Surviving the Season:
Coping with Christmas and Mental Health

According to Mind, whether or not Christmas is part of your life, your mental health might be affected by it happening around you. It’s a time of year that often puts extra pressure on us and can affect our mental health in many ways.

How might Christmas affect my mental health?

If you:

  • Feel alone or left out because everyone else seems happy when you’re not
  • Wish you didn’t have to deal with Christmas, or find it stressful because of other events in your life
  • Feel frustrated by other people’s views of a ‘perfect’ Christmas, if these feel different to your experiences
  • Have ideas about what Christmas should be like, feel as if you need to enjoy it or worry something will ruin it
  • Feel like Christmas gives you something to focus on and look forward to, and find it difficult when it’s over
  • Want to celebrate with someone who’s struggling
Image showing someone receiving an a gift

Coping with money worries

It can be challenging to cope with the financial pressures of Christmas – tricky if you’re already struggling with money, and the recent rises in living costs will have made things even harder.

How you cope with the costs of Christmas will depend on your circumstances. Some of these tips may not be realistic for your situation. But it may help to try the ideas listed below. You may want to access support with Turn2Us benifits calculator for tips on how to get help if you’re struggling to pay bills. In addition you could:

  • Make lists, plans or a budget.
  • Be open with others. It can be hard to talk about money. But being honest with others can help.
  • Look for local offers or events.

  • Look for free or low-cost items online.
  • Avoid comparisons with the Christmas you see in adverts and social media.
  • Be kind to yourself.

Looking after yourself

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, it’s easy to forget one of the most essential aspects of well-being: looking after yourself. In a world that often demands our constant attention and effort, it’s crucial to remember to be gentle and patient with yourself. Remember that whatever you’re going through won’t last forever, and setting boundaries is essential to maintain your mental and emotional health. Allow yourself to experience your feelings without judgment, and don’t hesitate to take some time out when needed. You deserve to have the things you need, and even when faced with challenging tasks, plan something special for yourself afterwards to reduce stress and distress. Self-care is a journey, and these simple steps can make all the difference in prioritizing your well-being.

Image showing someone planning aheadac

Planning ahead

Think about what might be difficult about Christmas for you, and if there’s anything that might help you cope. It might be useful to write this down. For example:

  • If you sometimes experience flashbacks, panic attacks or dissociation, make a note of what helps during these moments, and keep it with you.
  • If you’re going to be somewhere unfamiliar for Christmas, think about what you need to help you cope

  • Certain places may feel very uncomfortable for you, for example if they bring back difficult memories. Could you plan to spend less time in difficult places, or not go at all? Are there any reasons that you could stay away?

  • Think about whether you really need to do things if you’re not looking forward to them. Can you do them differently or for less time?

  • Make a list of any services that you might need and their Christmas opening hours.

  • If you’re worried about feeling lonely or isolated this Christmas, think of some ways to help pass the time. For example, this might be doing something creative or spending time in nature.

  • If you are in hospital or a care home, see what activities might be running over Christmas that you might want to take part in.

  • If you can’t be with the people you want to see in person, you could arrange a phone or video call to catch up with them on Christmas day. Or try to arrange a visit around Christmas, if there’s a time when it’s possible to meet.

  • Try to plan something nice to do after Christmas. Having something to look forward to next year could make a real difference

Managing relationships

If other people’s questions are difficult, you could try to think of some answers in advance. For example, about your plans or how you’re doing. Think about how to end difficult conversations. It’s ok to tell someone you don’t want to talk about something, or to change the subject. It might help to practice what you’ll say.

Suggest an activity or an easy way to move on, if you want to help end an unwanted conversation. For example, this could be playing a game, or taking a screen break if you’re on a video call. Talk about your plans in advance. It might help to agree on things such as budgets or timings beforehand. For example, you could agree not to give presents this year, or decide a set amount to spend.

If other people don’t seem to understand how you’re feeling, you could share this information with them. You could also think about writing down how you’re feeling and sharing this with them, if conversations are difficult.

Image showing discussion at table

Talking to other people

Let people know you’re struggling. It can help to talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling. See Mind’s page on opening up to others about your mental health for tips.

It doesn’t have to be people who are already in your life. You could join an online community to talk to others who have similar experiences to yours. Mind’s online community Side by Sideis a safe place to connect with others who understand what you’re going through.

Tell people what they can do to help. And let them know if there’s anything they could avoid doing. You don’t have to justify yourself to others. You might not be able to make others understand. That’s OK