This winter holiday we are sharing 12 posts on Instagram written by MYPAS members of staff to help young people look after their health and wellbeing over the break.
Each day we will update the content here on this blog page as well as provide you with links to additional sources of help for each topic. We hope that you find these posts useful and please share with anyone you think might find these helpful.
Day 1: Dark Days and SAD.
Instagram link: https://www.instagram.com/p/C0vtfwAsSzw/
We are currently in the middle of winter, with not long until the day with least amount of daylight (Winter Solstice 22nd of December). Sometimes people feel really down because of the darker days. Feeling really down can be Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression that comes and goes with the seasons. In winter, the symptoms of SAD include low energy, feeling irritable and down.
Scientists think experiencing less daylight changes how our brain works, specifically the hypothalamus, a key part of the brain. This change impacts the amount of brain-chemicals normally produced – higher amounts of melatonin and lower amounts of serotonin, as well as affecting our body-clock. Melatonin is the hormone that can make you feel sleepy and Serotonin has an important role to play in positive mood and appetite. Our body-clock controls things like when we wake, when we feel sleepy and when we want to eat.
Helping improve symptoms of SAD involves being aware of how we are feeling and taking care of ourselves. It is important to get as much natural light as possible. Spending more time outdoors during daylight hours can really make a difference. There is lots of evidence that physical activity helps improve those sluggish symptoms too. Having a regular time for bed and getting up can also be helpful.
If you are feeling down over these darker days, talking to trusted adults can be one useful step, and remember you can always reach out to MYPAS or your GP if you’re still struggling. Hopefully the advice above will help you feel brighter during the darker months and very soon there will be more hours of daylight.
#mypas #12daysofmypas #eastlothian #midlothian #youngpeople #advice #charity #sad #wellbeing #scotland
Day 2: Managing Study Time over the festive holiday.
It’s the end of a long, hard term. We’re in deep winter. Everyone else is getting ready to kick-back and enjoy the Christmas festivities – but you’ve got prelims to revise for.
So how can you manage your time so that you can revise and still have fun over the Christmas holidays? It’s all a question of balance! A little preparation will help take the stress out of revision and help you avoid feeling like you’re missing out! Make sure you get enough sleep, that you are organised and ready to revise, get some fresh air, move around your space and find a bit of fun.
Rituals – set your space up, do one or two things that remind your body and mind that now is the time to revise. It could be opening your blind, clearing your work space, watering any plants in your space or changing clothes.
Timetable – write yourself a realistic timetable with a couple of hours study each day. You can concentrate on one subject or mix up your subjects so it feels fresh. Do what works for you.
Take breaks – The Pomodoro technique works really well. It is basically a study technique where you study for 25min and then take a 5mins break and repeat. Moving away from your study space during your break can be helpful.
Prioritise – Work out what might be a distraction and what is important for each week. Put them into boxes and concentrate on the Urgent and Important ones during your study time.
Think about how you learn – I know I am visual and practical. I like to get involved, ask questions, think alongside others and see what I’m trying to learn. Once you have an idea of what works for you, it can help you can get into a rhythm.
Use online supports – Kahoot, Quizlet, BBC bitesize, SQA website and any subject specific websites your teachers have suggested. Remember not every suggestion will work for every person, so pick what works for you.
Do you revise best on your own without distractions or would a study group work out better? – A study group means you revise alongside other people. It can be a useful thing to do, especially if you find you sometimes feel stuck because you ask the other people in your study group for help.
Distractions – A dedicated block of time to concentrate on study will really help, however it’s not always that easy. Try studying for 25mintues of study and then allow yourself 5mins for a break and notice if that distraction is still there for you. Don’t worry if you find you can only manage 25mins of study that day. You can build up to a longer study time by adding a 5 or 10mins each day and remember to turn off notifications that can be distracting.
Once you get into the swing of it, it’ll feel easier to revise and you won’t be thinking you should be revising when you’re out enjoying Christmas during your none study times.
Good luck and Happy Holidays. You got this!
Day 3: Navigating Family Gatherings
The holiday season can bring with it connection and joy – but also family challenges. Here, we put forward some tips to help you manage family dynamics over the upcoming festive period.
Navigating family gatherings during the festive season demands resilience, balancing the joyous moments with diverse perspectives and potential tensions.
Prioritise your well-being by setting personal boundaries—it’s entirely acceptable.
If a conversation turns uncomfortable, feel empowered to step back and distance yourself.
Validate your own emotions throughout the day by saying phrases to yourself such as, ‘It makes sense that I’m feeling frustrated by my relative/friend’s actions’ and ‘I will get through today’.
Ensure time for activities that bring you joy, whether it’s a call with a like-minded friend, listening to music, or playing an instrument.
Build in walks and activities that get your dopamine flowing and allow yourself some time to self-soothe if you are struggling. You could even break some gatherings into smaller, shorter events if some family gatherings are likely to be stressful.
Keep in mind, the holiday period is temporary; your everyday routine will resume. Embracing these strategies can transform the challenges into opportunities for self-care, making the festive season more enjoyable and manageable for everyone involved.
Get support over Christmas if you feel that you’re in crisis:
SHOUT have their 24/7 text support – https://giveusashout.org/
Childline 0800 1111
Samaritans have both a phone line and online chat facilities: https://www.samaritans.org/scotland/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/
Day 4: Missing People, Blended and Split Families
Images of happy families are everywhere at this time of year, glowing with festive cheer. What if that’s not what your family looks like? Parents separate and perhaps you go between homes now? Maybe you live with step-siblings? Maybe you’re not living with your birth-family?
You might feel that you’re a ‘problem’ or get in trouble for being moody or upset. You might not feel like ‘part of the family’ and are unsure what you can do.
There is no right or wrong way to feel about any of this. Feeling sad, confused, alone or even mad is not something that we can turn on and off, like tap water. Emotions are what make us human and our bodies natural way to deal with anxiety, stress, sadness, frustration and anger. But there are some things you CAN control by ACTIONS.
Take a Time Out. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, taking yourself off to a quiet space is a positive way to cope. When there’s tension between family members, taking a break away is going to benefit EVERYONE. Remember, if you can, that other people may be doing the best that they can to make the festive season go in a positive way for all the family.
Override the overthinking.
You might want to listen to music, watch a funny film, chat with friends, learn something new, play a game, exercise, walk, journal or be with a pet to distract yourself from the worst of your emotions. Remember that these heavy thoughts and feelings will pass. It may not feel that way at the time, but with a little patience and self-compassion your mood can shift.
Practice being KIND to yourself. THINK KIND THOUGHTS about yourself.
Write down FOUR things that you are – positive qualities like being a good friend, being honest or kind or helping others. You can find things to remind yourself that you matter and your place in the family and in the world is important.
Plan time to feel. Make a deal with yourself that you will feel your feelings, perhaps in a safe place by yourself AND then recall some happy memories with the person you are missing. Imagine them in your mind and how they might want to see you happy.
Give yourself a big hug.
Beat the blues by joining in.
If you feel okay, you might try joining in, asking if you can help with cooking, baking or yes – even tidying up. Any activity and movement helps take your mind off the big emotions that can feel like a heavy weight. Being a teenager can be a lonely time. Speaking up is positive for your mental health. There are people who want to help you feel good about yourself. Remember that if you feel terribly alone and need help then use your phone to connect with friends, caring family and professional services that offer support and practical advice.
Day 5: Grieving at Christmas
The Christmas holiday season can be hard if you have lost a loved one. There can be so many memories linked to the person who died, and images everywhere in the media of happy families celebrating together.
We’ve collected practical tips on supporting yourself from others who have been through this. Despite the images we see everywhere, you are not the only person struggling with grief and loss at this time of year.
Be kind to yourself. If you feel like celebrating, that’s fine. If you feel like curling up on the sofa, that’s ok. Give yourself permission to do whatever feels right for you.
If things feel too much wherever you are, find a way to take time out. Sometimes that might be mentally “checking out” or perhaps going to a different location.
Allow yourself to feel whatever you might be feeling, whatever that feeling is. We can be angry, sad, scared or numb.
It’s ok to not feel ok. It’s okay to let those feelings out by yelling or crying or hugging someone or something that helps. We know it helps to talk to a trusted person about how you are feeling. Sometimes our pets can be the best listeners.
Make plans for things you enjoy – maybe it’s a favourite movie, a walk you like. It could be big or small. Give yourself permission to change your plans if you change your mind!
You might like to decide if there’s something you would like to do to remember your special person. There are ideas for this on the website links below, and stories from people’s own experiences at Christmas.
(Richmond’s Hope Edinburgh have a Christmas Remembrance Service on 24th December. Everyone is welcome – see their Facebook or ring 01316616818 for info)
Day 6: Family Dynamics and Arguments
Christmas can be an overwhelming assortment of close encounters with relatives. If you already have a tense or strained relationship with your family then you may be approaching Christmas with an understandable degree of trepidation.
What can you do that might be helpful?
- Recognise your family dynamics
In most families there is tension or rivalry between certain family members. Being aware of and anticipating disagreements can help us to prepare our responses, rather than reacting impulsively once we are riled up.
- Get some space
Is there somewhere you can go to when being around people seems too overwhelming? Can you plan your day to ensure that you are having some time alone if this is what you need.
- Practice acceptance
We might want Christmas to be perfect or our relatives to be less argumentative but these expectations can lead to disappointment when things don’t work out how we imagined. Sometimes it might be more helpful to expect that things might not go to plan- or that people may be difficult.
- Take a breath
It might be deeply unfair that your brother just pinched the last (delicious looking) roast potato, or your Dad has done that really annoying thing again, or even that you’re convinced your sister is cheating. Take a breath, exhale s l o w l y and remember that no-one can control what anyone else does but we can control how we respond to it. If we flip our lid we’ll probably regret it and perhaps miss out on other things that we would enjoy. Breathing helps us “simmer down” our nervous system and make better choices. Take a breath, and I hope you get the last tasty morsel of something else even if you didn’t get the potato!
Day 7: Keeping Boundaries at Christmas time
The Christmas season can be a time of year when people’s expectations of everyone and everything including themselves seem to become much higher. For example, there might be more invitations to socialise more than usual with friends and family. There might be expectations and hopes of big Christmas presents. You might be feeling forced into spending much of the holiday period with extended family, especially if your parents/carers are making a lot of decisions about the holidays. We may end up feeling the need to do too much of something – too much eating, too much drinking, too much shopping, too much of everything!
Instead of worrying or feeling that your head is going to explode from stress and over-stimulation, why not consider some ways you can look after yourself and make sure you are getting some of what YOU need from the festive season. Here are some tips for setting some boundaries:
Let your loved ones know what you think you will need during the holidays. If you feel that you’d like one or two days in and around the house chilling in your pyjamas, let your parents/carers know. Chances are your parents/carers might also like a bit of quiet time too!
If you are feeling under pressure to spend money that you either don’t have or don’t want to spend, give yourself permission to set clear limits on how much you can afford. Get creative with your gift-giving – search online for ideas of gifts that don’t cost too much, or that you can make yourself, which will be really appreciated by your loved ones.
Don’t be afraid to say no to invites to socialise when you feel you really need some time for yourself. It’s much better to say no than to go out when you know you might not enjoy yourself.
Christmas festivities often involve lots of food offered in larger amounts than usual. Remember that you only have to eat as much as YOU want to eat. If you feel like making the most of what is on offer, go for it and do not allow other people to tell you that you are eating too much or too little.
Hopefully some of these suggestions will help you to have a lovely Christmas break.
Day 8: Emotional Safety over Christmas
“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” sings Andy Williams in the popular Christmas song, but for some people it really isn’t.
For those living in a family that experiences high levels of stress and volatile arguments, or in households affected by parental alcohol or substance abuse or domestic violence, the Christmas break can mean two weeks without access to the usual respite and support networks outside of the family home such as school or youth groups.
The intensity of everyone in the family being off school or work and at home together can provide a trigger point for interactions that might feel emotionally overwhelming or difficult to manage, or you might feel concerned for your physical safety.
If this sounds familiar to you, you might want to consider coming up with a safety plan of somewhere else you can go when things get difficult. This might mean seeking refuge at another family members house such as a Grandparent or an Aunt or Uncle’s, or maybe another trusted adult you feel able to confide in. It might mean going for a walk outside if it’s safe to do so, or going to a public space where you can get respite for a few hours such as a library or a 24-hour supermarket.
Having a plan of where you can go and how you would safely get there, can help you get through these few weeks until normal service resumes in January. It may not be your most wonderful time of the year, but there are ways of getting through it and supports you can still access (see our blog for links and suggestions) when things get tough, and remember its ok to do what you need to do to keep yourself safe.
Day 9: Why Hugging Helps
This time of year, many of us take a pause in our normal routine, maybe spend time with loved ones and think of others.
As modern life has evolved in such way that often we can feel stressed, even burnout and isolated, this can have a devastating effect on mental wellbeing, physical health and levels of happiness.
Human beings are not wired to be isolated or feeling lonely, we evolved to be part of a tribe, to survive, so to be well we need that human connection.
Do not underestimate the power of human connection.
Hugs, giving and receiving hugs, human touch is one of the ways to have that meaningful connection, touch is a nonverbal way of connecting.
Sometimes actions speak louder than words, a hug can be part of a greeting or goodbye, a source of comfort, a show of affection, if you’ve noticed you feel better after being hugged, that’s because hugging can create calmness and relaxation, a hug offers a feeling of reassurance and support
What happens on the inside when we receive a hug from people or pets? there are biological reasons and science-based facts about hugs to support their positive role in our lives.
There is a release of oxytocin, which is a feel-good chemical or cuddle hormone that when released we feel bonded to those around us, there is also a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone that pumps through our body when we feel stressed or overwhelmed.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter which is produced and spread by the neurons in our brains, it is a feel-good hormone which helps us to feel happy, calm and confident, and yes hugging also increases serotonin, which helps us feel good about ourselves.
Some research shows you benefit from giving a hug as well as receiving hugs, studies also suggest that touch reduces your blood pressure which improves your heart health, improves mood, reduces signs of illness and reduces pain.
All positive links between hugging and health and wellbeing, hugs feel good!
Touch can be just as effective as giving a warm hug, cuddling up with a teddy or stroking your favourite pet, research even suggests that a cuddly weighted blanket can relieve stress, because they can feel like you are being held or hugged.
Be mindful that not everyone enjoys hugs, maybe ask the individual first if they need a hug or are ok to receive a hug before actually doing so.
In many ways, hugs are a form of meditation, they allow us to be present in the moment, to let go and feel the energy of the embrace
Its easy to forget how meaningful a hug can be, how healing a hug can feel, the connection that happens, when hugging we share an understanding of each other, I guess we could think about hugs being a great way to stay connected to the people we care about.
Day 10: Embracing Your Holiday Vibes: It’s Cool to Feel Whatever You Feel
The holiday season – a time filled with lights, tunes, and gatherings. But what if your feelings don’t exactly match the festive script? Well, here’s the lowdown: it’s absolutely fine to feel however you feel over the holidays.
1. Riding the Emotional Wave: The holidays are like a rollercoaster of emotions. While some are on a high, others might be caught in a loop of loneliness or stress. Ride those emotional waves because it’s totally normal to have a mix of feelings during the holiday hustle.
2. Breaking the Festive Mould: Ever feel like the odd one out because you’re not all cheer and jingle bells? It’s okay to be different! Social media might make it seem like everyone is living in a winter wonderland, but those picture-perfect moments aren’t the whole story. Your feelings are valid, even if they don’t match the festive vibe.
3. Reflecting on Your Year: The holidays come around when we’re looking back at the past 12 months. If your year was more like a rollercoaster than a smooth ride, it’s okay for those feelings to pop up during the holidays. Take a moment to look back, learn, and appreciate the journey.
4. Prioritizing Yourself: The holidays can be demanding, expecting you to meet a gazillion expectations. But here’s the real deal: it’s okay to say, “I need a break!” Give yourself permission to prioritize your well-being. Whether it’s setting boundaries or opting for a low-key celebration, taking care of yourself is not just okay – it’s essential.
5. Connecting Your Way: Holiday celebrations often revolve around big gatherings, but that’s not the only way to connect. Virtual hangouts, heartfelt messages, or even some quality alone time can be just as meaningful. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to connection during the holidays.
In a nutshell, embrace your holiday vibes! Whether you’re in the spirit or feeling more laid back, it’s all good. Your feelings are valid, and navigating the holiday season authentically is what it’s all about. You’re not alone in feeling the way you do, and that makes your holiday experience uniquely yours. Here’s to being real and feeling however you feel this festive season! 🎄✨
Day 11: Food and Mood.
What we eat and drink affects how we feel, think and behave. Food has a whole variety of positive effects on your body – it nourishes, provides comfort, evokes memory and fuels your body. We all consume food that we know isn’t good for us, especially over the festive season. Here are some tips on how to get the most joy out of food without it affecting your mood.
The key word here is moderation. Moderation prevents negative effects of food on your mood and body – a sugar crash, the caffeine jitters, feeling queasy when overly full.
Eat regularly. At a time when our days are less structured and we are out of our routine, try to eat regularly rather than bingeing. There are benefits to eating breakfast, all dieticians will tell you that. However, if you are not a person who enjoys breakfast or eating soon after waking – have a glass of fruit juice. Fruit is a natural source of energy, activates your metabolism and contains vitamins.
Watch your caffeine. Too much caffeine has a negative effect on your mood, your body and your sleep. If you enjoy tea, coffee or the occasional energy drink – try to limit these before lunchtime so the effects have worn off by bedtime. Too much caffeine can make you feel anxious and jittery by increasing your respiratory rate, heart rate and blood pressure. There are other horrible side effects – over caffeination makes your wee more often therefore dehydrating yourself! Check out this resource on the effects of energy drinks. [link]
Hydrate! While it is widely publicised that teens and adults should drink between 6-8 glasses of water per day – this is not an accurate measure. The actual amount depends on your body, age, height and weight and your gender – generally boys should consume more water than girls. Try to gauge if you feel dehydrated – sign of this are headaches, dizziness, feeling tired, dry mouth.
If staying hydrated is difficult for you, here are some tips that can help:
- Keep a bottle of water with you during the day. To reduce your costs, carry a reusable water bottle and fill it with tap water.
- If you don’t like the taste of plain water, try adding a slice of lemon or lime to your drink.
- When you’re feeling hungry, drink water. Thirst is often confused with hunger. True hunger will not be satisfied by drinking water.
- If you have trouble remembering to drink water, drink on a schedule. For example, with meals and before bed. You can buy water bottles with reminders printed on them.
Comfort eating benefits. Comfort food isn’t just about eating something because you enjoy it. Instead, it is intertwined with other aspects of your life through emotions, memory, and culture. Engaging in an activity that you have good connotations with can reduce the negativity surrounding change. There is a level of stability that comes with familiar items. It reminds of us our social ties and helps us feel less lonely when we feel isolated, connecting food items with social gatherings, family, or people taking care of you evoking a sense of belonging. Why not try some cooking over the break to create some new memories?
Feeling good comes from a diet that has enough healthy choice carbohydrate at regular times to keep blood glucose levels stable, and eating breakfast is a sensible habit.
Day 12: Normalising Feeling Sad at Christmas
‘Tis the season to be Jolly’
The words associated with happiness are all around us at this time of year, from songs to Christmas cards and adverts and films, all including words and images of happiness and togetherness. This can bring an added pressure when feeling happy is far from how you feel right now.
Christmas and this time of year can bring with it many other feelings. It may be that you are missing someone this Christmas and this time of year makes that especially hard, it may be that you are worried about the Christmas plans ahead of you and who you are spending it with. Routines go and there is more time at home and this may not feel safe or may bring feelings of sadness and uncertainty.
In the meantime, there may be somethings within your control which may help you get through these feelings, going outside and getting some exercise can be a really good way to shift your mood, being kind to yourself and allowing yourself to feel your feelings, but also having planned distractions and comforts which you know you will enjoy, this may be a TV series you love, a game, connecting with friends or trusted adults. Baking or making art.
It’s important to remember that we all experience a wide range of emotions, and happiness is only one fraction of these. It is normal to feel sad, anxious or mad and we can all go through these different emotions on daily basis, depending on what might be happening in our life. It may be hard to remember that at Christmas time when everything out there is screaming happiness, and it may be helpful to know that those feelings, just like Christmas will pass.