For most people, Christmas will be very different this year. Christmas is traditionally a time to share food with our nearest and dearest. For most of us, this is unlikely to be the case this year. With travel restrictions and quarantines in place, we will need to adjust.

Although the pandemic has affected everyone in different ways, mentally it has affected all of us.

At a time when family and friends are normally the closest, this year, they will be farther away. Looking after our mental health in a proactive way is more important than ever as we enter the holiday season.

Here are a few things to practise to help your mental state:

  1. SleepLosing sleep interferes with our mood. This is intuitive, but it is also backed by research. For instance, Sleep loss amplifies the negative emotive effects of disruptive events while reducing the positive effect of goal-enhancing events.
  2. Keep Active We do not need to run a 4-minute mile to gain mental benefits from exercise. 10–15-minute walks boosted mood and increased calmness. So even if it is something simple, such as dancing in your kitchen or walking your dog for a little bit longer, it all counts.
  3. Address loneliness For many people, loneliness has already been a significant feature of 2020. Reflecting on friends and family during the Christmas period is likely to intensify those feelings of isolation.To combat this, make an effort to make contact. Whether it is a simple phone call or a video chat, schedule some conversations in. Remember, you are not the only one feeling lonely. If it is safe and permissible in your area, meet up with a friend somewhere outside and take a walk. Check in with others — emails, texts, and social media can be useful in times like this.
  4. Eat and drink well There is growing evidence that what we eat impacts our mood.

    “Healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, are associated with better mental health than ‘unhealthy’ eating patterns, such as the Western diet.”

    With this in mind, ensuring that we eat well in the lead-up to and the days following Christmas could help us keep a steady mind.

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