Many people would agree that Christmas is the ‘most wonderful time of the year’. However, despite the chocolate, gifts and carol singing, for some it can be very stressful. Juggling social, financial and health pressures can produce feelings of loneliness, anxiety, stress and low mood during the festive period.
In this blog post we aim to discuss these issues, offer some practical tips and signpost to avenues of support if you need it.
Our additional top tips to keep yourself healthy over Christmas would be:
1) To make sure you have your flu vaccine if you need it
2) To collect any prescriptions or medication in advance to ensure you do not run out over the festive period.
Stress over an extended period of time can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease, headaches, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers and poor immunity, leading to a higher chance of developing coughs, colds and viruses. Increased stress can also negatively affect mental health, creating or worsening anxiety, depression and 'catastrophic' thinking.
Individuals may experience stress around Christmas for a number of reasons. This stress could stem from financial worries relating to being able to afford certain Christmas presents, travelling to family members who live far away, attending social events and buying food for Christmas dinner. Other pressures might be social in nature, depending on existing family relationships, as spending a concentrated time with family members or other relatives can act as a catalyst for conflict and arguments.
What should I do if I feel stressed?
iLoneliness is more common than you might think around Christmas time, particularly in elderly individuals of whom over 300,000 spent Christmas alone in 2013 according to the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS). Due to pressures of having a 'happy Christmas with family and friends', those who are isolated are much more vulnerable to developing new or worsening existing anxiety, depression and mental health conditions.
There are numerous reasons as to why an individual would be on their own during the festive periods. Their family may have moved away or abroad, or there may be family conflict where family members no longer speak to one another. They may be house-bound or disabled, unable to get out and about to socialise. They may live alone after the death of a partner or spouse, therefore Christmas becomes more of a sad and nostalgic event. Elderly individuals may not wish to leave home during winter if they fear falling on ice, or if they would like to avoid the combination of bad weather, crowds and increased noise.
What can be done to prevent loneliness and isolation at Christmas?
With all those tins of Quality Street hidden in the pantry and Baileys on tap, it can be easy to over-indulge at Christmas time. To put this in more perspective, an average Christmas days’ worth of food can add up to around 6000 calories! Whilst it is important to enjoy yourself, relax and make the most of the day, it is also important to look after yourself and your body in order to remain healthy. An extended period of over-indulgence can contribute to a higher risk of obesity and weight-gain, and over a longer period, raised your risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers.
How can I combat over-indulgence?