Christmas can be such a wonderful time for many of us as we get to connect with loved ones and spend time with one another. However, Christmas can also have a negative impact on our mental health. This is largely because it puts additional pressure on us, whether that be financial pressure, or societal pressure to have the “perfect” Christmas. It is therefore important for us to look after ourselves, and look after those around us.
This year in particular may have a negative impact on our mental health because of the Coronavirus restrictions in place. It is therefore imperative that we focus on what we can do, as opposed to focusing on what we can’t do.
Christmas may be a particularly bad time for you – but remember that you are not alone in this. You may feel very lonely at Christmas, even if you have family and friends around you. You may also be struggling because you want to celebrate with someone who is suffering poor mental health. Furthermore, difficult and stressful experiences can heighten mental health conditions such as anxiety, stress and depression.
Why can Christmas be a hard time?
Christmas can be a hard time for an array of reasons. Firstly, it reminds us who is not there – whether that be through bereavement, estrangement or divorce. On the other hand, you may have difficult relationships with people that are there and feel pressured to socialise and/or see people. Money and other practicalities also play a part as we face the financial burden and pressure to buy presents, outfits and food, as well as finding enough time to do everything. This year in particular where a lot of people have faced redundancy, pay cuts and job losses, there is less disposable income, but Christmas isn’t all about gifts and spending money. Rather, it is about being with one another, whether that means virtually or face-to-face, and spending time with people that make us happy, or, if you needed, taking time out and doing whatever is best for you, even if that isn’t Christmas related.
Tips for looking after Mental Health at Christmas time
- Prioritise what is best for you. Even if people around you don’t understand, think about what you need and how you will achieve this.
- Talk to somebody that you trust if you are struggling to cope.
- Say no to things that you do not want to do, or be a part of, such as going to bars. Friends and family should respect your boundaries.
- Exercise – simply taking a walk will help to reduce stress and anxiety.
- Have some fun – put down to do lists and organise fun activities to boost laughter and reduce stress.
- Be kind to yourself. Think – what would you say if a friend was struggling with their mental health at Christmas? You would listen to them and empathise with them – offering them support, so don’t beat yourself up if you are struggling and/or not enjoying Christmas.
- Keep in mind what is important: overspending can overshadow the true sentiment of Christmas. Relationships are more important than material objects.
- Set a budget to account for your usual expenses and plan for any other spending over the holidays, such as parties, socialising and travelling costs. This will help to limit financial stress by curbing overspending.
- If someone around you is struggling with their mental health, try:
- Listening to them, without judgement, and concentrate on their needs.
- Asking them what they think would help them.
- Asking them open ended questions and avoid trying to diagnose or second-guess their feelings.
- Avoiding confrontation with them, and don’t disregard how they are feeling. You don’t have to agree with everything they say, but you can still show that you understand and respect their feelings.
- Reassuring them, and where possible, signposting them to useful information and resources (see useful contacts below).
There are various organisations that will support you during Christmas and at any other point in the year. These can be found at https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/christmas-and-mental-health/useful-contacts/
The useful contacts on Mind will help anyone experiencing a mental health problem, such as an eating disorder, suicidal thoughts and LGBTQ+ issues. Support is also available for bereavement, abuse and domestic violence, and you can also access money advice and food bank help. For those struggling with suicidal thoughts, there is also the ‘Stay Alive’ App which is packed full of information and resources to prevent suicide and promote positive mental wellbeing, which can be downloaded from: https://www.prevent-suicide.org.uk/find-help-now/stay-alive-app/
Wishing you all a safe and happy Christmas.