As many of us are aware, the most recent lockdown restrictions lifted this week. After what has been a rollercoaster ride of the last six weeks, we are now finally able to enjoy these short weeks of the period leading up to and during Christmas. As the saying goes we can: ‘eat, drink and be merry’. These new restrictions which see the majority of places open from December 4th (with the exception of wet pubs unfortunately) give us all the resources to prepare mentally, emotionally and physically for the throttle force of Christmas; pandemic edition!
As I write this, I am both terrified and beyond excited I am excited for the food, the music, being social for the first time in six weeks, having drinks, dancing under the Christmas tree and the celebration of hard work in one of the hardest years. Everything seems heightened in Christmas. But you know what comes up must come down also, and being prepared for this is important. For me it can be the financial stress of getting gifts, the stress of having to wait in ques, crowds in stores, the wait of online shopping arriving on time, or simply just getting a chance to get to see everyone.
With anything in life it’s important to remember that balance is the key. The best way to achieve balance in most cases is by looking within. This means taking care of yourself physically, emotionally and mentally first and foremost.
Gyms and hotels have re-opened. We can now get back into exercise routines. For a lot of people having the resources to be active is a key part of staying happy, healthy and a little less stressed. I personally would never be seen in a gym as I’d likely either break equipment or harm myself in the process. I do however get my exercise in by going for a swim. The last six weeks I’ve only been able to swim in the sea. I’ve been lacking on the exercise front as a result, so I am looking forward to getting back in the water and getting some lengths done.
Going on a walk is another phenomenal way to be active but also social. I will admit I never considered going on a walk on a day off until lockdowns became a thing, and now that coming out of one I’m glad to say it’s a habit I want to keep. Walking has been a great way for me to be active and social and a great way to get away from a screen and into nature!
As I mentioned above balance is important in many aspects of life, this includes your eating habits. This can prove especially difficult around Christmas but it’s essential to take care of yourself. It doesn’t have to be major or dramatic! For example, try to get one of your five a day or drink at least one glass of water. It sounds silly and definitely easily forgotten, but the healthier you eat, the more energy you’ll have and the easier it will be to focus. As someone who religiously drinks diet coke, I can’t see myself swapping out for water any time soon, but I have recognised that even small things are a benefit to me being healthy and taking care myself.
The last six weeks have been long and it feels surreal to be coming out of the other side. It also feels somewhat overwhelming that Christmas is just around the corner. I don’t know about you, but this lockdown I found it very difficult and I struggled at different points to deal with my emotional health. In truth, these last few weeks have probably been my toughest weeks all year. Looking after your emotional health is really important for peace of mind.
There are many ways in which a person can look after their emotional health. One way is to recognise that it’s okay to feel emotional and you don’t have to be happy or together all the time.
Another great way is to talk to someone. As the saying goes ‘a problem shared is a problem halved.’ Heavy emotions like anxiety or sadness can be a burden on the system if they’re not shared or expressed.
Expression is another way, to turn your feelings into something, be it a poem or a drawing. Allowing yourself time to cry and have some space is extremely important. Christmas, of course, is known as a time for family, community and joy but not everyone feels this way. Christmas can be stressful so be aware of your emotional state and to take care of yourself whenever shit hits the fan.
Mental, emotional and physical health are all linked. When you’re feeling down get a breath of fresh air, you benefit all three. Or when you take care of yourself and your needs you might find you have more mental and physical energy. I will say it again, lockdown was an emotional roller-coaster and many people including myself are coming out a little bit more vulnerable and not as ready for Christmas as we might have been before COVID. Making sure people are happy with gifts and seeing them is good, but your happiness is more important.
Taking care of yourself also means saying no sometimes. It won’t make you a Grinch, it makes you someone who is in check with their needs and knows what is good for them. All of life’s stresses are best handled by the person that knows how to take care of themselves.
Screen time is another one. As many of you will be aware, from doing lectures and assignments constantly online, how intense screen time can get. With more time to relax over Christmas and the possibility of more online shopping, your screen time is bound to increase. Time off and away from a screen can be important for your mental health.
So this is my gift to you, a reminder. A reminder that even though we are no longer in lockdown and that Christmas is almost upon us, it’s important to look after yourself. A reminder that in order to stay less stressed we have to look after ourselves. Remember that you are important and you are worth taking care of!