acacia logo

5 Tips for Supporting your Mental Health into the New Year

acacia learning logo

The festive period can and does bring an array of different emotions for everyone: happiness, excitement, anticipation, and – sometimes – overwhelm.

This means that with what can feel like unending Christmas plans, parties, and large amounts of money being spent, it’s more important to look after yourself, both physically and mentally, during the holidays so that you come out the other side feeling refreshed.

While this is easier said than done, we discuss five tips for supporting your mental health as we head into the new year.

1. Set boundaries around plans

For many, the holidays are the perfect opportunity to see the ones that you don’t see as often due to many people taking a break from work commitments between Christmas and New Year.

However, given the last few years, we are re-learning what it’s like to be in larger crowds again, what it’s like to be indoors in confined spaces with loved ones, and how to be in busy environments like Christmas markets and shopping malls.  

As exciting as this can be, everyone still has different levels of what is socially acceptable and if you’re one of the many who still isn’t comfortable being with large groups of people – family or otherwise – or if you simply want to keep things low-key this year, it can be difficult to set the right boundaries.

Depending on your set of circumstances, a few suggestions on how to do this include:

  • Assessing your needs: Take some time to think about everyone’s emotional, physical, and social needs – especially your own – and keep them in mind when deciding on whether you can commit to a holiday engagement.
  • Communicating your plans: Speak with your family, friends and colleagues and be clear about your plans (in advance) so that you feel comfortable enough to opt-out of any last minute holiday events if needed. 
  • Going easy on yourself: This time of year, if anything, is a time to reset. So, if for some reason you don’t want to attend an event or function, it’s okay to just say no. State that you were happy to receive the invitation, but that you’d like to politely decline as you have other plans (even if that means being in your pyjamas at home).

2. Set budgets (and stick to them)

Due to the cost-of-living crisis, money has been a major worry for many working professionals these last few months. It’s no secret that the holidays are an expensive time of year, leaving most of us feeling the pressure to spend more than we really have.

A good way to work around this is to set budgets for each person that you would like to buy for and asking those to provide wish lists of three or four presents that they would like to receive. This is a great way to ensure you are spending your money wisely and that you aren’t tempted to purchase novelty gifts or buy impulsively.

Secret Santa amongst family and friends is also a great money saving hack as it means everyone will still receive gifts, but essentially you only need to buy a few.

Combining both ideas as well as writing wish lists of presents that you would like to receive from your loved ones (within budget) will assist you with managing your money but still being able to enjoy the festivities.

3. Limit your offline, online and social media consumption

Many of the well-known stores, shops and companies have annual holiday sales, deals and promotions this time of year that seem like opportunities too good to miss. However, these money-saving tactics can increase levels of distress when it comes to Christmas shopping, creating urgency and making consumers feel like they are going to miss out if they don’t indulge straight away.

Limiting the time that you spend surrounded by these stores, or on your favourite websites will help to reduce the number of times you are directly targeted and keep any overwhelming thoughts and adverse shopping tendencies at bay. Making a list of the gifts that you need to purchase and taking one big shopping trip or spending a few hours online shopping is a good way to work around this.

Social media is also jam-packed with people sharing highlights of their lives – especially during the holiday season. While it’s usually not anyone’s intention to make people feel bad when they post their life updates, too much social media consumption can make us feel left out, down, or even inadequate.

If you find that you’re particularly sensitive to this type of thinking, taking a break from social media has said to improve mental health this time of year, encouraging you to be present and reduce scrolling.

4. Stay connected to your friends and loved ones

This time of year can often feel lonely and isolating, and that’s why remembering to reach out and talk to your family and friends, albeit a bit daunting, can help reduce anxiety and increase levels of serotonin naturally.

Being surrounded by your friends and loved ones, sharing and opening up about your stresses can really help manage your mental health and you will be surprised as to how many are feeling a similar way.

As well as your friends and family, there’s a range of external sources available this time of year if you need someone to talk to. Some of the most well-known helplines in the UK for all ages include:

5. Give Back

Giving back to people, the community or the environment is a truly rewarding and fulfilling thing to do at any time but it is especially valuable at Christmas and into the new year.

It’s said that committing your own time and energy to anyone in need creates something called the ‘Helper’s High’, which focuses on the act of giving. Giving is said to stimulate your brain’s mesolimbic pathway or reward centre, and so releases endorphins, elevating happiness and heightening self-esteem.

Giving back is also said to create a larger purpose of life and when we invest our own time or money into something or someone, it creates meaningful connections which aids poor mental health by tackling loneliness, supporting your wellbeing and helping to build a stronger resilience.

There are a large number of companies, charities and organisations looking for support, donations and assistance this time of year and it’s worth spending some time on Volunteering Matters to find an opportunity that suits your schedule and availability.

We hope you have a happy and, most of all, healthy festive period with family and friends!

Learn to grow your career this year and enrol on a professional HR qualification with Acacia Learning.