Top tips for wellbeing this festive season

Categories: School of Health and Society

With concerns over the rising cost of living, many people around the UK may be worrying about how to enjoy Christmas on a tighter budget than usual.

Around two thirds of Britons think they will have less money to spend over the festive period compared to last year, according to a survey from Deloitte

We spoke to two experts in wellbeing here at the University of Salford to see how this might impact on people, and what we can do about it.

Dr Ashley Weinberg, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, explained there are a few things we can do to help manage our mental wellbeing, however you’re feeling about the festive season.

  • “Positive psychologists encourage us to spend more time focusing on things that are going well, rather than on what's going wrong. After enduring the pandemic and Covid-19 restrictions, we are more likely to have the chance to appreciate being together this year. However the challenges of rising prices on all fronts, also mean it can make sense to pool and share resources more than ever. If there is a risk of increased tension because of the expense, then perhaps it’s worth having a conversation about this in advance – given so many of us are affected by the financial state of the economy, family and friends are really likely to understand.
  • “Remember that gifts don’t need to be expensive to be meaningful – you could agree a budget in advance with friends and family, or perhaps share ideas for redefining gifts to be non-financial but just as valuable, maybe by making something for a loved one or doing a task for them that you know they find difficult.
  • “Make the most of the time you have over the break – one legacy of the pandemic has been we don’t take all of our annual leave, so it can help extend the statutory holidays and give yourself a proper chance to unwind. Research shows that taking breaks from work, whether over evenings, weekends or holidays, helps psychological recovery from the experiences of our job. Of course, finding time to take breaks is not easy, particularly in high pressure job situations, but if we don’t make the time for ourselves, we have to ask, ‘who’s going to do this for us?’ Remember it is up to an employer or organisation to manage the impact of working patterns and the need for staff to have a break, not something we as individuals need to feel responsible for.
  • “Finally, try to keep an eye on neighbours or reach out to someone who you know is alone during the festive season – even if it is just to say 'Hi'. You could make a huge difference to their day and might even make yourself feel a little better too. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our own wellbeing is to help cheer the spirits of others.”

Dr Mark Widdowson, Senior Lecturer in Counselling and Psychotherapy, agrees. “Every year at Christmas we place a lot of expectation on ourselves and other people, talking about what we should and shouldn't do to try and make everything perfect. 

“Try to tone down your expectations – just because it's Christmas doesn't mean everyone will be nice and get along all the time. It's great that this year we are able to get together without so much risk from Covid-19, but it’s also important to understand that being together can be stressful as well as enjoyable, and you may find there are moments where you just need your own space. Making time to go for a walk- even if it is just for ten minutes to the local shop- can have a really beneficial effect on mood and on reducing stress levels.

“Its really common for people to have a family member who is argumentative or who is rude or unpleasant. If you can, try and fix things to limit your contact with them, and if that isn’t possible, have a game plan of how you will manage if they start to wind you up. Partners can be especially helpful here, in providing support and back up if you’re feeling that you’re being unfairly treated. 

"Often people spend so much time over Christmas visiting family, friends, and socializing with other people that their relationship with their partner can end up being forgotten about. So if you do have a partner, try to arrange things so the two of you can spend some quiet time together. It doesn’t need to be anything grand- a couple of hours, maybe just watching a film together with some snacks would be sufficient. 

“If you do find yourself getting irritated or anxious, have a break and take some slow, deep breaths. This exercise may help: slowly breathe in through your nose for a count of four, gently hold your breath for a count of two and slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of six. Repeat this 10-20 times, to give your body time to settle back to normal. Be patient, as it often takes a few minutes of breathing slowly for you to feel the benefit of it.

“It might also help to remember concepts such as the ‘Healthy Mind Platter’ – we need a balance of activities to be at our best, so try to build in some time away from the Christmas telly to get outdoors, be active, and to have time to yourself.

“Whatever your plans for Christmas, try to enjoy the break, stay safe and don't feel that you have to do everything – be kind to yourself!”

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