with our mental health. Not only does it feel isolating and heart-breaking to be feeling low at the time of year meant for joy and togetherness, the pressure of always having to seem happy can make our mental and emotional state even worse. One problem with this is that it makes us less likely to ask for help and support off our loved ones. It also makes us more likely to let any self-care that we usually try to uphold slide, making it easy to end up in a swift downward spiral.

So I thought I’d talk a little about some simple self-care for all year round, not to be forgotten over the holidays. (Disclaimer: before you read on expecting this to be all about spa days and treating yourself, I’ll just point out now that most self-care is a little more basic and boring than that.)

 

Support

Making sure you have a strong support system around you is vital at this time of year if you feel like you might be struggling with your mental health. Even if you’ve never spoken to anyone about how you feel before, having an open and honest conversation with someone close to you about your feelings and creating a support network for emergencies is incredibly important, Remember, your closest friends and family love you, and Christmas can be the perfect time to connect to some of those that care the most.

If you really aren’t sure if you have anyone you feel comfortable talking to, there are so many other forms of support that you can find, but having one of your nearest and dearest on board to help you take that step is a good start.

 

Hygiene  

One of the less scary, but sometimes just as difficult, forms of vital self-care is personal hygiene. Over the holidays, you might sometimes just want to hibernate at home while you try to avoid all of the parties and socialising. This is okay, give yourself a break. But trying to keep yourself and your surroundings clean and tidy regardless of your plans will make a huge difference. It always does in my life. This can be done in even the smallest of steps.

Brush your teeth. Change your bedsheets. Change your clothes even if you’re not going anywhere. Start a skincare routine. Clean and paint your nails. Spend 5 minutes tidying your room. Do some laundry. Wash some dishes. Even if you can only manage one of these on your worst days, it’s a step towards loving and taking care of yourself. (But the more you can do – the better!)

 

Exercise

So here it is, the one part of self-care we all know is important but is one of the hardest to stick at if even getting out of bed or leaving the house feels impossible. Yes, regular aerobic exercise is extremely important, and if you ever feel up to it, local fitness classes and the gym can be brilliant, but I’ll talk about that in detail another time. For now, I want to mention a couple of simple things that can help pull us out of our worst days.

Stretching. No, it doesn’t have to be a full blown yoga practice. Just a few simple stretches can help to feel a little more energised and ready to face the day. (One of my favourites is simply lying with my legs stretched up against the wall. Super relaxing and energising!) And walking! Even just leaving the house for a quick 20-minute stroll is a good start. Plus, fresh air is always helpful.

 

Organisation

Another more tedious and boring aspects of looking after yourself, I know. But one of the biggest parts of my self-care comes down to organising my time. Planning when I will sit down and work, when I will take time to relax and treat myself and when I will make time for all of the other things that need doing in my life, helps me to feel less overwhelmed when it comes to actually doing them. Buy a weekly planner (this is my absolute favourite), organise your finances, reply to some messages and emails you’ve been putting off. As boring and simple as it sounds, I promise you’ll feel better for it. (Even if you can’t keep it up every week!)

 

Self-care is about taking care of yourself by creating a happy and healthy life, which sometimes involves a lot of tedious tasks. Having said that, self-care does still involve treating yourself. So yes, bubble baths, the odd take-out, face masks, chocolate- whatever makes you feel comforted should have a part in your life. Love yourself and know when you deserve a break, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking you will help yourself cope with your mental health difficulties if this is the only form of self-care you know. It won’t work. It can be so easy to let this all the little things slide at this time of year, but if we manage to keep as many of these daily tasks up over the holidays as we can, we can all hope to have a slightly happier start to the new year.

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