Throughout the festive season, we are frequently reminded that it should be a joyful time spent with family and friends. However, for some people Christmas and New Year can be a stressful time of year. For some, buying gifts and socialising can feel like a lot to cope with and that may impact an existing mental health condition.
In this blog, we look at how the festive season can have an impact on your mental health and suggest ways that might help to get you through the season and manage your wellbeing.
Relationships and mental wellbeing at Christmas and New Year's
Christmas can be a time of happiness and joy, but it can also bring about difficult issues such as family conflicts, arguments, stress and loneliness. There's no doubt about it, Christmas can be highly stressful and feel like an endless list of tasks. From buying gifts, decorating your home, attending parties, cooking and entertaining the kids, if you add arguments or disagreements on top of that it can be exhausting.
If you're dealing with a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety, it's important to take care of yourself over the Christmas period and focus on the things you can do to make yourself feel better. Trying to please everyone can make you feel worse, so if you're feeling overwhelmed, try to talk to someone about it and spread out the plans in your diary.
How to manage relationship conflicts during the holidays
Often, the best way to manage relationships with family and friends over the holidays is to resolve your conflicts. It might be difficult but, if you are able to talk things through, it could relieve any feelings of stress you might be experiencing.
Not everyone has a good relationship with their family. For many people visiting relatives can be a stressful and painful experience and the possibility of resolving conflicts is unlikely. Try not to put pressure on yourself to fix things. Where possible, focus on the things which make the experience easier for you, such as managing the length of time you spend in situations that are hard for you and planning something you enjoy or find relaxing for when it's finished.
What can I do to take care of my mental health at Christmas?
There are several ways you can look after your mental health during the festive season, such as:
Take time for yourself
Christmas is supposed to be an enjoyable time and a break from the routine of everyday life. Make sure you take time for yourself to relax and do the things you enjoy. This might be a winter stroll or enjoying some quiet time with a book, or even taking ten minutes to sit quietly in another room. Where you can, prioritise taking time for yourself.
Drink in moderation
The festive season is often filled with lots of events and parties that generally involve alcohol. Often there is a lot of pressure to ‘have a drink’ and join in. However, drinking large amounts of alcohol can lower your mood, so try to drink in moderation and if you don’t want to drink, it’s okay to say so.
Share the load
If you feel like you’re taking responsibility for everything from organising Christmas dinner to keeping the kids entertained, ask a friend or loved one if they can help share the load. Try to delegate tasks to avoid spreading yourself too thin. What could seem overwhelming, once shared, could become more manageable.
Talk to someone
If you're feeling overwhelmed or under pressure, try confiding in someone you trust. It could make all the difference and help reduce any negative feelings you might be experiencing.
It's completely natural to feel like you might need specialist help if Christmas feels all too much. Professional support can help to improve your health and wellbeing to allow you to enjoy the festive period as much as you possibly can. Our Listening and Counselling Service provides a confidential, emotional support service to those in the RAF Family, who may be affected by various mental wellbeing difficulties. We also offer specialist relationship support to couples and families in partnership with Relate.
What if I am away from my family during the festive season?
Many serving members of the RAF are deployed throughout the festive season, meaning they’re away from their families and friends. If you are currently serving and feel you need support, you can apply for help to get you through tough times. Being away for your family is difficult at the best of times, but this can be even harder when you are missing big family occasions. Don’t be afraid to reach out and seek help.
What if I am travelling during the festive season?
Many of us live or work away from our families and need to travel back to see them over the festive period. This is especially true for some RAF personnel including those who have been on deployment. Travelling can be stressful at the best of times, so it's understandable if it might feel overwhelming at what is the busiest time of the year. From delays in airports to crowded trains, if you feel anxious when travelling try to follow our travel tips:
Allocate enough time for travel
There's nothing worse than rushing around, so ensure you are where you need to be on time and expect the unexpected. Research timetables and check regularly for travel updates to ensure a smoother journey.
Arm yourself with entertainment to take your mind off your surroundings. Take a book, listen to music, or download a film onto your phone or tablet. This will not only help pass the time, but it could relax you during your journey.
Take food and drink
Pack water and plenty of snacks to ensure you’re not feeling hungry whilst travelling. If you become dehydrated or hungry when you are travelling to your destination, it could make you feel worse and add to any anxiety you might already be feeling.
Who can I talk to?
The RAF Benevolent Fund offers a range of wellbeing services to support serving members of the RAF, veterans and their partners. If you feel overwhelmed and are struggling to cope during the festive season, it's important to reach out and speak to someone. Here are some contacts you could consider:
Relationship support in the UK.
Support for anxiety, stress and depression.
More than 3000 RAF personnel have signed up to use the mindfulness app, Headspace. If you are currently a serving member and would like to request a Headspace membership, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you would like to find out more about the support we can offer to you and your family, get in touch today. Our Listening and Counselling team will be more than happy to help.