Let’s address the elephant in the room… Christmas looks a lot different this year than it has in previous years. The holidays are not immune to Covid-19, and the fact that we may not be able to celebrate Christmas like we always do can feel like a very difficult, and in some cases devastating, pill to swallow.
Many of us are hurting and grieving over the loss of a family member or friend who won’t be sitting around our Christmas dinner table this year. Others may still be struggling to cope with the fear, anxiety, and stress related to the challenges of Covid-19. And some of us may even be finding ourselves spending the Christmas holidays alone due to the inability to travel or mix with our loved ones.
At a time where we are all looking for some sort of light at the end of this long, dark tunnel of 2020, it can be easy to let feelings of hopelessness take over our minds.
However, even though it may feel like life is spinning out of control right now, I want to say one thing to you: Christmas is NOT ruined. It might look and feel different, but it is certainly not ruined.
To help you navigate this unique period of time, here are 10 practical tips for managing your mental health during the 2020 holiday season.
10 Mental Health Tips for the Holidays in 2020
Accept that Christmas might feel different this year.
It can be easy to feel like we need to ‘make up’ for all the bad things that have happened this past year and pretend like everything is ‘back to normal’ for the sake of the holidays.
And while this sounds like a good idea, it is actually impossible to do. We are all very different people than we were last Christmas, and we are all still going through an extremely traumatic global event. Not to mention, current Covid restrictions make it nearly impossible to ignore the pandemic and enjoy the things we typically like to do around the holidays.
That’s why one of the healthiest things we can do for ourselves during this time is to simply acknowledge that Christmas will be different this year. That doesn’t mean it will be bad. It just means that we may celebrate it a bit differently – and it is so important that we are able to live in reality and accept this.
Focus on this present moment in time.
Being mindful of the present moment is one of the most powerful ways that we can reduce feelings of anxiety and improve our mood. Even in a normal year, the holidays can sometimes stir up weird emotions or feelings, and this year may be especially difficult.
I encourage you this holiday season to try and stay in the present moment by focusing your attention on:
- Who you are
- What you have going on in your life, and
- The supportive people you have around you.
It is okay to feel a bit nostalgic about the past or wary about the future. It’s even normal to compare where you are in your life to the lives of others. However, we can’t let these thoughts take over. If you do find yourself obsessively ruminating, try to reign yourself back in by taking a mental inventory of all of the amazing things that you have at this moment in time.
If you are struggling to stay in the present moment due to social media addiction, catch our recent article on how to be mentally well online.
Take control of the fundamental elements of your mental health.
At The Lily-Jo Project, we are passionate about getting the basics right when it comes to maintaining good mental health. This boils down to three elements:
- Maintaining a regular sleep schedule (the NHS recommends getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night)
- Staying hydrated (the NHS recommends getting 6 to 8 cups of water each day).
- Healthy diet and exercise (the NHS recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week)
Each of these elements can have a massive impact on the key hormones and chemicals that influence our mental health. When we are well-rested, regularly exercising, and nourishing our body with healthy foods and a lot of water, we are in a much better place mentally to handle life’s challenges and stressors – especially the ones that seem to pop up around the holidays.
For tips on maintaining good sleep hygiene, catch our article on the do’s and don’ts of sleep hygiene.
For inspiration on how to get moving to improve your mental health, check out our recent article all about exercising for mental wellness here.
Find the courage to scale back on your Christmas commitments.
Christmas is a time where we can easily feel a certain level of ‘pressure’ from those around us. Whether that’s pressure to give a certain number of gifts, the pressure to bake your family’s favourite Christmas treats, or even the pressure to be present at certain events. However, for whatever reason, we may not be able to fulfil all of our regular holiday commitments this year – and that’s okay!
Maybe you’re uncomfortable with gatherings outside of your immediate household. Maybe you don’t quite have the budget to send gifts to extended family. Or maybe you just want to scale back on your Christmas commitments in general.
No matter what your reasoning is, know that it’s totally okay to skip out on certain events or reduce your Christmas spending this year. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate Christmas, and it’s okay if you need to set some boundaries this year – even if it may come as a disappointment to others.
Say ‘no’ to negative thoughts
Sometimes setting boundaries isn’t enough. We set a boundary such as “I will call instead of visiting extended family this year on Christmas in order to keep my household safe”. And even though we are happy with that boundary, we continue to stress and worry ourselves silly over what we’re not doing rather than what we are doing.
We are way too hard on ourselves, and these self-critical, negative thoughts have got to go. It’s not healthy, and it is counterproductive to this holiday season that should be a period of healing, rather than a period of stress.
Do something kind for someone else.
Did you know that doing something kind for someone else can actually boost our own mood and feelings of self-esteem? This Christmas, try to go out of your way to do something unexpectedly kind for a person in your life.
Does your neighbour live alone? Drop off a hand-written Christmas card in their mailbox. Is a local nonprofit looking for help? Donate an hour of your time or send them a monetary donation. Even small gestures can make a massive difference in your life and in the lives of those around you – especially right now where everything may seem terrible.
If you’d like to make a donation to The Lily-Jo Project so that we can continue writing blogs like this one, you can do so via our PayPal account here
Carve out time to do something that you love to do.
Sometimes we are so focused on making sure that our parents, kids, friends, and other family members have a great Christmas that we forget to look after ourselves! And there is no better time than the holidays to take advantage of the extra downtime you may have to prioritise and reconnect with the things that you enjoy doing.
If things have been so hectic in your life lately that you’ve lost touch with your hobbies, why not take a moment to make a list and remind yourself of your favorite activities. Here’s a few to get started: hiking/walking, taking a bubble bath, coloring, journaling, knitting, gardening, painting, or playing an instrument.
Never feel guilty about spending some alone time to enjoy yourself. Self-care is crucial for our mental health – it helps us be the best person we can be for others.
Reflect and forgive
It sounds cliché, but the holidays are the perfect time to do some serious reflection and reconcile any bad feelings we may have with ourselves or with others. 2020 has been an extremely difficult year, and our gut instinct might tell us to put it behind us and never look back!
However, we are doing our minds a disservice if we do not allow ourselves the opportunity to mentally process what we’ve experienced in 2020. And even though it might be tempting to focus on all of the horrible things that have taken place this year, I can guarantee you that through it all you have grown. You have made progress in your life, and you have made accomplishments worth celebrating.
For me personally, being in lockdown with my partner helped us grow even closer together. I also managed to save some money due to not being able to go out or go on holiday, and I managed to carve out additional time for more healthy cooking and meal prep. Without reflecting on where I am now versus where I was last year, I might not be able to see all of these strides that I have made in my life this year.
Commemorate this year with something special.
We have all been through a lot this year. We are mourning, grieving, and still struggling to cope with new challenges that we are faced with daily. In cases like this, rituals can be a very powerful tool for helping us recover from loss and move past these traumatic times.
This Christmas, why not create a Christmas tree ornament with your family to commemorate the lives lost to Covid-19? You can hang it on your tree each year, and each Christmas when you put it up, you can reminisce on the sacrifices your family made to reduce the spread of the virus. Other healing rituals that you may find helpful include planting a tree, framing a photo, or preparing a special meal. Only you will know the best way to go about this for your family, but the important thing to remember is to make it special and focus on healing.
Reach out for help when you need it.
Reaching out for help is not easy. Nobody wants to feel vulnerable, and nobody likes to admit that they are struggling. However, asking for help when you need it is actually one of the bravest things that you can do for yourself.
I have always loved the quote, “A problem shared is a problem halved” – and I think it is so important for us to always remember that we are not alone, and that there are people and organizations out there who are ready to help us when we need it.
If you have struggled with your mental health due to the trauma of 2020 and you’re looking for resources to get started, you may find the below links to be helpful (I know I do!).
For advice on how to open up to others, catch our article on tricky conversations and opening up here.
For an extensive library of self-help resources, visit www.thelilyjoproject.com/#help.
To speak with someone immediately, you can call or chat with someone at Samaritans or text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258.
About the Author: Shelby Hale
Shelby has been with The Lily-Jo Project since October of 2018, serving as the platform’s PR and Communications Manager. Having lived in four different countries throughout her young adulthood, Shelby is passionate about the positive impact new experiences can have on mental health.
When she’s not working with The Lily-Jo Project, she supports other projects through her creative agency, Hale Marketing and Communications. If you’d like to stay updated with Shelby’s story, you can find her on Instagram and Twitter.