UWE Feel Good: 12 ways to look after your wellbeing during the Christmas holidays

Issue date: 02 December 2019

The holidays can be a really overwhelming time, and despite the endless glitzy adverts showing everybody enjoying the festive season, this often isn't the case for many of us! Whilst it can be a great occasion for joy and spending time with loved ones, it can also be stressful, emotional and lonely.

But with some self-care, forward planning, and these handy tips, we can all focus on looking after our own wellbeing during the holidays. The holidays can be a great time to rest, recuperate, and revitalise ready for the new year.

Read on for the UWE Feel Good guide to looking after your own wellbeing during the holidays...

1. Prioritise your rest

When planning your diary, try not to overstretch yourself with too many activities, events and tasks. It's important to have some good night's sleep, some lazy afternoons, and a chance to really regroup after what may have been a very busy and challenging term.

2. Reach out and connect

The holidays are an important time to feel connected and supported. Reach out to old friends to meet for a catch up, make simple plans with family members or join in with community initiatives. Community groups, churches, volunteering projects are all open over the festive period with lots you can get involved in.

If you are alone over the festive period, then check out the Campaign to End Loneliness.

3. Give back and care for others

December isn't just a month for giving presents... we can also give our time, give back to the community, and do kind deeds for others! Over the holidays, it's easy to forget about altruism - we tell ourselves we don't have time for volunteering or adding extra work to our load.

However, altruism is an important part of our wellbeing as it helps us to look outwards and think of others, and it has personal benefits too: it can improve our sense of belonging, reduce stress, and increase positivity and a sense of hope.

Here are some great causes that you might like to get involved with:

  • The Jo Cox Loneliness project has a list of national volunteering initiatives to help combat loneliness and isolation, which peak in the winter.
  • You can sign up to be a befriender, or a telephone befriender, for Age UK and be a much needed source of human contact for an isolated elderly person.
  • 'Caring at Christmas' is a local initiative run by Caring in Bristol. Over 800 volunteers help to run the Christmas Shelter providing safe overnight accommodation, food, company and clothing for people in need over the festive period. You can volunteer to join this wonderful effort.
  • Every year, staff also kindly donate items to support the Caring at Christmas shelter. Find out more about the Caring at Christmas donation drive at UWE Bristol.

4. Do a random act of kindness

If you feel a bit daunted by the idea of volunteering, then why not start by doing a few random acts of kindness over the holidays? Some easy ideas include:

  • Give up your seat on public transport for somebody who may need it more.
  • Give way to another driver who is waiting to join your lane.
  • Drop in on an elderly relative or neighbour - at this time of year people can feel especially isolated.
  • Buy a hot drink or a hot food item for a homeless person, make eye contact and have a conversation.
  • Smile at a stranger, or offer to help if they're struggling.
  • Surprise a friend with a kind text, a small treat, or just pop in to say hello unexpectedly!

5. Talk about your feelings

It can seem difficult to admit that you're not feeling great, when you feel like everybody else is enjoying the festive time of year. But talking about your feelings can be really therapeutic, and help you to manage them. And you might also realise that your friends and family members have experienced similar feelings.

Sometimes keeping a journal, or writing things down, can help if you are feeling anxious. Try and make time to speak to somebody you trust about how you are feeling - it can just be an informal conversation over a coffee. And do also remember there is always help available if you want to speak to somebody about your mental health.

6. Take it day by day

Sometimes we can get overwhelmed with everything that is coming up, financial stress or panicking about upcoming events, and the contrast of the manic build-up to Christmas and the slump afterwards. Both a busy diary and an empty one, can leave us worrying about the days ahead. But take each day as it comes, and remind yourself to do one small thing for yourself every day like lighting your favourite candle, listening to your favourite song (festive or not!), or going out for a short walk.

7. Watch your alcohol intake

By all means, raise a glass to the festive season, if you want to. But do be wary of increased alcohol consumption as it can affect your sleep, your mood and your body. Sometimes people drink alcohol to deal with low mood or feeling lonely, but the effect is only temporary, and can actually make things worse in the long run. Be aware of your own drinking habits, and your alcohol intake, over the festive period.

8. Keep active

Light exercise is a brilliant tool for lifting your mood, taking your mind off any festive stress, and it's free! It doesn't mean hours in the gym, but a bracing winter walk, a short YouTube workout at home, or even a fun activity like ice skating can get those endorphins pumping!

9. Enjoy the small things

Focusing on the small things you are grateful for is a really good practice to try - noticing a pretty sky, a smile from a stranger or even a lovely cup of tea! The small things can brighten up your day, and focusing on what you are grateful for can help refocus your mind to think positively.

You could perhaps think of three things you are grateful for every day, and jot them down in a notebook or on your phone. It can be useful to think of gratitude as a muscle; the more we use it, the stronger it gets and the more grateful we become! Why not give it a try?

9. Try out mindfulness or meditation

Take 10 minutes to practice a short meditation on the free Headspace app, or focus on your breathing for a few minutes a day. Mindfulness is a great way to unwind and clear the mind, check out Be Mindful, the Headspace app, or the Calm app.

10. Be savvy with your money

Christmas can be an expensive time of year, from gift buying to festive activities. Here are some ideas of ways to be savvy with your money this year:

  • Secret Santa with your friends and family. This is a great way to cut down on the amount of gifts you need to buy, and you can set a manageable budget.
  • Make homemade gifts - they can be really personal (and fun to make!).
  • Arrange a Christmas get together where everyone brings a dish, instead of an expensive meal out.

If you are not managing with your money, don't panic - there is lots of support that can help you. The National Debtline offers free, confidential help over the phone, and their number is 808 808 4000. Or Talking Money are a Bristol based charity that offer free face-to-face advice, or over the phone. You can contact them on 0800 121 4511.

11. A bit of self-care

Activities like making a festive craft, watching an old favourite movie or taking a relaxing bath are all simple ways to look after yourself and give yourself a little enjoyment! Doing regular small things for self-care can all contribute to you feeling good over the festive period - and it doesn't have to be a grand gesture, even just half an hour extra in bed might be a real treat!

12. Remember there are always people there to help you

If you are struggling and you feel like you can't cope, then it is important to speak to somebody. The Samaritans are available year round, and their free helpline number is 116 123. They are a confidential and non-judgemental service, and their number won't appear on your phone bill. Or you can text 'UWE' to 85258, and the Crisis Textline will be there to help you.

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