by Prof John Sharry, Co-Founder and Clinical Director of Silver Cloud Health and Adjunct Professor at the School of Psychology in University College Dublin.
As we head in to festive season, it is important to acknowledge just how stressful 2020 has been. The COVID-19 crisis has upended our worlds and imposed many losses and restrictions. Though the arrival of vaccines bring hope, it will be several months before these have an impact. Cases are still rising in many countries and there is still a long road ahead. During these challenging times it is important to take time to prioritize our mental health and well-being.
Accept your feelings
It is important to notice and accept your feelings. Rather than denying your stresses or repressing your feelings, take time to notice and listen to them. Some days you will feel fine but on others you might feel fed up, anxious or depressed. That is all OK.
Reach out for support
Remember that you are not alone. Reaching out to others to talk about what you are experiencing or to simply socialize and chat is the best way to talk boost your mental health and well being.
Make a plan
Make a plan for each day as well as each week. Set a couple of goals you want to achieve each day and a couple of things you would like to have done by the end of each week. Make sure to include enjoyable things that you find relaxing such as reading a favorite book, playing music, cooking a new meal, or listening to an interesting podcast,
Make a plan for the festive season
Rather than just focusing on what you have lost or what is different about the festive season this year, make a plan to do nice things. Plan new rituals and celebrations with your family and friendS that keep within public health guidelines.
Be creative about how you celebrate
We might have to do things differently this year but we can still celebrate during the festive season. Perhaps you can organize a special Christmas walk with your family or an outdoor street party with neighbors or an online ‘gift opening party’ for friends who can’t physically travel.
Think about how you can help others
In crises it is the people who help others who cope the best. Ring an elderly neighbor or a frontline worker to see if they need anything when you go shopping. Get your children to prepare a festive hamper and to leave it on the doorstep of a family in need.
Make the most of mealtimes
Healthy eating is important to your well-being and mealtimes are important times of connection in families. Make the most of these times and take time to enjoy preparing meals. Over the festive season are there new recipes you would like to try that allow you to express your creativity?
Include exercise in your day
If you can, make sure to get out for a walk or a run each day. A bit of fresh air and exercise will make all the difference to your well being. If stuck indoors, focus on doing indoor bouts of exercise, such as press ups or squats or yoga stretches. Take a moment to stand at an open window or on a balcony to breathe.
Each evening take a moment to note something good that happened that day that you are grateful. This could be as simple as a pleasant chat with a colleague, friend or neighbor. As well as the challenges, there may be some ‘silver linings’ to the challenges of this year. Perhaps it has provided you with time to slow down and to do new things.
Keep a journal
Keep a journal each evening. Take a break from the screens and use a pen to write and reflect about your experiences each day. The simple act of writing can help you put your experiences into context and can be enormously satisfying. You can also use your journal to begin to make plans and set some goals for a better year in 2021.