Mental health at Christmas
While many of us enjoy the Christmas festivities, some veterans with mental health issues can find the intensity of family get-togethers, shopping and parties claustrophobic and overwhelming.
The noise, the chaos, the socialising can be a trigger for traumatic memories. Some veterans tell us that despite being surrounded by friends and family at Christmas, they still feel alone.
And with the uncertainty of the pandemic continuing, and events in Afghanistan hitting many veterans hard, this year’s festive period might prove more challenging.
If you or anyone you know are finding things stressful and overwhelming, our specialist clinical psychologists have put together the following seven steps you can take to help make the festive period easier.
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Seven tips to help you over Christmas
1. Stay connected with friends and family
Maintaining that social connection with friends and family is so important to ward off low moods and loneliness.
With many COVID-19 restrictions still in place and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, it may be harder to stay connected this year.
Make use of telephone, email and social media or perhaps organise a Christmas quiz or Karaoke night over video call (such as Zoom or Skype).
2. Remember your medication
Christmas can be a busy and hectic time of year. It’s easy to lose track of time, but it’s really important to remember to take your prescribed medication.
3. Do something enjoyable or relaxing
Even if you find yourself stuck indoors for part of the Christmas period, spend time doing something you enjoy.
For instance, reading a book, painting, sketching, taking photos, or tackling puzzles and brain teasers.
When it all feels too much, do things that soothe you.
Take a bath, drink hot chocolate, spray your favourite scents around the house.
Or you can try one of the music playlists we’ve created to help you relax and unwind, on the Combat Stress Spotify channel.
4. Get plenty of fresh air
Regularly getting some fresh air, whether that's by going for a daily walk, running, cycling, or even just cracking open a window, can have many health benefits.
These include renewed energy and mental focus, as well as lowering high blood pressure and heart rate.
5. Pay it back (safely)
Helping others can feel rewarding.
Christmas, and indeed the whole winter season, can be a difficult time for some, and this year may only be harder.
While adhering to guidelines, reach out to those family members, friends and neighbours who may be self-isolating, lonely, or vulnerable.
You could even check local volunteer services to see if there's a safe way you can help out this year.
6. Find a balance with festive food and drink
We all love indulging ourselves at Christmas, but too much snacking, sweets, caffeine and alcohol can have an adverse effect on your body and mind.
Try and maintain some balance.
Getting your five-a-day of fruit and vegetables (it doesn’t have to be sprouts!) will help feed a healthier body and mind.
Trying not to have coffee or an alcoholic drink three hours before bedtime can improve your sleep.
7. It's good to talk
If you find the festive period difficult, confide in a friend or family member, or reach out to a mental health service.
Veterans and their loved ones can contact the Combat Stress 24-hour Helpline free on 0800 138 1619
You can also text our Helpline on 07537 173 683 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our Helpline will be available throughout the Christmas period - should you need to talk.
Please, don’t struggle alone.