Looking after yourself this Christmas
We all know Christmas can be hectic, which can be intensified when your child has a disability or additional need – and 2020 has thrown no end of difficulties our way with the Covid-19 pandemic, two national lockdowns and more. To top it off, the festive season is set to be a Christmas like no other, as restrictions continue to change from one week to the next. So, as the end of a very stressful and challenging year draws nearer, we thought we’d share some tips on looking after your wellbeing over the Christmas period to help you make the best of it.
We’ve all heard the saying ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’, and however clichéd it may sound – it really is true! Think of the flight safety instructions given before take-off, when we are instructed to fit our own oxygen mask before attempting to help others. In order to support anyone else, you must first support yourself. There are so many things you can do to practice self-care – here are just a few ideas:
- Take some time out to do things you enjoy – read a book, take a nice bubble bath, watch your favourite TV show or film
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet. Easier said than done sometimes when you’re whizzing around the house after everyone else, but cutting down on sugary or fatty snacks, drinks, etc. and increasing your fruit and veg intake could give you a much-needed energy boost.
- Talk about your feelings – whether it’s with your partner, family, friends, GP or mental health professional, take the step to talk about things that are troubling you. Take a look at some of the support available to you and your family.
- Look after your physical health – exercising is a great way to improve your mental wellbeing. With the lockdowns we’ve had this year, we’ve seen the incredible rise of exercise classes taking place from the comfort of your own home. With so much variety and choice out there, there is something for everyone. Check out the Active Sussex ‘Active at Home’ page to see what’s available.
- Your social life – whatever your social life looks like, take steps to ensure you’re happy with it. If you’re feeling isolated, why not organise a virtual meet-up with your friends or family to catch up? This can be done using Zoom, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp and more. Are you feeling overwhelmed with your social life? Sometimes it can all feel like too much – too many messages pinging through to your phone, too many phone calls etc. Have a think of what you can do to lower the demands of others, be it speaking to them directly about it or muting your notifications in the evening so that you can have your ‘me-time’ without interruption from the outside world.
- Mindfulness, meditation and yoga – proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression, they’re activities that take up very little time in your day and can work wonders for your mental wellbeing. The Amaze Compass Card ‘Leisure, Learning and Lockdown’ guide for parent carers has some great links to mindfulness, meditation and yoga classes.
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for your mental wellbeing. As a parent carer, this may not always feel within your reach, so make the most of the downtime you do have and prepare your body for sleep. Things like turning off your phone in the evening or meditating before heading to bed might help. Mind has a useful guide on how sleep affects your mental health and provides tips on how to improve your sleep.
3. Keep it simple
At Christmas time it’s easy to look at what others are doing and feel like you need to ‘keep up’, but the best thing you can do for yourself and your family is not to give in to these pressures. There’s no right or wrong way of doing things – just do what works for your family. So whether that means no Christmas tree or 10 Christmas trees, just go with it! If 2020 has taught us nothing else, it’s to go with the flow as you never know what’s around the corner, so make the best of having a simple Christmas if that’s what you fancy. Finally, plan day by day – don’t set high expectations of yourself and your family and all the things you’ll get up to over the holiday, and instead try to take it as it comes.
Prepare what you can in advance to ease the stress in the run-up to Christmas. Whether it’s wrapping presents well ahead of time or peeling the veggies for your Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve – every little helps!
5. Be kind to yourself
This is a phrase we’ve heard continuously in 2020, but are you practising it? Make sure you cut yourself some slack over Christmas – it’s been a difficult year for all in one way or another, and that includes you too. So be sure to manage your expectations of yourself – don’t expect too much. And watch out for that internal voice too! Speaking to yourself in a positive way, not critically, can make a huge difference.
Christmas plans, activities or invitations becoming too much? Just say no! One of the fundamental principles of self-care is simply saying ‘no’ – putting your wellbeing and priorities above what others ask or expect of you is key. Have a listen to counsellor Julia Kristina talk about how to say ‘no’ without feeling guilty.
7. Let your hair down
We’ve established by now that it’s been a very tough year, so why not make the most of the festive season to have fun and be merry? Eat that chocolate, have a glass of wine or whatever it is that floats your boat and just simply enjoy it – you deserve it!