Protecting your mental health during the festive season
By Dr. Trisha Upadhyaya, Osler Health International
The festive period is most certainly a ‘wonderful time of the year.’ However, for many of us it can be a period where we may be struggling with our emotional and mental wellbeing as the year ends. Those of us who may already be managing mental health conditions, this time of the year can be a potential stimulus to worsen ongoing mental health conditions.
Research has shown the toll of festivities can be especially high for women as much of the ‘creating the magic’ task falls on women. The expectation often put on mothers can be unimaginably high. Not only is there the endless never-ending-to-do list of day-to-day parenting and everything else that goes with it, but also, the additional work that comes with the holiday season, such as shopping for gifts, planning family visits and creating picture-perfect memories for the family.
As a mother and a GP myself, who sees many people with mental health concerns, here are some ways for women and mums to cope through with the extra demands of the holiday season:
1. Realising our own expectations and letting go
One of the biggest pressures we put on ourselves is by our own expectations of what ‘should be’. Lowering our expectations is a huge step in being able to be ‘happy’ during the festivities. Children’s tantrums, dinner menu not quite going to plan or even sudden change of plans is very daunting, especially on a tight and hectic schedule. However, setting the bar lower with accepting imperfections and minimalism can have a great benefit on our mental health.
Resilience is much more than ‘being tough’. It is something to practice where we do not shun particular emotions, but in fact, allow ourselves to truly feel the mixed bag of emotions that go hand-in-hand with all the big and small life events. Much of television and social media portrays only the joyful aspect of the festive period. However, this is not entirely the complete picture. Research has shown most people will feel mixed emotions much more than often, even during the ‘happiest’ periods of the year. Accepting our positive and negative feelings, can help in building our resilience and bring self-compassion. This will undoubtedly allow you to fully experience all the holiday season brings with it.
3. Giving way to the ‘new’
Traditions are part and parcel of the celebrations. However, some traditions may not align with who you are and what values are most important to you and your family. Recognising and accepting this is crucial to ensure we are not just following traditions for namesake or to keep others happy. Building your own new traditions with your children, your partner, friends, and family can be an exciting part of the holiday season. For example, ordering in food rather than spending the entire day in the kitchen so you can truly be present with your friends and family.
4. Looking after ‘you’
Despite the busy and chaotic nature of the holidays, it is important you take time out for yourself. This can be as little as 5 minutes for deep breathing and mindfulness, or if time allows, getting out of the house for some fresh air and exercise. Indulging in great food and drinks during the celebrations may be something you look forward to – and that is okay. However, make sure to avoid an excess of anything.
Finally, a part of looking after yourself is continuing the medical care you are getting. For some, this may mean making sure to take your medications, continuing therapy sessions or scheduling timeouts for your mental wellbeing. If you are struggling despite the above measures, please reach out to your GP. We, at Osler Health International, look after many individuals with different mental health conditions and aim to always deliver holistic care for your complete wellbeing.
Contributed by By Dr. Trisha Upadhyaya, Osler Health International
Dr Trisha Upadhyaya, a British and Singapore trained family doctor from Osler Health International, cares for adults and children and is passionate about breastfeeding medicine, babies and toddlers. Osler Health International clinics at Raffles Hotel Arcade and Star Vista.