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December Health & Wellbeing Update

This month’s Health & Wellbeing update aims to give you advice and guidance on all you need to know about staying healthy and looking after your general wellbeing over the Christmas period.

We are looking at:

How might Christmas affect your mental health?

Christmas can affect our mental health in lots of different ways. It’s a time of year that often puts extra pressure on us.

Christmas could affect your mental health if you:

  • Wish you didn’t have to deal with Christmas, or find it stressful because of other events in your life
  • Feel alone or left out because everyone else seems happy when you’re not
  • Feel frustrated by other people’s views of a ‘perfect’ Christmas, if these feel different to your experiences
  • Have ideas about what Christmas should be like, feel as if you need to enjoy it or worry something will disrupt it
  • Feel like Christmas gives you something to focus on and look forward to, and find it difficult when it’s over
  • Look back at difficult memories, regret things about the past, or worry about the coming new year
  • Feel overlooked, for example if you celebrate other religious festivals or holidays that get less attention
  • Want to celebrate with someone who’s struggling

If you live with mental health problems, there may be other reasons that you find Christmas tough. For example:

  • Your mental health problem might make it difficult for you to spend Christmas how you want. 
  • Some experiences during Christmas could make your mental health worse, or harder to manage. For example, if it triggers hypomania or mania.
  • You might not be able to access services that normally help, if they’re closed during the Christmas period.
  • Your usual routines may be disrupted, which might make it harder to manage your mental health.

What can I do to get through Christmas?

If Christmas is a hard time for you, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. There are things you can try that might help, such as:

Managing Anxiety over the Christmas break

Everything seems to be heightened and more intense at Christmas – from the music and lights to the traffic and crowds. All of the above is daunting for most people, but can be even more intense if you struggle with anxiety.

People with social anxiety disorder may find the prospect of having to make an effort to see people, in person or over video, overwhelming. If you struggle with panic disorder, you may find that the intensity and frequency of your panic attacks increase at this time of year. Generalised anxiety disorder, which affects every 6 in 100 according to recent anxiety stats, can mean that all of your usual worries are intensified during the festive period, and you may find that you’re anxious about a huge range of issues, meaning that you’re unable to relax.

If any of the above seem familiar to you, make sure you’re aware of the symptoms of anxiety so you can work to minimise them if a triggering event occurs.

Here are some of the most common signs of anxiety to look out for:

  • A persistent sense of worry, apprehension, or dread
  • Feeling fearful, paranoid and tense
  • Feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
  • Increased heartbeat or palpitations

Kooth over the Christmas period

Kooth are still available for children and young people over the Christmas holidays, but are offering slightly reduced chat hours around Christmas and New Year period, but their team are available to support you every day.

24th December (Christmas Eve) – 4pm – 8pm
25th December (Christmas Day) – 4pm – 8pm
26th December (Boxing Day) – 4pm – 8pm
31st December (New Years Eve) – 4pm – 8pm
1st January (New Years Day) – 4pm – 8pm

Other days over the holiday period will follow their usual live chat hours of 12pm – 10pm on weekdays and 6pm – 10pm on weekends.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is not something you hear talked about enough. It is similar to depression, except it comes and goes in a seasonal pattern, with the symptoms usually being mainly present during the winter. These symptoms include low mood, a lack of energy, a loss of pleasure in activities you would normally enjoy, and feelings of irritability.

Here are some coping mechanisms that you can try to implement in your life:

  • Sunlight and walking – spending some time in the sun provides us with Vitamin D and can help us produce serotonin, both of which have been linked to improvements in mood. Getting some exposure to sunlight in the morning can also help our bodies regulate the release of melatonin, a hormone known to affect our sleep. This means that a bit of sunlight in the morning can help feelings of lethargy and sleepiness subside (at least for a little while) and help us sleep better at night.
  • Stop scrolling in the mornings – stop scrolling on social media in the mornings and instead just get up straight away.
  • Journaling – When you’re feeling low, it’s a good idea to get your thoughts and feelings down in a diary. Most of us think about how we’re feeling, but never either say it out loud or write it down. By writing it down, you take those thoughts that are going around in your mind and get them out, which can feel really good when you’re down. If you don’t have a physical diary, write it in a word doc! You will find your mind is that bit emptier of those constant negative thoughts.
  • Creating a routine and planning your days – Having a routine and planning your day can really help you manage your low mood. A daily routine could be waking up early, making your bed every day, or reading your favourite book.
  • Therapy – Talking to someone professional who not only has a different perspective, but who you can be completely be honest with, can really make you feel better.

Student Health Guide

Health Guide Publishing is an independent publishing house which delivers honest, reliable health and wellbeing messaging in a holistic way through three titles: Teen Health Guide (for 11-16 year olds), Student Health Guide (sixth form and college edition, for 16-18 year olds) and Student Health Guide (aimed at 18+ university students).

If you would like to have a look through these guides, take a look here.

Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is bullying with the use of digital technologies. It can take place on social media, messaging platforms, gaming platforms and mobile phones. It is repeated behaviour, aimed at scaring, angering or shaming those who are targeted. Examples include:

  • spreading lies about or posting embarrassing photos or videos of someone on social media
  • sending hurtful, abusive or threatening messages, images or videos via messaging platforms
  • impersonating someone and sending mean messages to others on their behalf or through fake accounts.

Face-to-face bullying and cyberbullying can often happen alongside each other. But cyberbullying leaves a digital footprint – a record that can prove useful and provide evidence to help stop the abuse.

If you are worried about your safety or something that has happened to you online, you can seek help by calling the national helpline.

For more information and to see the top questions about cyberbullying, go to this link.

Upcoming Events

Event:  Support for Young People Experiencing Anxiety or Stress this Winter
Where: Online Webinar
When: Thursday 14th December 2023 (6pm -7pm)

This session is designed for parents and carers and will provide the following:

  • Stress and anxiety in young people
  • Talking about mental health
  • Activities and resources
  • How Kooth can help

Please complete this form in order to attend, and the link to join is also within that link.



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