If Christmas isn't your favourite time of year, here are some simple tips for navigating the festive season:

  1. Sleep

Losing sleep really does effect our mood. Research suggests that if we don’t sleep enough, we’re more likely to feel negative when things go wrong and less likely to feel positive when they go well.

Here are some simple sleep tips. Some people find these ideas useful, but remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.

Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimise the quality of your sleep. Choose a bed time when you normally feel tired, so that you don’t toss and turn.

Avoid sleeping in—even at the weekend. The more your weekend/weekday sleep schedules differ, the more likely you are to experience jet-lag-like symptoms.

Be smart about napping. While napping is a good way to make up for lost sleep, if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night, napping can make things worse. Limit your nap to 20 minutes in the early afternoon.

Fight after-dinner drowsiness. If you get sleepy way before bedtime, get off the sofa and do something mildly stimulating, such as washing the dishes, calling a friend, or getting clothes ready for the next day. If you give in to the drowsiness, you may wake up later in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.

  1. Keep active

As the temperature drops, forcing ourselves outside can become increasingly challenging. However, many people find that even a 10–15-minute walk can boost mood and increase calmness. And if you cannot bear to go out, then even something simple, like dancing in your kitchen counts.

  1. Combatting loneliness

For some people, loneliness can be a big factor at Christmas. Reflecting on the fact that we’re not with friends and family during the Christmas period can intensify feelings of isolation.

To combat this, make an effort to make contact. Send a “How are you?” text message to someone you haven't seen for a while. Whether it’s a phone call or a video chat, schedule some conversations with friends / family who are too far away to visit. If you don't have those contacts, remember, you’re not the only one feeling lonely. What about your neighbours? Could you pop a card through the letter box? Do you have online contacts? Are you friendly with the local supermarket staff? Try to reach out with a simple "Merry Christmas". 

You can also check out what's happening in your area - are there any Christmas day meals that you could attend or volunteer at?

Stay occupied. Empty time can move slowly. Find a new podcast, listen to new or old songs, read a book or treat yourself to a magazine. There are some great films on the TV over Christmas. Without putting too much pressure on yourself, you could think about learning something new: pick up that guitar, start drawing again, or anything else. An occupied and engaged mind is hopefully less likely to dwell on the loneliness.

  1. Eat and drink well

There’s growing evidence that what we eat impacts upon our mood.

With this in mind, ensuring that we eat well in the lead-up to and the days following Christmas could help us avoid feeling sluggish and groggy. We know it’s a time to eat too many mince pies and turkey, but keep hydrated, keep an eye on how much booze you’re having and remember tip 2 – keep active.

  1. Look after yourself

Christmas can be difficult for anyone, at any point in their life.

You might be struggling this year for the first time. This may be because something is different to previous years, when you enjoyed Christmas. Or you may have found Christmas difficult in the past, and you're dreading it again this year. It may make you think about people who aren't around anymore, money and practical worries, situations you would rather avoid, or a lack of access to usual support services. There are lots of different reasons why you may find Christmas tough.

Here are some final tips for looking after yourself if you find Christmas difficult:

  • Set a 'start' and 'finish' time for what you count as Christmas. Remind yourself that it won't last forever.
  • Set your boundaries. Say no to things that aren't helpful for you.
  • Let yourself experience your own feelings. Even if they don't match what's going on around you, they're still real and valid.
  • Take time out. Do something to forget that it's Christmas or distract yourself. For example, you could watch a film or read a book that's set in the summer. 
  • Let yourself have the things you need - for example, if you need to take time out instead of doing an activity, that's ok.
  • If you can't avoid something difficult, plan something for yourself afterwards, to help reduce the stress or distress you might feel.