Worried about your mental health at Christmas? Finding things harder than normal this time of year? This season can be challenging for a wide variety of reasons, so we’ve put together a guide talking through the different factors of the festive season on your mental health, and some advice and guidance for how to manage your mental health at Christmas.

1. Money

If you are worried about money over Christmas here are a few helpful suggestions:

  • Work out how much money you have to spend when it comes to gifts, going out, buying food etc, make a list and a budget and stick to it. Seeing it all down on paper can make your head feel clearer.
  • Suggest doing Secret Santa with friend groups and family members.
  • Say no! I am someone who finds it hard to say no, however when I do, I always find myself feeling relieved as I don’t need to worry about spending money I don’t have. You have to do what is best for you, it is okay to put yourself first and if you cannot do something, say so.
  • You can also suggest having a night in, doing a potluck dinner or ordering a takeaway and get some Christmas films on. Remind yourself that your friends love you regardless and will just want to spend time with you, no matter what it is.
  • Worrying or feeling stressed over money at this time of year is very common for most it can just be an awkward topic to speak about, so people tend not to. But being honest to yourself and others when it comes to spending and prioritising is the best way of tackling any worries.

2. Time

Do you find it hard to manage your time? Over Christmas it can feel more chaotic, here’s some ideas:

  • Make a list of all your upcoming tasks, a separate one for events. Create a schedule on your device or on paper and fill it with your tasks and events. As mentioned before, seeing everything in front of you can minimize the amount of information in your head and feel clearer.
  • Give a time or a manageable deadline for these tasks and try and prioritise one of two to one day so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Try and not over book yourself, burn out is never good, make sure to schedule relaxation time, it’s so important.
  • Ask for help. I have always struggled to ask for help but this year, juggling work and a one-year-old, I have had to. It is absolutely okay to ask for help, you don’t need to do everything yourself and it can reduce stress immensely by even just talking everything you have to do through with someone.
  • There are also many places that offer gift wrapping options and you can get the food shop delivered to you. These ideas might seem obvious or small but it offers you more time for putting your feet up or focusing on another task.

3. Going Out

Since the pandemic, going out is a totally different experience and at Christmas, there is a lot more socialising going on. Here are some suggestions and thoughts around what we can do to take care of our mental health at Christmas in light of socialising:

  • We are now experiencing a new strain of the virus and it all seems a little up in air when it comes to guidelines, but it is encouraged to not go ahead with Christmas parties. Without a solid guideline it can be hard to decide whether to go ahead with plans or not. You must do what makes you most comfortable and at this stage there is no right or wrong.
  • If you do not want to go out to a restaurant or bar then that is more than understandable.
  • We’ve been living this for a long time now and it can be hard to go back to life as normal.
  • Don’t force yourself to attend anything you don’t want to, it is not worth causing yourself anxiety or stress.

If you do want to socialise but are worried about Covid and being indoors, suggest a nice walk with a flask of tea or return to those early lockdown days with a pub quiz on a video call and some festive drinks.

4. Weather

When it gets to this time of year, it’s dark and cold and the weather is so unpredictable. The dark and cold can really affect your mental health and state of mind, so here are some thoughts that might be helpful:

  • The cold and dark can make you feel unmotivated and tired, this is because your senses are being affected differently. Try working with other senses in another way. Burn a candle that reminds you of summer or warm weather. Turn lights on and take advantage of the natural light when it’s there by grabbing a quick 5 minutes outside or by the window.
  • During summer, I personally find myself wanting to socialise a lot more after work as it is still light. This kind of weather can make you feel alone and isolated as you don’t feel the same urge to go out. So, if you enjoy those summer evenings out, then try and continue this through winter. Meeting in well lit areas for a walk, go to the Christmas market, do a bit of Christmas shopping and grab some dinner.
  • If you feel a severe change in your mood such as depression you may be experiencing SAD (seasonal affective disorder) where your mood changes seasonally. I have linked more information about this here. We would encourage you to seek support by speaking to your GP or looking for therapy online.

5. Work

Whether we are finishing up for Christmas or having to work through it, it can be hard to switch off and allow time for ourselves without worrying about what we are going back to. Here are some suggestions on how to switch off from work:

  • If you find yourself unable to enjoy the time properly as you are worrying about what you are going back to at work then try and write you concerns down and find someone you trust, or speak with a therapist, about those concerns or worries. Talking issues through always rationalises them and makes them seem smaller than they were. Our heads are really good at creating scenarios that are not true or exaggerated but if you get control over it you’ll see you are capable of managing situations and you will when you return to work. For now, allow yourself time to enjoy the festivities, you’ve earned it.
  • If you are working over Christmas, it can be really tough. You can feel alone or as though you are missing out and this can be really upsetting. If you have a close friend at work, see if you can get a lunch break together so you can have your own celebration or ask friends or family to have an early or late Christmas when you next have time off. Having your own plans and something to look forward to is a great way to tackle those feelings of loss over your day.

6. Family

It’s lovely seeing family over Christmas but there can also be a mix of emotions for many. Here are some ways in which you can look after yourself when in difficult situations with family.

  • For those who have lost family members, this time of year is so incredibly difficult and sometimes we don’t know how to manage those feelings. You might want to enjoy the day, but feel guilty about it or you might not want to do the usual traditions as it’s too painful. It’s good to talk this through with your family, you’re in it together and you can find ways of creating new traditions, remembering the ones you’ve lost and allowing yourself to enjoy the day.
  • Seeing family can be relaxing, exciting, comforting but also in most families, it can get stressful. If you find yourself feeling stressed at family events or anxious. It’s okay to let everyone know you need ten minutes to yourself. Don’t punish yourself for not helping during that time, allow yourself those moments to think, relax and take deep breaths, you’ll feel much better for it and will be able to help more if you are feeling well within yourself.

7. Alone this Christmas

If you are unable to spend Christmas with family or friends this year, we understand how hard that can be. It can really affect your mental health at Christmas if things aren’t how you’d expect or feeling “normal”. So here are a few ways you could spend your day, so you are not alone.

  • There are many social media groups such for certain areas such as “Edinburgh ladies”. In these groups, many people open up about being alone for Christmas and organise plans with each other. A great way of meeting new people and not spending the day alone.
  • Many charities such as Crisis at Christmas are looking for volunteers over the Christmas period. You can volunteer to help out, meet some great people and learn new skills.
  • If you are unable to be with family but would rather be in your own home over Christmas then make sure to treat yourself to your favourite food, drinks, films and music. Video call friends and family or take the time to appreciate your own company and that time to yourself.

8. Friends

We all take the opportunity to see as many friends as possible but it is also such a busy time seeing family, working, looking after kids, shopping for gifts and organising life, it can be overwhelming fitting in seeing everyone and it can cause feelings of guilt and worry that we could be neglecting our friends, here’s some thoughts:

  • I read a great message on social media the other day about “being rubbish”. It’s something I certainly find myself saying more often when it gets to Christmas time. We are all in the same boat and our true and good friends are forgiving and don’t have expectations or hold you to a standard. It is always good to communicate but it isn’t always easy. If you can, let others know why we are absent but that is all you can do and it is up to them how they react to it.
  • Try to not beat yourself up, change “I’ve been rubbish” to “I’m really overwhelmed right now, I’m sorry I’ve not been in touch”. It is okay not to be present all the time. Whether you have a lot on or not, if you are finding it hard to communicate and stay in touch then that’s okay.

9. Relationships

A spotlight can be put on relationships over Christmas for many reasons. Here are some of those reasons and what might help:

  • It can be a stressful time of year; you might have to attend family gatherings separately or work longer hours and not see each other as often. So, try having
  • taking the time to spend a day together, watch your favourite show or get out and about, communicate if you feel sad about being apart, it’s completely valid to feel that way and might feel good to share.
  • You are around family a lot more and people who have been in a relationship for a while might start getting the “When are you getting engaged/moving in
  • together/having babies”, questions. This can be a lot of pressure on your relationship, especially as people do not know what goes on privately between you and your partner. You also have every right to tell people that questions and comments about your private life and relationship can make you uncomfortable.

10. Food and Body Image

Personally, I have struggled with body image issues for years and find myself feeling guilty for eating so much over Christmas time. After reading a fantastic article which I will link below, I got some ideas that I’d like to share that have been helping me and my mental health at Christmas this year:

  • Try and not use phrases such as “I’ve earned this, or I’m allowed this because…”. It puts pressure on yourself to work for your food or can create feelings of guilt for yourself or even others who may feel they haven’t done those things to then enjoy their food.
  • I love doing make-up and hair and getting dressed up so this next tip was something I personally have always found uplifting when feeling down about my appearance. “Have a little bit of magic” whether that means going and getting your make up done professionally, buying a nice new shirt, getting your hair done or wearing a nice aftershave. Allow yourself the pleasures of these things, you don’t need to look a certain way or deserve to treat
  • yourself and make an effort.
  • If you find yourself lost, or feeling depressed, anxious or worried about food and body image, please do reach out for support on any issues you experience.

11. Alcohol

Around this time of year you may find yourself consuming or being offered more alcohol than usual. If there are any worries around this, these suggestions might help:

  • There are many low-alcohol or no alcohol alternatives out there now, so popping open a bottle of “Nosecco” or a low alcohol beer is a great way to reduce your alcohol consumption but not feel left out.
  • If you have experience with addiction, then Christmas time can be especially hard. It’s everywhere and hard to avoid. Please take the time to speak to someone supportive, a therapist a trusted friend or family member. Creating boundaries when it comes to being around alcohol is a good way to protect yourself and talking about it with others means that everyone can be supportive of that so you can enjoy your Christmas without worry.

12. Mental health resources

Our mental health is affected in different ways but some of the factors mentioned in this blog. Here are some great resources for mental health and taking care of yourself:

Helplines:

  • NHS Volunteer Responders – 0808 196 3646
  • NSPCC – 0808 800 5000
  • Samaritans – 116 123
  • The Spark – 0808 802 2088
  • Shout – Text 85258
  • Mind – 0300 123 3393
  • Drinkline – 0300 123 1110
  • Talk to Frank – 0300 123 6600
  • National Debtline – 0808 808 4000

Shelter – 0808 800 4444
Cruse Bereavement Care – 0808 808 1677

Articles:


If you wish to seek counselling then please contact us at info@talkandgrow.org we are here to answer your questions and can help you find a therapist that is right for you. You can also visit our homepage for more information.

We encourage you all to take care of yourselves always. Maybe you give yourself the gift of speaking with a counsellor or calling a helpline. There is always someone who cares, always someone who wants to help and always a way out. It’s incredibly hard to put yourself first and to open up but it is also brave and admirable. I have linked above a few charities who can offer support as well as a link to our matching tool where you can book with a counsellor directly.

We hope this has helped you with ways and advice to take care of your mental health at Christmas. Look after yourself.

Merry Christmas, from the team at Talk and Grow!

With 1 in 6 people in the UK experiencing common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression and high percentages of people experiencing other mental health problems why is it, we still feel alone, day to day, with our own experiences with mental health?

Recently I was sitting at home having what is a rare hour to myself, which sounds pleasant but this can be dangerous for me. I can, at times, be alone quite happily, that is, until my mind starts to wander and realises that I am alone. 

This is my anxiety’s prime opportunity. While I’m vulnerable and with no distractions, my anxiety can make me think anything, even if it’s not true. It can trigger difficult, anxious thoughts.

In those moments I feel so alone. Not only physically alone, but alone in my thoughts and feelings. I feel like no one could possibly let their mind trick them like mine does, believe the lies anxiety tells – everyone else is getting on with their day, why can’t I? 

I go to Instagram for distraction and look at the hundreds of people who are out on a walk, in a café reading a book with a coffee, at work, on holiday, at the gym, with family, with their children, with friends. All smiling at the camera, all looking content and happy. Do they also have thoughts racing through their head constantly? Do they get that prickly feeling of dread when a random memory or thought creeps in? Have we all got so good at hiding it? Even if overall there is a movement to be more open about mental health, why is it that so many of us still feel so alone when it comes to our own?

That’s when I look at my own Instagram, the majority of my content is pictures of my baby but I scroll down to years ago when my mental health was at its worst. I was experiencing general anxiety disorder and depression, I was on anxiety and depression medication, and when I wasn’t working I was usually sleeping. 

But there they were, they smiling selfies and happy captions. I was with friends and family, I was doing things like going to dinner, lunch, out for drinks. I know I was mentally not well because I remember it, but the pictures tell a different story. So why would I think that everyone else was different, why do I feel like the only person in the world when I feel worried or sad, or when my depression or anxiety takes over?  When I know very well that I am not alone in those feelings.

280 million people, worldwide, live with depression

We are very much not alone in our mental health. In fact, approximately 280 million people, worldwide, live with depression, not taking into account any other mental health issues people experience worldwide. Recently, we asked our followers on Instagram how they were feeling on a random day that week, and on average the results were “not so good”. Responses were that people felt “useless”, “stagnated” “overworked”, “tired”, and “run down”. In one of our polls, a number of people expressed that they were struggling. 

It is disheartening of course to hear that so many people are struggling with a number of mental health issues, but to know that there are people that understand and can empathise with the pain or struggle that you experience yourself can be somewhat of a comfort. You are not alone. Talking about your own mental health could bring awareness, relief, comfort or support to someone else. Opening up can bring you closer to those around you, give others an understanding of certain behaviours that may previously be confusing to those who don’t understand why you might do or say certain things that are linked to your mental health. When we open up, others often do too.

At Talk and Grow we believe that therapy is for everyone and for anything so no matter how you feel or what is going on in your world we encourage you to seek therapy if you wish to do so. 

Keep talking, keep sharing, keep learning, keep trying to understand and remember: you are not alone.

TOP TIP: Talking about your mental health

If you find yourself struggling to talk about your own experiences with your mental health but want to talk about it with a friend or family member, try doing so during a task or in a casual setting. Sitting someone down can make things feel formal or put pressure on but starting a conversation while you’re out on a walk or doing a chore or driving the car, regularises the situation and feels less as though there’s a spotlight on you. 

Quote of the week

Quote of the Week

“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.” — Dan Millman

For many of us, we’ve had to completely change our working, living, and social habits. Morning routines that we never even had to think about were turned upside down in March with the work-from-home mandate. What was once a morning commute we never really thought about has become a distant memory.

Looking after your mental health during coronavirus is just as important as looking after your physical health. Checking in with yourself and your mental health should be something you do daily, like washing your hands and wearing a mask. Your physical and mental wellbeing deserve to be cared for – especially while working during these challenging times.

Evaluate your remote working setup

You may have been remote working for months now, or perhaps you’ve started a new job from home, or maybe you’ve just come off of furlough. Whatever your situation, and however long you’ve been doing it for, it’s important to evaluate if your work-from-home situation is as good as it could be.

Consider what you most enjoyed about your workspace pre-coronavirus. Are you missing social interaction – chatting to your colleague while boiling the kettle for your morning cup of tea? Are you finding you end up mostly sat on the sofa rather than that adjustable desk in your office? Do you miss your morning train journey with the hustle and bustle of other commuters?

Make a list of everything you liked pre-coronavirus. Consider how you’ve adapted since. Could you do more to make your everyday better?

Make time for video chats

If you’re missing socialising with your coworkers over lunch or when doing the tea-run, why not suggest a video tea-break with a few colleagues – you’re likely not the only one who misses those chats!

Reach out to colleagues and set up times to video call, whether over lunch or for a quick chat during the day. Five minutes hearing about someone’s weekend can brighten your day just as much as theirs. Maybe you can even suggest a virtual quiz, book club or other activity that can be done from home.

Create social channels

If you haven’t already, talk to your coworkers or employer about setting up a social channel – whether through messenger, Slack or your company’s Intranet. Have a space to share the little random things you’re all experiencing that you would normally share in person. Photos of your pet, what you’re baking (another sourdough experiment gone wild!), what you did at the weekend, your home-working woes – create a virtual community space for sharing.

Check-in on your coworkers too. Encourage one another to drop little hello messages to make sure no one is feeling too alone. You never know how someone’s mental health is doing, and checking-in is just one thing you can do to help one another.

Structure your day

When you can roll out of bed and reach the desk it can be really hard to create and stick to a routine. But this is one of the most important things you can do for your mental health.

Pre-pandemic, perhaps you cycled to work, took the bus and read a book, or walked and listened to a podcast. Now, the distance between your “office” and your duvet might be less than a metre.

The further from your pre-pandemic routine you get, the more isolated you may feel and the more your days begin to blur and it’s much easier to feel detached from reality.

Be sure to structure your day. Set up a wake-up time (and not ten minutes before you start work) and stick to it. Give yourself time to get dressed and do something you enjoy before you sit down to work – whether that’s going for a run, reading, or making a really hearty breakfast!

Take regular breaks. Stand up and walk around. Go outside and get some exercise. Take a lunch break away from your screen. At the end of the day, turn off your work device and walk away from it – don’t keep working just because you’re at home and you can.

Finally, don’t work in your pyjamas! No matter how cosy and comfy they are, they will only pull you further away from reality. 

It’s okay to be struggling

If you’re struggling with your work from home situation, it’s okay. This is a really challenging time – don’t be hard on yourself. Acknowledge your feelings, talk them through with trusted friends and family, write down what you’re finding most difficult and consider if there are changes you can make that will help. It may be something you can discuss with your employer to find a better structure that works for you – be honest with them about how your remote working situation is.

Talking through your experience is one of the most rewarding things you can do for your mental wellbeing. If you’d like to speak to a counsellor, click here to find one in your area.

There are numerous pros and cons of online therapy and face-to-face in-person talking therapy. As more and more of us have taken on a virtual lifestyle filled with Zoom pub quizzes and Google Hangout work meetings, talk therapy has had to take a similar turn.

We spoke to Elizabeth, a young professional who started therapy during the UK’s Lockdown back in the Spring of this year, and then began seeing her counsellor face-to-face when lockdown restrictions were lifted later in the year. Below, Elizabeth discusses her personal experience of counselling online and in person.

The Zoom experience

Elizabeth found that starting counselling on Zoom during lockdown “felt quite natural”.

Everything was going onto Zoom – everything was becoming “zoomified”! I think I might have found it more awkward before lockdown.”

Elizabeth had been to a couple of counsellors previously in person, so she somewhat knew what to expect, however she found the experience to be quite different.

I think things like showing emotion – there’s just a lot of information you can gather about someone from being in the same room as them. My counsellor would only see me from my shoulders up. Maybe the lighting was bad, maybe I wasn’t wearing makeup, so maybe I came across differently than how I would if I’d had to physically go to the counsellors office.” 

Elizabeth explained that she felt that her energy, her style – the way she presented herself didn’t come across the same way over Zoom, and she felt that her therapist might miss things about her. 

“But at the end of the day, what I’m saying to her is the most important thing, not how I look.”

The difficulties of vulnerability over Zoom

Counselling is a two way street, so being able to have that emotional connection is really important. With Zoom, that’s not impossible, but it can be more challenging.

It was good to be able to have counselling over Zoom from the perspective that if I was having a bad mental health day, I could see my therapist and it wasn’t much effort… Being in your own space, not flustered or rushed by having to get there on time was a positive.”

However, Elizabeth expressed that she struggled to fully open up to her counsellor over zoom. “When you’re in that private soundproofed office, it’s a very different feeling to being in your own flat! I was very aware of the people around me. When I was in lockdown, I was sharing a really small flat with my ex, so finding somewhere that was private was a challenge. The thing with therapy that’s so important is knowing you can say anything and it will stay between you and your therapist.”

“In lockdown, with my ex, things were a bit toxic, so I wasn’t taking myself out of the toxic environment to do therapy. The time I was most able to be honest about my relationship with my therapist was when I was able to be out of that flat to speak to my therapist.”

Moving to counselling IRL

So how was the transition from regular online counselling to in person face-to-face counselling after restrictions eased? “Nervewracking!”

I was suddenly worried about what I was going to wear for meeting my therapist in person. I’d been speaking to her for three months and then I was nervous to meet her! Obviously, it’s a professional dynamic, and when I met her in person we talked about the fact that we hadn’t met eachother in person. She said it was good to meet me in person because she could see new sides of me.”

Elizabeth said that in the past some therapists had commented on her confidence when she met them, but that hadn’t translated over Zoom.

“I was glad to see more of my counsellor. I was able to see her style, how she decorates her office – it felt suddenly more personalised. With Zoom, it could sometimes feel a bit automated.”

Would you choose Zoom in the future?

With Covid-19 still causing lockdowns and various restrictions all across the UK, counselling online is becoming the norm. Elizabeth says that at the moment since therapy is available as a face-to-face option for her, she’s enjoying being able to actively leave the house and physically go to her counselling sessions.

“At the moment because I’m working from home and most activities are closed, therapy is something I get to do. It’s a place I can go to get out of my home. I get to make a day of it, have a bit of a “me” day, like grab a coffee and cake and have a good excuse to get out.”

Therapy through lockdown

Elizabeth tells us that during lockdown she went through a huge journey in herself. “In the UK, there were two versions of lockdown: the people who lost their jobs, or people like me who got to work from home and my responsibility was just to stay at home. So I had a lot of extra time to work on myself, like leaving a relationship. My therapist has been a huge part of that and she’s been really really amazing through it.”

Elizabeth also encourages anyone who has tried therapy or wants to try therapy that “shopping around” for a therapist is really important. “If you feel like you aren’t getting each other, then don’t stay. I had a counsellor once who wasn’t really asking me things, wasn’t really getting me to the level I wanted to get to, so I decided to change therapist at that point. So don’t be afraid to try new counsellors! Ultimately, go with your gut.”

With Talk and Grow our goal is to make the process of finding a therapist an easy process. We connect you with qualified counsellors and therapists in your area, and make sure to support your needs the best we can. Get matched here.

You may have heard of counselling or therapy. You might have a vague understanding of it from popular culture, or know someone who’s been to counselling – or maybe you’ve seen a counsellor before and would like to look at seeing a counsellor again.

We’re here to share the joy of counselling, for everyone. No matter your history, no matter what you’re feeling, we meet you where you’re at. Let’s talk about counselling.

So, what is counselling exactly?

Counselling is a form of talking therapy. It’s a safe and confidential space for you to talk (and, ultimately, grow!) with a trained professional about any issues or worries you’re facing. Your counsellor will help you to explore your thoughts and feelings – they don’t provide medication, and they’re not here to “give you an answer”. They’ll help you to find your own solutions to overcome or better manage the issues you’re facing.

Counselling takes on many forms depending on your needs. After your first session, a counsellor will likely discuss creating a plan with you to tackle whatever it is you are facing. Most counselling sessions are regular, with the same counsellor – which is why it is so important to find a counsellor and form of counselling that works best for you. Find out more here about how we match you to the right “fit” for you.

What will happen?

Regular counselling sessions are usually under an hour. You can book in to see your counsellor regularly, and agree on a suitable schedule with them.

You may see a counsellor on your own, in a group, as a couple or as a family. You might arrange for counselling in person at an office, clinic, or home, or you might talk to your counsellor on the phone.

Counsellors won’t give you a checklist to tick that will instantly make you feel better. Instead, they will help you to uncover insight into your own problems, arming you with tools to help you find your own solutions. You’ll get the best results if you’re honest with your counsellor and build a good relationship with them where you feel safe sharing your experiences.

What can counselling help with?

Counselling is for everyone. Let us repeat that.

Counselling. Is. For. Everyone.

Don’t ever feel like your problem is too big or too small or your feelings aren’t valid. Speaking to a professional can be an incredibly freeing opportunity – a chance to speak to someone with an objective viewpoint who can help to guide you to an understanding or solution.

Commonly, counselling can be an opportunity to address things such as grief and bereavement, bullying, addiction, illness, mental health, trauma, relationships, anxiety, stress, and so so much more. 

Is counselling right for me?

If you are looking to understand yourself, solve problems, cope with your mental health, speak to an unbiased professional – then the answer is yes.

Finding a counsellor shouldn’t be a daunting process. We’ve taken the stress out of finding a counsellor, with our 3 step system that helps to match you to a local counsellor suitable for your needs.
Ready to begin your counselling journey? Click here to start.