I think it’s a pretty big understatement to say that 2020 didn’t turn out the way we thought it would.
For most of us this has probably been the most challenging year of our working lives.
We have had to juggle our day jobs, and ensure we do the best we can for children, young people and colleagues, whilst trying to look after our own health and wellbeing at the same time.
It has been an incredibly tough ask.
Now, Christmas can be stressful and difficult at the best of times, but the 2020 festive period will bring its own very unique issues – who to bubble with, who not to bubble with, how to manage with people who won’t bubble, what will happen after December 28th?
This is going be a strange way to end a strange year for most of us so today we’ve got some tips on how to survive and look after your own mental health over the festive period:
1. Be prepared
We’re already in December!
I don’t know about you but that has come around really quickly for me and I’m very conscious that I’m a little bit behind on a few Christmas preparations.
Remember the old cliché “fail to prepare, prepare to fail?” This year I think this is more poignant than ever.
Shops and supermarkets are likely to be busier this year, so if you’re usually the last-minute, rush out to the City Centre for gifts, kind of person, you may want to consider starting a little bit earlier – or perhaps looking online!
You don’t want to end up finishing the term and realising you’ve got just days to get everything ready.
The Christmas break should still be a break, which leads me onto my next point:
2. Have a break!
It’s great news that we have a few days to see loved ones over the Christmas period and I’m sure most of us will be squeezing in as much time with them as possible, but remember to take a break for yourself too.
After a tough year, its more important than ever to unwind and rest in order to feel refreshed for the new year.
Don’t forget to take some time out for you.
3. Be wary of the food and drink overload
Apologies if this sounds a little big Bah Humbug!
But we all know what it feels like when we’ve had a little bit too much self-indulgence in the food and/or drink department.
If you’re someone who feels particularly low or grumpy after a feast, or a few too many Christmas cocktails, take it easy.
Make sure you make time to get out and about to exercise and get some fresh air. It will help and keep you happier throughout your time off.
4. Christmas isn’t a competition
Over the festive period, social media is going to be buzzing.
Pictures of wonderful Christmases, with smiling families, perfectly roasted potatoes and mounds and mounds of presents will probably fill your newsfeed.
But remember, a picture doesn’t tell everything. It won’t usually reveal the hard work, sweat and even possibly tears that go into Christmas dinner, or the long stressful drives to pick up family members or the chaos of keeping everyone entertained for three whole days!
Enjoy your time, appreciate the little moments and don’t dwell on what other people are doing.
As a music and learning charity, we couldn’t not mention the power of music this Christmas.
Music has been proven to make you happier, so crank up the Christmas tunes and lift everyone’s spirits. You could also attend one of the many virtual concerts that are being advertised (including our own, featuring our ensembles):
- SFE’s Virtual Festive Concert – Featuring School Children From Birmingham
- Virtual Christmas Concerts – EventBrite
- Best Christmas concerts and classical music being streamed online this festive season
Of course, if you really wanted to, you could just organise your own carol concert or karaoke session with your festive bubble.
6. Give yourself a gift
You’ve probably spent a fair amount of time thinking (and if you’re anything like me, overthinking) your gifts for people this year.
But have you thought about what YOU would like?
Is there something that will make next year easier for you, amidst the chaos? What gift will really make you happy?
Perhaps, it’s just giving yourself a couple of hours of you-time to relax and read a good book?
Treat yourself – it’s been a hard year, you deserve it.
7. Give to charity (if you can)
Finally, Christmas is a time of giving.
If you can spare any money to support some of the wonderful charities out there, it could make a huge difference to them – and to your own happiness this festive season.
Evidence shows that by being altruistic, you can actually boost your own mental health and wellbeing so being charitable really is a win-win.
Charitable donations make a great and thoughtful gift for others too. Do you know someone who has a specific charity that is near and dear to their heart?
8. It’s ok to ask for help.
The festive season can prove more difficult for some more than others and this year has already been set up to be a tough one for many.
If you do find yourself struggling this year, then please do ask for help, whether from your loved ones or from professional services.
Here are some helpful resources to help you manage your emotional health over the Christmas period:
- Looking after your mental health this Christmas
- Christmas and mental health
- Looking after your mental health as we come out of lockdown
And remember, there might be someone else out there who needs a helping hand this Christmas. Can you reach out and offer them support? Even digital or telephone contact could make a huge difference to someone.
So, however your Christmas break turns out to be, I hope you are able to spend time (in person or online) with friends and family, and that it provides you with an opportunity to switch off, relax, acknowledge what an amazing job you have done this year and leave work behind and reconnect with yourself and the world beyond school and education.
I would like to thank you all for your continued support of Services For Education, and hope that we can continue to work with you in 2021, as normality or a new normal hopefully slowly begins to emerge.
If you would like to make a Christmas donation to us this year, please visit our charity website.
From everyone here at Services For Education, have a merry festive period and a very happy new year.
About the Author
Andrew Cooper – Head of School Support, Services For Education
Andrew is the Head of the School Support Service. He has extensive experience in PSHE from his early career as a secondary school teacher, through working as Health Promotion Specialist in HIV and Substance Use, to his role as a local authority Health Education Service adviser, where he led on a number of areas including Relationships and Sex Education, and Safeguarding. He was the Healthy School Co-ordinator for Birmingham for 10 years, and also Regional PSHE Adviser for the West Midlands.
In a step outside of the world of children and young peoples’ physical and emotional health, he spent four years managing an initial teacher training provision. He became Head of the School Support Service for SFE in 2014 and now leads a team of advisers delivering support, consultancy and training to schools across the UK. During this time he has led on the development of the SFE digital offer, provision of pupil and family services, and the growth of the face to face training offer. He is currently a Trustee for the PSHE Association.