8 Ways to Protect Mental Well-being at Christmas

Whilst Christmas can be incredibly exciting. For some, it brings struggles with mental well-being, overwhelm and rising stress. Christmas can be magical, but for others, it can create sensory overload and be an overwhelming period of constant change, noises, colours and challenges to navigate. For adults, Christmas can feel like a great deal of pressure to contend with, alongside managing their own expectations, so how can we make it easier?

#1 – Do what YOUR family need

Whilst some families thrive from constant social engagements, elves all over the home and constant festive events. For others, this is overwhelming and can lead to challenging behaviour, heightened anxiety and difficult moments to manage. There can be a pressure to ‘keep up’ with other people’s social media posts and the guilt of ‘not being enough’ can quickly overwhelm parents.

This is YOUR Christmas, and it is imperative to do what YOU need to manage your own mental health. It is also a perfect demonstration of boundaries and self-care to our children to step out of the rat race and protect our well-being. You know your children’s needs best, so stand firm in your own boundaries and invest in the power of ‘no’ when it comes to causing yourself unnecessary stress. Instead, create your own traditions and celebrations which suit you as a family.

#2 – Break it down

Christmas can feel like we are constantly on the go, and by Christmas day we can feel exhausted and overwhelmed. Break the days down into busy times and down times. Children need time to process their days, and with the sensory nature of Christmas being overwhelming having quiet days built into your schedule allows them to regulate, process and feel able to enjoy their festive break. You may take this approach to presents, and have a few presents at a time, rather than all at once, or have a few gifts each day to allow children time to explore and play with their gifts without overwhelm.

#3 – Get outside

Whilst Christmas gifts are exciting, Christmas films are mesmerising and yule log is very tasty, getting outdoors each day to enjoy the fresh air is a perfect companion for our mental well-being. Other than the serotonin, endorphins and dopamine which lift our spirits when we get outside for a walk in the fresh air or to ride our bikes round the park, being outdoors grounds us, calms us and combats any stress or adrenaline from feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated.

#4 – What can we learn?

If you think back to past Christmas’ is there anything that you recall that went really well? or was a challenge? that you can learn from and utilise this year to create positives or remove triggers to behaviours/mood/attitudes. Recognising positive and negative patterns of behaviour can help us to break cycles and develop more constructive habits.

#5 – Simplify – reduce expectations

If we try to be everything and do everything for everyone, we often end up exhausted and sometimes a little bitter from overcommitting ourselves. Be considerate to your own needs and be honest if you cannot commit to all engagements this Christmas. When our diaries are over-scheduled we can quickly find our well-being spiralling, therefore selecting what we want to do carefully is a positive step to self-compassion. Much the same, too many gifts and too many things to eat/do can quickly lead to overstimulation – simplifying the day and taking moments to cherish what is happening, and modelling this to children supports a sense of gratitude.

#6 – Create a safe space

Christmas is not always a happy space for everyone. Being kind enough to yourself to recognise if you find Christmas challenging and creating safe spaces to retreat to for some calm is therefore an important step in managing your own well-being. In much the same light, for some children, Christmas is extremely challenging, and recognising that your child may find it difficult to regulate and need some quiet time and validating this is extremely important to their well-being. Whether it is quiet time with an audio book, a break for a story or curling up for a nap, take time to refresh and regulate.

#7 – Be realistic

Whilst we can want to create a Hallmark movie Christmas, there is one thing that they all have in common – they are in the movies. Christmas is a situation where you bring together a group of people with different needs, different experiences and different emotions and set an expectation that they will all be happy at the same time – if we are honest – that it nye impossible!

Be realistic, and set realistic expectations. The potatoes might be hard, the turkey might be burnt and the crackers might not go bang – so focus on being grateful for the things that we do have and being kind to yourself if things do not go to plan.

#8 – Be compassionate

For some, Christmas is a challenging time. Some are very lonely, others are overwhelmed by a sense of loss and a few may find that Christmas is associated with negative memories. If you have friends or family who struggle with this time of year, having compassion that they may not wish to celebrate and this is not a personal issue can create safe spaces for everyone. Further, you may wish to teach children to have compassion and consideration for those less fortunate, such as donating a gift to a local collection, volunteering for Christmas charity events or supporting a local organisation such as animal shelters, homeless charities or food drives to allow them to understand the fortune that we all have. At times, this can be a welcomed reminder for us, allowing us to take the pressure of expectations off of our own shoulders and remembering that simple is completely acceptable.

© Dandelion Training and Development – All Rights Reserved

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Further help 

For more articles about mental health visit – HERE 

To learn more about child mental health visit – HERE

For resources to support child mental health visit – HERE

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