The holidays can be great – parties, families and friends, food, and festive cheer. However (as I touched on in my last post), they can also be difficult and stressful, particularly if you have a mental health problem. Looking after yourself is so important.
Established self care routines go out of the window at this time of year, and students returning from university can struggle without their usual support system. Self care differs on holiday as we’re around different people and may not have the resources we rely on. It’s important to think ahead, even if you’re only visiting your family for a week or so. Below are some surprisingly simple self care ideas that you can put into practice wherever you are this Christmas.
#1 Stay active! for a walk or a run. If you’re away from home, you won’t be able to go to your gym or weekly Zumba class (if that’s your jam). It’s a good idea to integrate some kind of physical activity into your day, even if it’s just a walk, run or bike ride, as the endorphins and fresh air are great for your mood. You also get the opportunity to explore your new surroundings!
#2 Relax! Chill out with a leisurely bath, a good book, or your favourite Christmas film. Whatever works for you, taking time for yourself will do wonders for your mental wellbeing.
#3 Headphones are your friend. Zoning out and listening to something will make stressful situations such as a long journey much easier to handle. Try playing your favourite tunes – research has shown that listening to it actually releases the feel good chemical dopamine! Audiobooks and podcasts are another option, and allow you to learn something new. My personal favourites are the Harry Potter audiobooks – they feel so nostalgic, and I’d forgotten how amazing the books are! Audiobooks can be pretty pricey, but they’re much more affordable with an Audible account, plus you get your first book free!
#4 Mindfulness and breathing exercises are a proven way of busting anxiety and stress! There’s loads of research that shows mindfulness is amazing for your wellbeing, and one study found that in 69% of cases it mediation training was effective in reducing anxiety. Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine enables you to take a step back in stressful or difficult situations and not get too caught up in the moment. You could try Headspace, a popular meditation app. The free version has guided 10 minute mindfulness exercises which will help you to relax. You can also check out this breathing exercise for stress on the NHS website. It’s much easier said than done to practice every day at the same time, but knowing about these resources will give you a strategy to cope if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
#5 Colouring books. If breathing exercises aren’t for you, why not try mindfulness colouring? Adult colouring books are everywhere. If you’re short on money, there are plenty of free designs you can download on the internet. This is a great way of reducing stress, and slowly filling the patterns with colour is really soothing. I’d recommend putting on some relaxing music in the background too.
#6 Do something creative! Whether it’s painting a picture, journalling, or even something as simple as decorating the house for Christmas, it will keep you entertained and you get a sense of accomplishment from creating something!, Creativity will help you to express your emotions and vent any of the frustrations that are common this time of year.
#7 Routine is helpful on holiday, especially if you struggle with depression or low mood. After a busy term at university, suddenly switching to doing nothing can get anyone down. It doesn’t have to be much – just committing to getting up before lunchtime and going for a walk in the afternoon can really help.
#8 Plan ahead and schedule some enjoyable activities. When you’re feeling low, having weeks of empty time with nothing to look forward to can really get you down. If you have things to look forward to it will really life your mood. Get in touch with an old friend at home, treat yourself to a cinema trip, or take advantage of the January sales and indulge in a bit of retail therapy!
#9 Don’t feel guilty about taking time out when you need it. If things get a bit much, it’s perfectly ok to remove yourself from the situation for a bit. It’s also you good idea to schedule some “me time” every now and then too, even if it’s just going for a walk or having an early night.