Looking after your mental health during the festive period

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Dorset Mind volunteer Annabel Goddard suggests a pause for reflection and gratitude during the darkest months of the year

As the year draws to a close, many of us look forward to those last few weeks of frenetic happy festivities before January arrives. However, the same time of year can be very difficult for others, for a variety of reasons.
The cost-of-living crisis and family/relationship struggles can have a massive impact on our mood around Christmas – not to mention the many people who don’t celebrate at this time, which can lead to them feeling marginalised. While the religious elements of the festive seasons are important to many who celebrate, all of us could use this time to reflect on the importance of community, regardless of religious beliefs.

Little things mean a lot
Consider taking a moment this month to consider gratitude – being thankful for the people in our lives who care about us and to appreciate what is often taken for granted, such as food, warmth and connection with others.
It’s also helpful to remember that you should be able to enjoy the season no matter what your financial situation. Try to avoid feeling as if spending money on gifts is more important than simply spending time with family and friends. If money is tight, have a movie night in together or go for a winter walk. There are so many ways to celebrate, and it shouldn’t rely on how much money you spend. Even just checking in on someone who’s having a hard time and letting them know you’re there for them can be a thoughtful and helpful gift at this time of year.

Find the daylight
The shorter, colder days mean there is less time to spend outside after work, which can reduce the number of hobbies you’re able to do if you enjoy outdoor activities. If you’re able to, try and find a replacement indoor activity or class to help you regain your evenings. It’s easy to feel like doing nothing when the days get short but exercise and hobbies really do help to boost your mood throughout winter.
Above all, this time of year is a good opportunity to think about your own mental health and to take some time to reflect on the year. If you’ve been journalling your feelings it might help to read back, and ask yourself if you need more support. It can all start from a casual conversation with a friend who cares about you – make sure you confide in someone if you need to.

Support for you:
Visit dorsetmind.uk for local mental health support and ways to keep mentally healthy
Call Samaritans on 116 123 for free 24/7 emotional support
Call Dorset’s mental health helpline Connection for support on NHS 111
Call 999 if someone is in immediate danger

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