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The Importance of Mental Health Over the Festive Season
As I’m sure we’ve all realised 2020 hasn’t exactly been conventional. Covid-19 has made quick work of turning the world upside down and when the world is turned upside down (apart from Australia suddenly enjoying dreadfully dull British weather) there is a great deal of stress and hysteria. In our case, we not only have an upside-down world but an upside-down world that stopped turning. After two lockdowns, skyrocketing infection rates, travel restrictions, closed down businesses and furlough schemes, there is every reason for our mental health to be on the rocks. But with the festive season fast approaching and a vaccine close in sight, let’s start recognising how this crazy year has impacted our mental health and begin taking small steps to a healthier ethos. To kick-start this journey, it’s always easier to begin gradually. If you try and jump in the deep end, it’s always harder to float but if you ease yourself into it then you not only feel less pressure to make changes, but you begin to see the benefits at your own pace.
Now, no one is saying you need to do all of this straight away before you start panic buying oats and yoga mats. You might not find any of this helpful at all; mental health is very subjective, and what may work for others might not work for you. These are just some things that may help those feeling a little lost or unmotivated after such a long period of letting your days merge into one, pretending deadlines don’t exist because of Covid-19 and, instead, lying in bed bingeing ‘Gilmore Girls’ for the seventieth time this year.
Top 10 things to do over the winter season to help with your mental health:
- Wake up each morning and open the window; making your room a bright, fresh space will instantly boost your mood and set the tone for the rest of the day.
- Try incorporating multi-vitamins and omega 3 into your daily routine to boost your mood and general health.
- Make sure to eat breakfast, it’s the most important meal of the day. Porridge, eggs or even toast are all recommended for their slow-release energy and high protein content.
- Making lists has been proven to help productiveness; why not make a to-do list of 3-4 things you want to achieve in the day? They don’t have to be big, even as simple as having a shower.
- Even though this winter holiday will be predominantly inside, don’t live in your pyjamas. If you live in your cosy, soft pyjamas, you won’t be motivated to do anything but slob around the house. Wake up and get dressed into day clothes, even whip out your best dress if you feel like being fancy!
- We can still go outside to exercise, don’t forget that. Getting out of the house for a 20-minute walk, or even a run if you dare, can make all the difference to your mental health. Exercising releases endorphins which boosts your mood whilst also keeping you physically healthy.
- Don’t just give up on seeing family over the winter holidays, use Zoom, Skype or even Discord to keep that familial, festive vibe alive. Why not facetime over Christmas or Pancha Ganapati or Hanukah; bring the family together through celebration, food and fun.
- Baking is a great way to keep busy over the holidays, experimenting with flavours, techniques and decorations can be a great way of keeping spirits high and creating more structure in your weekly routine. You could even facetime a friend while you bake and discover which of you is star baker material.
- Repetitive tasks are a great way of calming down and de-stressing, why not try knitting or drawing or even gardening – although, thinking about it, gardening may not be so great in winter. Repetitive tasks like these are a great way to turn off and just do; for some people, this can be a great escape from the stress of electricity bills, forgotten pin numbers, unfinished essays and dirty dishes that we accept as day-to-day life.
- To maintain a healthy mindset, you have to know when you need downtime too. Being super productive and looking after your physical health is great and all that but you don’t want to crash. Taking days to rest with Netflix and ice-cream or to have some “me time” is just as important for your mental health; it is a holiday after all.
For those amongst us who have struggled mentally during this pandemic who feel they need professional support, there are people to talk to over the festive season; MindsMatter, Samaritans, LGBT Foundation, Men’s Advice Line are among a wide network of mental health services running alongside the NHS to help provide people struggling with a safe space to talk and share. These services are open to anyone who is struggling, there is no criteria you have to meet to qualify for these services. Just because you haven’t been diagnosed doesn’t make you unentitled; these services are for anyone struggling, anyone feeling alone or isolated in these unprecedented times. With infection rates still soaring, many of us are facing harsh realities; some students won’t be able to go home due to family members being vulnerable or because they are having to shield themselves and can’t take flights home, grandparents may not be able to spend the holidays with the grandkids, many families will be struggling financially after being out of work for so long, children may be stuck in abusive households. These are all realities for many of us and will make many feel vulnerable and isolated particularly with the travel restrictions and local lockdown rules that are having to be imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19. Always remember, if you feel you need professional support to deal with these realities or you know someone who is struggling but can’t reach help, these services are open to anyone.