Christmas can be difficult for anyone, at any point in their life.
You might be struggling this year for the first time. Or you may have found Christmas difficult in the past, and you are dreading it again this year.
You may also enjoy Christmas, but not be able to celebrate it how you would like. Or you might find some parts enjoyable, but other parts stressful.
How might Christmas affect my mental health?
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 lots of different ways.
For example, 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
- want to celebrate with someone who is struggling
Tips for coping during Christmas
If you find Christmas a difficult time of year, we have gathered some tips to help you cope:
Be gentle, generous and patient with yourself
- It’s okay to prioritise what’s best for you, even if others don’t seem to understand
- Think about what you need and how you might be able to get it
- Consider talking to someone you trust about what you need to cope
Think about what might be difficult about Christmas for you, and if there is anything that might help you cope. It might be useful to write this down. For example:
- Think about whether you really need to do things if you are 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. Mind’s page of useful contacts has some suggestions.
- If you are 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. See Mind’s pages on relaxation for more ideas.
- 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 the day. Or try to arrange a visit around Christmas, if there is 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.
- If other people’s questions are difficult, you could think of some answers in advance so you are not caught off guard. For example, about your plans or how you are doing.
- Think about how to end difficult conversations. It’s okay to tell someone you do not want to talk about something, or to change the subject. It might help to practise what you will 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 are on a video call.
- If other people do not seem to understand how you’re feeling, you could share this information with them. You could also think about writing down how you are feeling and sharing this with them, if conversations are difficult.
Look after yourself
- Set a ‘start’ and ‘finish’ time for what you count as Christmas. Remind yourself that it will not last forever.
- Set your boundaries. Say no to things that are not helpful for you.
- Let yourself experience your own feelings. Even if they do not match what is going on around you, they are still real and valid.
- Take time out. Do something to forget that it’s Christmas or distract yourself. For example, you could watch a film or read a book that is set in the summer. Or you could try learning a new skill.
- Let yourself have the things you need. For example, if you need to take a break instead of doing an activity, or need a little bit of quiet time.
- If you cannot avoid something difficult, plan something for yourself afterwards to help reduce the stress or distress you might feel.
Talking to other people
- Let people know you are struggling. It can often feel like it’s just you when it is not. See Mind’s page on opening up to others about your mental health for tips.
- It does not have to be people who are already in your life. You could join an online community to talk others who have similar experiences to yours. There is the mental health #PRFam Group or Mind’s online community Side by Side is a safe place to connect with others who understand what you’re going through.
- Tell people what they can stop, start or continue doing to help you. For example, you could let them know any activities you would like to be involved in, and what they can do to support you during Christmas. Or you could tell them any questions or topics that you find hard to discuss, so they can avoid asking about them.
- You don’t have to justify yourself to others. But you might feel pressured to, especially if someone asks a lot of questions. It could help to let them know that certain situations are difficult for you, and tell them what they can do to help. It might also help to tell them that you understand they may see things in a different way.
- You might not be able to make others understand. That is okay. It’s not your responsibility to convince other people, or get their permission to look after yourself.
SAD – Seasonal Affected Disorder
While many people might experience some sort of dip in their mood, energy or motivation during the darker times of years, for someone who experiences SAD. this can be quite severe, impacting on their ability to function and undertake day to day activities.
Take a look at the Manchester Mind SAD page for some coping tips
If you are struggling this Christmas, you may want to find support for your mental health. Please remember you are not alone. Support is available every day.
For more information about coping with Christmas please see the national Mind website.