Maintaining mental health during the holiday season

It’s Christmas! And the kids of out of school, the family are coming over for the holidays, you’re spending more money than usual prepping, and you’re still expected to do so much more while you’re also trying to relax and unwind. As we embrace the festive season’s whirlwind celebration, it’s important to recognise that amidst the glittering lights and festivities, our mental well-being deserves attention too. Typically, the holidays, while filled with revelry and merriment, can also usher in unwanted stress. Explore the importance of safeguarding your mental health during the festive season with Bloom Financial Services as we discuss managing stressors and setting realistic expectations, along with how to prioritise self-care. Learn how to transform your holidays and manage stress, turning your festive season into mental vitality. To ensure you have the necessary support, you can get health insurance in South Africa that include mental health coverage.

Acknowledge the challenges of the festive season on mental health

No, you’re not imagining it. The festive season is known to be extremely stressful for many people from all walks of life, which can take a toll on your mental health. The holiday reverie exacerbates things like financial constraints, health conditions or loneliness. Recognising the challenges of the festive season is the first step towards prioritising your mental health. Acknowledging these stressors is the way you can help destigmatise mental health issues and lay the groundwork for a more relaxed and enjoyable holiday season.

The importance of prioritising mental well-being during festivities

Being sensitive to the complex nature of mental health during this season encourages a collective commitment to creating an environment and mindset that prioritises well-being, empathy, and open dialogue. In this, way we can all proactively approach emotional experiences and overcome the challenges associated with the holidays. On the other hand, ignoring mental health during the festive season and failing to seek support or develop healthy coping mechanisms can have many negative implications, some of which include the following:

  • Heightened stress and anxiety, leading to mental and emotional discomfort
  • Exacerbation of existing conditions. Those with pre-existing health conditions, like depression or schizophrenia can find their symptoms growing worse over the holiday period
  • Isolation and loneliness. Many people are alone during the festive season. The holiday season is a sad reminder that they don’t have friends or family to celebrate with and this can lead to intense internal struggles and poor emotional well-being
  • Poor physical health. Neglecting your mental health over the festive season can result in physical manifestations, like poor sleep patterns, headaches, abdominal discomfort, changes in your appetite or compromised immune health
  • Strained personal relationships. As your mental health takes a toll on your body and mind, so too does it affect your closest relationships. Poor mental health is likely to put a strain on your ability to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships with friends, family or colleagues, often resulting in misunderstandings, arguments or conflicts
  • Lack of pleasure. Poor mental health will decrease your enjoyment of festive activities. You may even grow to hate it or resent the holiday period
  • Risk of substance abuse. Some people may resort to poor coping mechanisms, like overindulging in alcohol or self-medicating with prescription or illegal drugs.

Key strategies to maintain mental health and well-being

1. Identifying the common festive triggers for stress or anxiety

  • Increased expectations. Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself (or allowing others to do so for you) about creating the ‘picture perfect holiday,’ like buying extravagant gifts, cooking large family meals or overdecorating can lead to stress and anxiety.
  • Financial pressure. The act of buying gifts and food, hosting gatherings, participating in holiday activities or going away on vacation, can put a severe strain on your finances, leading to debt, stress and worry.
  • Family dynamics. Interactions with certain family members may bring out tensions due to unresolved issues.
  • Loneliness and isolation. For those without close family and friends to celebrate with, this period could make them feel depressed, unloved and unwanted.
  • Overindulgence. The abundance of festive food and drink can lead to unhealthy eating and drinking patterns, bringing about weight gain, and guilt.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is a recognised mental health condition, that is more prevalent in the northern hemisphere. It contributes to poor mood and decreased activity levels.
  • Unrealistic comparisons. Social media activity and the pressure to share perfect holiday moments can also place unrealistic expectations and feelings of inadequacy on many people.

2. Tips and strategies to maintain mental health over the festive season

  • Set realistic expectations. Perfect isn’t possible. Rather embrace the imperfections that make your holiday unique. Focus on the lovely experience and connections rather than the material outputs.
  • Navigate the pressure to create a ‘perfect’ holiday. Accept that not everything will run smoothly or go according to plan. The secret ingredient is flexibility. This will help you manage those unexpected mishaps.
  • Establish achievable goals and boundaries. Break down holiday tasks into manageable goals. Set realistic limits on goals to avoid burnout and, where possible, delegate tasks to others.
  • Effective time management. Be disciplined and plan ahead. Create a realistic schedule for preparations but also include time for rest. Prioritise tasks based on urgency and allow for an organised approach to tackling the workload.
  • Prioritise self-care. Schedule regular breaks for yourself with relaxing activities, like taking a walk in nature or reading.
  • Embrace mindfulness with relaxation techniques. Mindfulness means that you are fully committed to the present. This fosters greater mental clarity, and focus and helps reduce stress. You can practice mindfulness using techniques like meditation, yoga or calming breathing exercises.
  • Communicate boundaries. Identify your stressors and express your limits and challenges to friends and family quite clearly. Emphasise the importance of respecting your boundaries, ensuring a supportive and understanding environment.
  • Focus on quality time. Prioritise meaningful connections and shared experiences. Choose activities that bring you authentic joy and happiness.
  • Seek professional support. If the feelings of stress and anxiety become overwhelming, make sure you reach out to a support network or professional mental health practitioner for guidance. Therapy or counselling can provide valuable tools for coping with holiday-related challenges. You can also reach out on behalf of friends or a family member.
  • Stay active. Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine. This is because the importance of regular exercise releases chemicals known as endorphins, which will improve your mood and reduce stress.
  • Maintain a balanced diet. Practice mindful eating and drinking during the festive season. While it’s perfectly acceptable to indulge in some festive treats make sure you don’t overindulge. Nutrient-rich food has a positive impact on brain function and mood and will help you handle stress stress better. Foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids like fish, for instance, support mental well-being. On the other hand, there is a link between poor mental health and foods that are highly processed or those that have a high sugar content.

Providing the support you need during the festive season

Ignoring mental health during the festive season can contribute to a cycle of emotional neglect, impacting your overall well-being in the long term. Bloom and Momentum Health4Me recognise the need for mental health services, especially during stressful periods. We provide our members with access to confidential, multilingual counselling support services on a toll-free number.

Adults can receive support for issues that are causing mental health issues while children and teenagers can receive counselling that covers preventive and proactive interventions for emotional problems. There is also a specialised trauma and critical incident counselling service for those who have suffered a traumatic incident, like the loss of a loved one. Members are encouraged to download the Momentum Wellness App to help them maintain mental health over the festive season.

Healthcare cover you can afford

Good mental health is an essential component of quality living. The holiday period can be particularly stressful for many people but fortunately, there is growing awareness and support for those suffering from mental health issues, like stress, depression or anxiety, over this period. Follow Bloom’s tips and strategies to maintain mental health. You can get affordable healthcare coverage that provides mental health services. Simply contact our offices to set up an appointment with a trained consultant.

Your journey to quality healthcare starts here.

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Momentum Health4Me is not a medical scheme product, and is not a substitute for medical scheme membership. The information provided on this website does not constitute advice in terms of the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act. Momentum is a division of Momentum Metropolitan Life Limited, an authorised financial services provider (FSP 6406) and a wholly owned subsidiary of Momentum Metropolitan Holdings Limited.

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© Bloom Financial Services 2023. Bloom Financial Services (Pty) Ltd is an authorised financial services provider (FSP 50140). Bloom Gap is underwritten by Infiniti Insurance Limited a licensed non-life insurer and an authorised financial services provider (FSP No.35914)

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