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christmas and mental health

christmas and mental health

whilst Christmas can bring joy, it’s perfectly fine if you’re not feeling your best, so explore how you can improve your wellbeing during the holiday season

While Christmas is typically seen as a time of celebration and happiness, the reality is that many people experience a range of emotions, from stress and anxiety to loneliness. It can be tough to admit, especially when it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.

Whether you’re worried about the mental health of someone close to you or feeling the strain on your own wellbeing due to societal expectations and upcoming big expenses, it’s okay not to be okay during this season. There are simple things you can do to take care of your mental health when you’re feeling low.

myths about mental health at Christmas

everyone should be happy for Christmas 

Although Christmas is known for joy, only some feel super cheerful. The reality is that people experience a wide range of emotions during Christmas, including stress, sadness and anxiety.

you should always look forward to joyful family time

Family dynamics are complex and can vary widely. Not every family gathering is a picture-perfect scene filled with joy due to diverse personalities, past tensions, high expectations and lack of boundaries among the family members. 

we shouldn’t talk about our problems during Christmas

When planning Christmas time, address your worries and concerns to accommodate and respect everyone’s needs and boundaries. Sharing and seeking support can make this time more manageable, especially if you face challenges.

mental health conditions
and Christmas

While the holiday season, including Christmas, is often a time of joy and celebration, it can also be challenging for you. Here are some mental health conditions that may be associated with Christmas:

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): You may experience a type of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, which typically occurs during the fall and winter months when there is less sunlight.

Anxiety: The holidays can be stressful, with pressures related to gift-giving, social obligations and financial strain. If you’re dealing with anxiety, these stressors may be heightened during the Christmas season.

Loneliness and Isolation: Christmas is often associated with family gatherings and social events. For those who are isolated from friends or family, this time of year may intensify feelings of loneliness or even depression.

Grief and Loss: For those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be a challenging time. Christmas may serve as a reminder of the absence of someone special, leading to feelings of grief and sadness.

What can I do this Christmas for myself? 

There are multiple ways you can support your mental health this festive season. Here are a few things you might want to consider: 

Stay active 

Physical activity is linked to improved mental health. Incorporate exercise into your routine, whether it’s a winter walk, bagging a Munro, home workout, or participating in holiday-themed fitness and dance classes.

Try something new and create memories

The cold weather can limit new things to try outside the home, so try to plan some indoor activities you have yet to try. Try a jigsaw or board game from a charity shop, make a list of Christmas films you haven’t seen, or try a Christmas crafting activity. Consider swapping recipes with your friend or organising a food exchange night to try new things and create memories. 

Control your spending 

Sometimes, we feel pressured to participate in expensive social activities or spend more on presents out of fear we have yet to get our loved ones ‘enough’. Buying presents isn’t the only way to show that we care and overspending can impact your mental health and budgeting in the long term. If you have money worries, you can read more about supporting yourself here.  

Not comparing yourself to others 

Christmas is a time when a lot of people like to share a happy picture from their day. While it is nice to see everyone celebrating, it can also create feelings of comparison when we only see happy images. You might feel a comparison with family dynamics, romantic relationships, or the amount of presents other people have under their tree. Everyone’s life looks different and when we compare, it can create a negative spiral that impacts our mental health. If we recognise it happening, we can stop the train of thought and try to think about things we do have. 

Setting boundaries and realistic expectations 

Don’t feel pressure to spend your Christmas with people who have a negative impact on your mental health. Some people have complicated family relationships or relationships with people who don’t understand or respect their lifestyle choices. Spending time in an environment you’re not comfortable in can make Christmas a time of distress and it’s okay to make alternative arrangements that you feel would be better for your mental health. Allow yourself to embrace imperfections and focus on creating meaningful moments rather than ruin your time by lack of perfection.

Giving back to others

There are many ways we can give back at Christmas, whether helping out someone we care about or volunteering with a charity. If you are looking to volunteer, you could contact your local food bank or visit Crisis and The Salvation Army, which offer roles at Christmas.

support

Our Advice and Support Service hosts an advice and support line, open Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs and tells you more about our Change Mental Health services. We can offer initial advice on your money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

If you require more in-depth help with benefits, debt, housing and energy safeguarding, we provide specialist and impartial advice, advocacy and representation over the phone, virtually and face to face.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

Other support 

Samaritans (116 123) is a 24-hour anonymous service available every day of the year. If you prefer not to speak on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.

CALM: National helpline across the UK for men to talk about any troubles they are feeling. Call 0800 58 58 58. They are available 5pm to midnight, 365 days a year. 

If you are experiencing a crisis such as suicidal thoughts, abuse or assault, self-harm, bullying, or relationship challenges, you can text Shout on 85258 who can provide support. 

NHS 24 by dialling 111 if you feel you need to speak with a medical professional or call 999 in am emergency.

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