How to avoid a post-Christmas crash and look after your mental health

Young teen boy with long hair thoughtful look sad eyes negative mood angry mental health and crying at home. Stylish zoomer gen Z pensive on new year holidays with xmas tree bokeh lights garlands eve 25 december
Overconsumption and overindulgence at Christmas can often lead to feelings of regret and impact your mental health. (Getty Images) (Olga Yefimova via Getty Images)

Christmas is a time of giving and enjoying the company of your loved ones, but it is also a time of overindulgence and overconsumption.

Social media has heightened this financial and psychological pressure to have bigger and better Christmases each year, which could be taking a toll on our mental health.

"With adverts galore, shops laden with luxury items and celebrities on social media modelling their perfectly decorated homes, the pressure to aim higher at Christmas is on," psychological decluttering expert, Cathy Madavan, author of Why Less Means More: Making space for what matters most, says.

"But, in reality, with the cost-of-living crisis hitting many families hard and the complexity of life only exacerbated at this stressful time of year, the toll on our mental health can be significant."

Madavan adds that, as a result of this pressure, we often end up buying more – but this can only add to our problems down the line.

"Spending too much and overstretching ourselves whilst trying to reach impossible standards can lead to anxiety, regret, debt accumulation and significant relational stress," she explains.

"It is possible and realistic for each of us in our own situation to create a Christmas that is both manageable and enjoyable."

Christmas is often a time of overconsumption. (Getty Images)
Christmas is often a time of overconsumption. (Getty Images) (Westend61 via Getty Images)

Why our mental health dips in January

The month of December, and the festive period in general, can often feel like one of the most joyful times of the year. Despite the gloomy weather outside, it’s filled with Christmas gatherings, time spent with family, and diets filled with delicious foods.

However, this can play a part in our inevitable mental health crash come January.

"January is undoubtedly a difficult month for many," Madavan says. "Although Christmas can be wonderful, many of us will reach or even breach our emotional, physical and financial limits in December, meaning our emotional resources may run dry in January.

"The New Year can feel like a stress hangover from a frenetic season, or even a recalibration where we face some of the disappointment or loneliness we may have experienced. Unsurprisingly, most divorces are triggered in January, and a need for change is often on the cards resulting in those optimistic new year resolutions."

If you are looking to combat the January blues this season, Madavan recommends planning ahead and slotting in time for rest and replenishment, as well as putting in an event or something to look forward to in your diary.

"If we are struggling, it always helps to know we are not alone. It is normal to sometimes need support or advice about our finances or our relationships, and there are people who understand and who can help," she adds.

An adorable mixed race baby sits in her mother's lap and smiles as they read a book together. The family is celebrating the baby's first Christmas with a cozy day at home.
No, you don't need to buy matching Christmas pyjamas. (Getty Images) (Fly View Productions via Getty Images)

"A new year might instil the courage we need to move forward and to make some of those positive changes."

How to consume more consciously and avoid post-Christmas regret

Often overconsumption and overindulgence at Christmas can lead to regret, which can also impact your mental health following the festive period.

"In my book I suggest aiming less for ‘extraordinary’ and embracing and enjoying more of the ‘ordinary’ instead," Madavan explains.

"This is not about being a killjoy but instead about being realistic in our expectations. It is not, therefore, a requirement for all families to own matching Christmas PJs to display on social media, and it is not a necessity to create a Christmas Eve box when there are already presents bought for the following day. Not every home needs a curated ‘tablescape’ laden luxury food. Of course, a little indulgence is enjoyable, but Christmas consumption costs the planet and our own resources more than it should."

Instead, Madavan says we should focus more on making meaningful memories at Christmas, rather than accumulating debt or placing unrealistic expectations on ourselves.

"Vouchers for needed items or memorable experiences are far better than giving unwanted items and keeping an eye on how much food we really need will reduce our waste," she explains.

"Of course, the best investment we can make to avoid buyer’s remorse is spending time rather than money – be that playing board games, going to a carol service, helping at a community lunch or enjoying a festive film. Our planet, our bank balance and our sense of wellbeing will all benefit if we are able to put aside some of the festive pressure and make space for what matters most."

Mental health at Christmas: Read more

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