Written by Student Content Shaper Gracie Ellis.
The ‘countdown to Christmas’ has finally begun.
It can be a time to have a break from studying, spend time with family and friends and eat lots of pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon for our international friends!).
For many it’s a time to look forward to, but as much as it seems that everyone is jolly, that’s not always the case. Feeling lonely and down is extremely common.
Whether you’re at home or staying on campus, the holiday season is often a time of increased stress and loneliness. If you’re feeling like this, you’re not alone.
In fact, new research by the charity Mind suggests that over a third of people are too embarrassed to admit that they are lonely at Christmas, so you definitely are not the only one feeling like this, even if you think you are.
On top of the Christmas period, for many university students like me, it’s also a time of increased workload, upcoming deadlines, and the stress of exams in January. Taking a break from your work is so important.
During the holidays, it is crucial to revive and recuperate for the new upcoming semester, and make sure you’re not burnt out after a tiring first term.
Top tips to look after yourself this winter
Here’s some advice on ways you can unwind and combat loneliness over the Christmas period.
Personally, I enjoy catching up on my sleep over the holidays and cuddling my dog Buddy (see cute dog picture). I have also started a new hobby too, embroidery, and with the risk of sounding like an old woman, I am not too bad at it. I find that after a stressful day it really does help me relax, alongside my housemates who have started cross-stitching.
Other ways of taking a break this holiday can involve watching a feel-good film or listening to some of your favourite music. Not everything has to be Christmas related either, just watch something you enjoy. Making sure you have time to switch off is what is important.
If staying in isn’t your thing, you can maybe try going on a walk (cliché I know but even a short walk can boost your mood!). Try setting yourself a challenge of walking a route you haven’t done before, or maybe meet a friend or family member for some of it, or just have some time to yourself and listen to music or a podcast.
Taking the time to clear your head and having a break is the important part. If being in the cold isn’t your thing, then take a break from the screen and listen to an uplifting podcast in the warmth of your home or a coffee shop. A change of scenery can really help.
Christmas can be an overwhelming time and there can be a pressure to say yes to being social when you don’t feel like it. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ – it’s okay to put your mental health first, it doesn’t make you a bad person.
Reach out for help
And remember, if you are really struggling over the Christmas period, you can still reach out for help, whether that is telling friends or family, or reaching out to university services or the Samaritans.
My previous blog on the student intranet outlines so many different ways you can reach out, and while most university services are usually closed over the holidays, UBHeard (a 24/7 confidential listening and support service for all undergraduate and postgraduate students) will be available. You can also get support from NHS services and Pause in Birmingham drop-in sessions.
As I write this blog, I know that most of this is easier said than done, especially when you are feeling lonely, down, and overwhelmed. Reaching out can be especially difficult, but just know that you are not in it alone.
Remember to be kind to yourself, there is nothing wrong about feeling lonely and university is full of ups and downs for every single person. You’ve got this.