Mind your Mental Health
By Caroline Mcdonagh
These days we are constantly hearing ‘tis the season to be jolly’ and everyone asking if you have your Christmas shopping done or if you have plans for Christmas Day. However it is not always a jolly and happy time for a lot of people who struggle with the idea of and days around Christmas and the New Year. In fact it is a time that people need to be aware of their mental health, as quite often Christmas can be a lonely and troublesome time especially during these tough economic times.
Any of us can experience real distress due to a stressful event of chain of events and this can be caused by too many strong feelings and thoughts at the one time. It is normal to feel down or sad at times during your life. If you’ve had to cope with a stressful event, you may need time deal with the outcomes and sadness, however these feelings might last for a while, but for some people those feelings can be hard to shake off. Triggers can vary from person to person but often include events such as losing a job; problems at work; bullying; financial worries; health problems; the death of someone close; the breakup of a relationship or in many cases, a combination of some of the above. Sometimes it can happen for no obvious reason.
The first step is realising that we are struggling with our mental health and that we are not as well as we should be. This is a tough but important first step. Some of the warning signs include:
• Losing interest in activities that you usually enjoy
• A lack of energy
• Feeling hopeless or helpless
• Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
• Crying a lot or feeling agitated
• Withdrawing from groups
• Headaches or stomach aches
• Feeling empty
• Feeling anxious
• High use of alcohol or other drugs
• Losing your temper
It is important also to get support to help us look after our mental health but here are some steps you can take to maintain by yourself:
• Get a diary and plan days and weeks over Christmas and New Year.
• Set time aside each day for exercise (weather permitting).
• Maintain friendships and support network.
• If you are living alone, try to get out and about or encourage friends and family to visit.
• Take the time to discover your true passions and future goals.
• Focus on the controllables to maintain perspective.
Finally, keep an eye on each other this Christmas and New Year and try not to spend too much time alone.