looking after your mental health this winter

December can bring mixed feelings for most and especially this year. For some there’s excitement about upcoming Christmas celebrations, spending time with loved ones, giving and receiving presents, eating and enjoying yourself. On the other hand, this year more than ever, there can be feelings of dread at the thought of the winter, colder weather, darker days and Christmas not feeling like Christmas if you are alone or can’t be with your loved ones due to your tier restriction. Looking after your mental health is especially important this winter. 


The feeling of dread may be exacerbated this year after a tough year of lockdowns, loneliness, if you’ve been struggling with your mental health or are grieving. A survey conducted by the Samaritans showed that most people are concerned about being lonely this Christmas or not being allowed to visit loved ones.


Limited daylight hours, sunshine and possibly lack of motivation to go outside may also lead to an increase in the amount of people experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), sometimes named “winter depression” where people experience a persistent lower mood and other symptoms similar to depression in the winter months. Read more about SAD here.


Keep reading to find therapist advice for looking after your mental health this winter.


Create a mental health support bubble


If you’re struggling this year and are concerned about the feelings you’re experiencing, talking to someone can help. Let someone close to you know that you’ve been struggling and explain what they can do to support you. It could be something as simple as answering the phone if you call or scheduling a weekly walk. If you’re isolated away from family and friends, make plans over Zoom or explain text signals you can send to someone if you need them to be there for you.


If you are alone or you would you prefer to create a support group outside of your social circle? There may be local groups that can help in your area and there are many supportive helplines and live chatrooms such as the Samaritans, or maybe talking to a counsellor could help.



Do something you enjoy each day


Some have used this year to reach their goals, been productive and improved themselves. That is amazing, but not necessary! There is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a takeaway if you feel like it, lying on the couch all day with a box set or spending an afternoon baking. This year has been tough for everyone meaning we need more breaks than usual. Plan something you enjoy or give yourself a treat each day.



Take time off


It can seem like a waste to use your work holiday days when you can’t go on holiday but we all need breaks from work now and again to make sure you’re looking after your mental health properly and more than just the weekends! Schedule in some self-care days and switch off from work and other things that make you feel stressed. Future You will thank yourself! 



Look after your physical health


Mental health can affect your physical health and vice versa. Looking after your physical health does wonders for your mind, helping it to calm down and release stress and emotions you’ve been building up. I know I just said to get a takeaway, bake and give yourself treats but that goes hand in hand with eating balanced meals and keeping active. Go for a walk or there are so many free and paid for home workouts available now, test some out and see what works for you.



Make social plans


Although it is harder this year to see the whole family for Christmas and celebrate the holidays with friends, still try to make plans so you have something to look forward to. This may be a heavily edited version of the festive season you’re used to, but in a year where there has been uncertainty after uncertainty, putting some kind of (restriction-permitting) plans in place may help to lift your mood.



Put boundaries in place


On the flip side of the previous point, if you’re someone who is at high risk and has had to shield for a large part of the year and thoughts of socialising makes you feel anxious, put boundaries in place so those close to you understand. Clearly communicate your plans with friends and family so you don’t feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to do and arguments are mitigated.


Boundaries doesn’t just include socialising. If your finances have been impacted this year due to job loss, business closures or furlough, let people know what your budget is or if you cannot afford to buy gifts. Many will be in the same boat and might even feel a sense of relief that you’ve opened up the conversation. 



Book an online counselling session

December and the holidays can bring up a lot of emotions for many people, especially in a year with such loss. It’s best to seek professional help before your mental health struggles become overwhelming. At krysallis, our counsellors are here to listen and support you.


We are operating online counselling sessions with therapists based around the UK and face to face sessions at our Harrogate therapy rooms. If you want to enquire about sessions, you can talk to a counsellor for a free consultation before embarking on full therapy sessions. Find out more about online therapy.

At krysallis we care and it is our mission to help as many people as possible. We offer a range of services including integrative counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), these provide you with support and coping strategies to enable you to manage and overcome mental health issues.To speak to a member of the team and find out how we can help, contact us here.


If you need support right now, there are mental health charities and helplines available immediately:

If you are feeling like you cannot cope and are having thoughts of harming yourself, please call your GP or 999.

Samaritans are available for free via phone 24/7 on 116 123 or on their live chat.

Papyrus offer 24/7 support.

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