Have yourself a merry little Christmas

We are well into the festive season now – streets are decorated with lights and trees, and shops are full of gift ideas; on the telly and in magazines we are bombarded with images and articles showing us how to make the festivities (even more) special, and it seems the pressure is on to having a perfect and happy Christmas. But what does this actually mean? Given that we are all different, it will no doubt mean different things to different people.

In an article in the wellbeing magazine 'In the Moment' (issue 6, December 2017), psychotherapist Corrine Sweet gives the following tips to have a happier Christmas:

- if you feel pressure to spend it with relatives or in-laws rather than with your own family, put yourself first. She says: "You can still take part in Christmas pleasantries by sending cards… and making plans to see family either side of Christmas."

- if Christmas is a lonely and isolating time, why not consider volunteering? Corinne says, "It's the old adage: go and do something for someone who needs it more than you." It's well known that helping others can help you feel better.

- if you're dealing with a debilitating illness, make sure you have someone you can count on, who understands your needs and who will have your back, putting your needs first.

- if you've suffered bereavement, start new traditions. "If you've always done things with a certain family member [who is no longer with you], start doing them with someone else. You can move on while honouring loved ones in a joyful way: make a memory trees, raise a toast to them, have their photo on the mantelpiece."

- if you're worried about making Christmas 'perfect', don't.  Corinne says: "[Christmas] is always hyped up to the eyeballs to be perfect, but we have to get the Christmas we want and need. Don't worry about saying no to things."

And her final words of wisdom: "Do what makes sense to you and your budget. We have enough stress in our daily lives. If you want to hunker down and have a duvet day in front of the telly, do it. People want to do different things and it's time we accepted that."

What makes us happy at Christmas – the Wellbeing Team share their thoughts and tips

"I love to go out for long walks, with the pooch, in the countryside to see what nature has to offer. There’s nothing better than getting out and active in the cold and then getting back in, getting the fire on and warming up with a lovely, hot, steaming, mug of hot chocolate!" Nick

"I love going on walks, both short and long, on my own or with family and friends who are visiting. I always go for a walk on Christmas day morning and evening." Mike

"Think food and mood – whilst turkey will provide some mood-boasting protein, eating loads of stodge (mince pies, Christmas cake, etc.) will make you feel sluggish. Remember to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fresh veg. Also remember that alcohol is a depressant, so if you’re prone to low mood, keep an eye on how much sherry you’re necking!" Jo

"I like to warm up warm and go out into the woods and have a nice long walk.  Taking in the fresh air and looking out for wildlife.  Nothing beats getting fresh air into the lungs and a little exercise after spending time indoors over the Christmas period.  If the weather isn’t too bad, it’s nice to hop on the bikes and cycle along the bridle paths too." Keeley

"I like to take the kids out into the woods and cut a Yule log that we decorate, as a family, rather than burn the whole thing as would have been done in the past; we light candles and place them on the Yule log, next to the Christmas tree." Nick

"I like to make sure I spend some quality time with just my husband and children and always try to squeeze this in between seeing relatives. I also love going on long walks out in the countryside; I love feeling the cold on my face and then coming into the warm to a cup of tea by the fire, some cheeky chocolates and a classic movie on the telly or doing a jigsaw puzzle with the kids." Mel

"I like to pace myself throughout Christmas and like to think of it as having some 'time off' rather than getting swept into the 'palava'. Sometimes I just like to sit in front of the fire a read a book." Jess

"Lots of old-fashioned board games and party games, not for everyone but that’s what helps me!" Mike

The Wellbeing Programme

The Wellbeing Programme has been providing therapy through nature for people experiencing mental health issues – like depression, anxiety, persistent low mood and stress – since 2008 in Wiltshire and from the start of 2017 in Swindon. Participants get involved in conservation work, wildlife walk and nature-based crafts which are designed to help with their recovery. If you feel you would benefit from joining the programme or know someone who might benefit, do get in touch with us on 01380 736098 or email Wellbeing.

If you find yourself struggling with your mental health this Christmas, you can call the Samaritans for emotional support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – you can call for free on 0116 123, email [email protected], or text 07725 909090.