Christmas mental health survival guide
At Christmas, along many other holidays, your mental health can suffer, so here is our christmas mental health survival guide.
There is often a strong emphasis on food as a way of celebrating with family and friends. If you are suffering with, or recovering from an eating disorder, this can be difficult. The social aspect of eating with people can also lead to feelings of isolation and generalised anxiety, that then leads to feeling of FOMO and lower mood.
Look after your Mental Health at Christmas
Whilst it can be a busy time of year with all of the build up, the events and the meals, your mental health is key, so here are some non-food ways you can celebrate. However also bear in mind you can say No to some social occasions and take time to recharge on your own too. If you suffer from an eating disorder there are more tips here.
- Organise a games night. Get out the board games and deck of cards, invite over some friends for an enjoyable evening.
- Meet friends in non-food settings. Rather than meet for food and drink, why not visit a Christmassy craft fair, see a festive stately home or go to see your local Christmas light display.
- Try something crafty. With workshops around wreath making and other activities becoming more popular than ever, there are lots of enjoyable ways to spend the afternoon that feel festive without focusing on food. Arrange a wreath-making workshop, up-cycle last year’s cards into gift tags or try candle making.
- Go carolling. Whether you enjoy joining in yourself as a singer, or watching as a spectator, carol services can be a lovely event to go to, either alone or others.
- Volunteer. Look out for any local charities that are taking volunteers and organise a day or evening to help out.
- Get outside. Get outside by going for a walk or head out ice skating.
- All of the food-based celebrations around Christmas can be tricky to navigate, but it certainly doesn’t mean that you have to miss out on festive activities.
Habits to improve mental health
- Get outside daily for a walk and some fresh air, even if it is round the garden in the cold!
- Find something beautiful to notice and look at as a little meditation.
- Rekindle an old hobby: jigsaws, doing puzzle books, a musical instrument, some craft, these can all be very absorbing.
- Snuggle up with a blanket and a hot drink for a relaxing Christmas movie night.
- Connect with friends you haven’t chatted to for a while, drop them a Christmas message.
- Enjoy doing some gentle movement.
Managing meals out
Going out to eat can be a huge challenge if you are recovering from an eating disorder or if you suffer from OCD or anxiety.
- Order ahead: planning in advance can help to reduce the stress and pressure that comes with having to make a quick decision in front of others. Check the menu in advance, and if ordering in front of others is still scary, see if you can let your server know what you’d like to order beforehand. Some restaurants let you order via an app, which may also feel more comfortable.
- Sit with someone that you know: this can be especially helpful in bigger groups. Sitting with someone you feel comfortable with means you will not be worrying about a stranger or acquaintance hearing you make food choices.
- Choose a “safe” food: today doesn’t need to be the day that you also challenge a fear food. Go for an option that feels safer for you, rather than the option that you think you “should” choose. Eating in company is already a great step in your progress!
- Do a practice run: this could mean going to the restaurant/food outlet outside of a group setting, or making a similar meal at home. You can even practice ordering a food with a trusted loved one before hand. This means you won’t feel like you are trying a brand new experience with lots of people around.
- Have a distraction and/or mantra at the ready: the food doesn’t have to be your only focus. Have some topics to discuss to keep the conversation flowing. If you are eating at someone’s house, you could suggest a more casual dining set up, like a buffet in the sitting room, and having games or a Christmas film playing. Alternatively, try using a mantra or affirmation like “this food is safe and nourishing” -see this list of affirmations to try.
- Remember, one meal won’t lead to weight change, so try to remind yourself that you don’t need to compensate.
If you need help this Christmas with your eating disorder or mental health you can contact BEAT throughout the festive period and you can book in for a post-Christmas consultation with myself to start working on recovery.