Worried about your mental health at Christmas? Finding things harder than normal this time of year? This season can be challenging for a wide variety of reasons, so we’ve put together a guide talking through the different factors of the festive season on your mental health, and some advice and guidance for how to manage your mental health at Christmas.

1. Money

If you are worried about money over Christmas here are a few helpful suggestions:

  • Work out how much money you have to spend when it comes to gifts, going out, buying food etc, make a list and a budget and stick to it. Seeing it all down on paper can make your head feel clearer.
  • Suggest doing Secret Santa with friend groups and family members.
  • Say no! I am someone who finds it hard to say no, however when I do, I always find myself feeling relieved as I don’t need to worry about spending money I don’t have. You have to do what is best for you, it is okay to put yourself first and if you cannot do something, say so.
  • You can also suggest having a night in, doing a potluck dinner or ordering a takeaway and get some Christmas films on. Remind yourself that your friends love you regardless and will just want to spend time with you, no matter what it is.
  • Worrying or feeling stressed over money at this time of year is very common for most it can just be an awkward topic to speak about, so people tend not to. But being honest to yourself and others when it comes to spending and prioritising is the best way of tackling any worries.

2. Time

Do you find it hard to manage your time? Over Christmas it can feel more chaotic, here’s some ideas:

  • Make a list of all your upcoming tasks, a separate one for events. Create a schedule on your device or on paper and fill it with your tasks and events. As mentioned before, seeing everything in front of you can minimize the amount of information in your head and feel clearer.
  • Give a time or a manageable deadline for these tasks and try and prioritise one of two to one day so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Try and not over book yourself, burn out is never good, make sure to schedule relaxation time, it’s so important.
  • Ask for help. I have always struggled to ask for help but this year, juggling work and a one-year-old, I have had to. It is absolutely okay to ask for help, you don’t need to do everything yourself and it can reduce stress immensely by even just talking everything you have to do through with someone.
  • There are also many places that offer gift wrapping options and you can get the food shop delivered to you. These ideas might seem obvious or small but it offers you more time for putting your feet up or focusing on another task.

3. Going Out

Since the pandemic, going out is a totally different experience and at Christmas, there is a lot more socialising going on. Here are some suggestions and thoughts around what we can do to take care of our mental health at Christmas in light of socialising:

  • We are now experiencing a new strain of the virus and it all seems a little up in air when it comes to guidelines, but it is encouraged to not go ahead with Christmas parties. Without a solid guideline it can be hard to decide whether to go ahead with plans or not. You must do what makes you most comfortable and at this stage there is no right or wrong.
  • If you do not want to go out to a restaurant or bar then that is more than understandable.
  • We’ve been living this for a long time now and it can be hard to go back to life as normal.
  • Don’t force yourself to attend anything you don’t want to, it is not worth causing yourself anxiety or stress.

If you do want to socialise but are worried about Covid and being indoors, suggest a nice walk with a flask of tea or return to those early lockdown days with a pub quiz on a video call and some festive drinks.

4. Weather

When it gets to this time of year, it’s dark and cold and the weather is so unpredictable. The dark and cold can really affect your mental health and state of mind, so here are some thoughts that might be helpful:

  • The cold and dark can make you feel unmotivated and tired, this is because your senses are being affected differently. Try working with other senses in another way. Burn a candle that reminds you of summer or warm weather. Turn lights on and take advantage of the natural light when it’s there by grabbing a quick 5 minutes outside or by the window.
  • During summer, I personally find myself wanting to socialise a lot more after work as it is still light. This kind of weather can make you feel alone and isolated as you don’t feel the same urge to go out. So, if you enjoy those summer evenings out, then try and continue this through winter. Meeting in well lit areas for a walk, go to the Christmas market, do a bit of Christmas shopping and grab some dinner.
  • If you feel a severe change in your mood such as depression you may be experiencing SAD (seasonal affective disorder) where your mood changes seasonally. I have linked more information about this here. We would encourage you to seek support by speaking to your GP or looking for therapy online.

5. Work

Whether we are finishing up for Christmas or having to work through it, it can be hard to switch off and allow time for ourselves without worrying about what we are going back to. Here are some suggestions on how to switch off from work:

  • If you find yourself unable to enjoy the time properly as you are worrying about what you are going back to at work then try and write you concerns down and find someone you trust, or speak with a therapist, about those concerns or worries. Talking issues through always rationalises them and makes them seem smaller than they were. Our heads are really good at creating scenarios that are not true or exaggerated but if you get control over it you’ll see you are capable of managing situations and you will when you return to work. For now, allow yourself time to enjoy the festivities, you’ve earned it.
  • If you are working over Christmas, it can be really tough. You can feel alone or as though you are missing out and this can be really upsetting. If you have a close friend at work, see if you can get a lunch break together so you can have your own celebration or ask friends or family to have an early or late Christmas when you next have time off. Having your own plans and something to look forward to is a great way to tackle those feelings of loss over your day.

6. Family

It’s lovely seeing family over Christmas but there can also be a mix of emotions for many. Here are some ways in which you can look after yourself when in difficult situations with family.

  • For those who have lost family members, this time of year is so incredibly difficult and sometimes we don’t know how to manage those feelings. You might want to enjoy the day, but feel guilty about it or you might not want to do the usual traditions as it’s too painful. It’s good to talk this through with your family, you’re in it together and you can find ways of creating new traditions, remembering the ones you’ve lost and allowing yourself to enjoy the day.
  • Seeing family can be relaxing, exciting, comforting but also in most families, it can get stressful. If you find yourself feeling stressed at family events or anxious. It’s okay to let everyone know you need ten minutes to yourself. Don’t punish yourself for not helping during that time, allow yourself those moments to think, relax and take deep breaths, you’ll feel much better for it and will be able to help more if you are feeling well within yourself.

7. Alone this Christmas

If you are unable to spend Christmas with family or friends this year, we understand how hard that can be. It can really affect your mental health at Christmas if things aren’t how you’d expect or feeling “normal”. So here are a few ways you could spend your day, so you are not alone.

  • There are many social media groups such for certain areas such as “Edinburgh ladies”. In these groups, many people open up about being alone for Christmas and organise plans with each other. A great way of meeting new people and not spending the day alone.
  • Many charities such as Crisis at Christmas are looking for volunteers over the Christmas period. You can volunteer to help out, meet some great people and learn new skills.
  • If you are unable to be with family but would rather be in your own home over Christmas then make sure to treat yourself to your favourite food, drinks, films and music. Video call friends and family or take the time to appreciate your own company and that time to yourself.

8. Friends

We all take the opportunity to see as many friends as possible but it is also such a busy time seeing family, working, looking after kids, shopping for gifts and organising life, it can be overwhelming fitting in seeing everyone and it can cause feelings of guilt and worry that we could be neglecting our friends, here’s some thoughts:

  • I read a great message on social media the other day about “being rubbish”. It’s something I certainly find myself saying more often when it gets to Christmas time. We are all in the same boat and our true and good friends are forgiving and don’t have expectations or hold you to a standard. It is always good to communicate but it isn’t always easy. If you can, let others know why we are absent but that is all you can do and it is up to them how they react to it.
  • Try to not beat yourself up, change “I’ve been rubbish” to “I’m really overwhelmed right now, I’m sorry I’ve not been in touch”. It is okay not to be present all the time. Whether you have a lot on or not, if you are finding it hard to communicate and stay in touch then that’s okay.

9. Relationships

A spotlight can be put on relationships over Christmas for many reasons. Here are some of those reasons and what might help:

  • It can be a stressful time of year; you might have to attend family gatherings separately or work longer hours and not see each other as often. So, try having
  • taking the time to spend a day together, watch your favourite show or get out and about, communicate if you feel sad about being apart, it’s completely valid to feel that way and might feel good to share.
  • You are around family a lot more and people who have been in a relationship for a while might start getting the “When are you getting engaged/moving in
  • together/having babies”, questions. This can be a lot of pressure on your relationship, especially as people do not know what goes on privately between you and your partner. You also have every right to tell people that questions and comments about your private life and relationship can make you uncomfortable.

10. Food and Body Image

Personally, I have struggled with body image issues for years and find myself feeling guilty for eating so much over Christmas time. After reading a fantastic article which I will link below, I got some ideas that I’d like to share that have been helping me and my mental health at Christmas this year:

  • Try and not use phrases such as “I’ve earned this, or I’m allowed this because…”. It puts pressure on yourself to work for your food or can create feelings of guilt for yourself or even others who may feel they haven’t done those things to then enjoy their food.
  • I love doing make-up and hair and getting dressed up so this next tip was something I personally have always found uplifting when feeling down about my appearance. “Have a little bit of magic” whether that means going and getting your make up done professionally, buying a nice new shirt, getting your hair done or wearing a nice aftershave. Allow yourself the pleasures of these things, you don’t need to look a certain way or deserve to treat
  • yourself and make an effort.
  • If you find yourself lost, or feeling depressed, anxious or worried about food and body image, please do reach out for support on any issues you experience.

11. Alcohol

Around this time of year you may find yourself consuming or being offered more alcohol than usual. If there are any worries around this, these suggestions might help:

  • There are many low-alcohol or no alcohol alternatives out there now, so popping open a bottle of “Nosecco” or a low alcohol beer is a great way to reduce your alcohol consumption but not feel left out.
  • If you have experience with addiction, then Christmas time can be especially hard. It’s everywhere and hard to avoid. Please take the time to speak to someone supportive, a therapist a trusted friend or family member. Creating boundaries when it comes to being around alcohol is a good way to protect yourself and talking about it with others means that everyone can be supportive of that so you can enjoy your Christmas without worry.

12. Mental health resources

Our mental health is affected in different ways but some of the factors mentioned in this blog. Here are some great resources for mental health and taking care of yourself:

Helplines:

  • NHS Volunteer Responders – 0808 196 3646
  • NSPCC – 0808 800 5000
  • Samaritans – 116 123
  • The Spark – 0808 802 2088
  • Shout – Text 85258
  • Mind – 0300 123 3393
  • Drinkline – 0300 123 1110
  • Talk to Frank – 0300 123 6600
  • National Debtline – 0808 808 4000

Shelter – 0808 800 4444
Cruse Bereavement Care – 0808 808 1677

Articles:


If you wish to seek counselling then please contact us at info@talkandgrow.org we are here to answer your questions and can help you find a therapist that is right for you. You can also visit our homepage for more information.

We encourage you all to take care of yourselves always. Maybe you give yourself the gift of speaking with a counsellor or calling a helpline. There is always someone who cares, always someone who wants to help and always a way out. It’s incredibly hard to put yourself first and to open up but it is also brave and admirable. I have linked above a few charities who can offer support as well as a link to our matching tool where you can book with a counsellor directly.

We hope this has helped you with ways and advice to take care of your mental health at Christmas. Look after yourself.

Merry Christmas, from the team at Talk and Grow!