Staying ‘present’ during the festive break
By Kirsten Amis, Counselling Lecturer
It has been a year of change for us all. Since March, simple tasks like going to the shops, the office or out for lunch have been impacted by the Coronavirus.
And as we approach the Christmas break, everyone is preparing for a vastly different festive period. There are roughly 20,000 new COVID-19 cases reported in the UK each day, so social distancing measures will need to be respected to help in the fight against the virus.
This means it’s likely that we will only get limited time – if any – with friends and family. After a year of negative news, the isolation of working or studying from home, and a vastly reduced social life, spending time with loved ones has never felt more important.
As we get ready to celebrate the festivities in the ‘new normal’, it is essential that we look after our mental health. It was recently reported that 10% of UK homeowners have experienced increased stress levels as a result of working from home. Additionally, twice as many British adults are reporting symptoms of depression compared with this time last year.
At Glasgow Clyde College, we have always treated mental health as a priority. We have provided a counselling service for the past 20 years and, throughout the pandemic, there has been a phone helpline staffed by our team of therapists to ensure staff and students had continued access to support.
There are some small, but effective changes that can be made to our daily routine to ensure that we keep on top of our mental health during the festive break.
Getting outdoors is one of the most obvious but often undervalued recommendations. Whether exercising in the park, going for a walk or taking a bike ride, it’s an activity that is well within the guidelines and can dramatically improve your mood. Mental health charity, The Charlie Waller Trust, recommends that we spend time in green space every day in order to benefit physical and psychological wellbeing, noting that being outdoors can improve mood, reduce feelings of stress and increase confidence.
A daily routine is also very beneficial. Although the holiday season might seem like a time to throw the timetable out the window, structuring our day can help to give us a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Making sure that we are getting three healthy meals a day, going for an afternoon walk and even sticking to a scheduled bed time will all help.
At this time of year, it is easy to be kind to friends and family – buying them presents, checking-in and generally making them feel better. However, we tend to find self-compassion far more difficult. As we approach the end of a monumentally difficult year, remember to be kind to yourself, treat yourself and ensure that you reflect on all the positive things that you achieved in 2020.
This year’s festive break will be like no other, with limited opportunities to hug our loved ones after an unprecedented year of stress and anxiety. For this reason, it is crucial for us all to look after our mental health through the holiday period.