Look after your mental health this festive season

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As Christmas approaches, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging people to look after their mental health and that of their family and friends during the holiday season.

Amanda O’Neill, senior health and social wellbeing improvement officer with the PHA, said: “Many of us will be looking forward to Christmas when we can spend more time with our family and friends.

“However, for some people this is a very difficult time, perhaps because of the expense involved, stress, bereavement, or feelings of isolation or loneliness.”

Taking time out to remember a few simple ways to help protect your mental wellbeing over the holidays could make all the difference. These could be based around Take Five Steps to Wellbeing:

r Connect: Make time for family and friends over the Christmas period;

r Be active: It may be cold outside, but that doesn’t mean you can’t exercise. Go for a walk or run, cycle, play a game, garden or dance. Exercising makes you feel good;

r Take notice: Stop, pause, or take a moment to look around you;

r Keep learning: Don’t be afraid to try something new, rediscover an old hobby or set yourself a new challenge over the holidays;

r Give: Don’t be afraid to give and accept support – being available for others if they need support should encourage them to be there for you too.

“People often use alcohol to relax, but instead of helping us to cope it can make things worse,” said Amanda. “If you choose to drink, staying within the safe drinking limits and avoid excessive or binge drinking.”

Amanda encouraged people to look out for the welfare of friends, family and neighbours over Christmas.

More information on looking after your mental health and the support available across Northern Ireland can be found at www.mindingyourhead.info.