Christmas and mental health
Learn how Christmas might affect your mental health. Find tips on how to cope and ways to support someone else.
Tips for coping during Christmas
If you find Christmas a difficult time of year, this page has some tips to help you cope.
Different things can help us at different times, depending on our situation and how we're feeling. Try some of these ideas and see what works best for you.
I try not to think too much about Christmas. If it turns out to be good then that's a bonus, if not then at least I haven't got myself worked up over nothing!
It can be tough to cope with the financial pressures of Christmas. This can be especially difficult if you're already struggling with money. And for many of us, rises in the cost of living will have made things even harder.
How you cope with the costs of Christmas will depend on your circumstances. You might not find all of these tips realistic. But it may help to try some of them:
- Access financial support. You could use the Turn2Us benefits calculator to work out what support you're entitled to. Citizens Advice has information on how to get help if you're struggling to pay your bills. And you could call Trussell Trust's free helpline for advice on accessing financial support.
- Make lists, plans or a budget. Noting things down can make them feel a bit more manageable or help you think more clearly. Creating a budget could also help you feel more in control of what you can spend. See our page on organising your finances for more tips. You could also use Money Helper's free online budget planner.
- Be open with others. It can be hard to talk about money. But being honest with others can help. You may be able to agree ways to make Christmas plans free or low cost. Or they might be able to offer other kinds of support. Step Change's festive support has information on talking to other people about money worries.
- Look for local offers or events. Local organisations, such as charities and community centres, may have free or low-cost events for Christmas. Or they may be able to offer support with things like gifts or food.
- Look for free or low-cost items online. You may be able to find free items to use as gifts or decorations online, for example through websites like Freecycle.
- Try to avoid comparisons with the Christmas you see in adverts and social media. These often do not reflect reality and can make us feel bad about ourselves. It may help to take breaks from social media.
- Be kind to yourself. Money worries can have a big impact on our mental health. They might make us feel concerned, embarrassed or angry. And they can affect our self-esteem. Try not to blame yourself for your situation or how you're feeling about it.
- Be gentle and patient with yourself. It might help to think about what is best for your wellbeing during Christmas, and prioritise what you need.
- Remind yourself that it won't last forever. You could set a 'start' and 'finish' time for what you count as Christmas.
- Set your boundaries. Try to say no to things that aren't helpful for you.
- Let yourself experience your own feelings. Even if they don't match what's going on around you, they're still valid. For example, if you don't feel like celebrating Christmas when everyone else does.
- 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's 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.
I don't really celebrate Christmas and always enjoy taking the day as time just for me, a whole day of self-care and selfishness!
Think about what might be difficult about Christmas for you, and if there's anything that may help you cope. It might help to write this down. For example:
- If you're going to be somewhere unfamiliar for Christmas, think about what you need to help you cope. Are there things you can bring to make you feel more comfortable? Or is there somewhere you can go to take a break?
- If having a routine is important to you, try to include as much of your regular routine in your Christmas plans as you can. This could help prevent you feeling too disrupted. Or you could slowly introduce Christmas activities to your routine, rather than do them all at once.
- If you sometimes experience flashbacks, panic attacks or dissociation, make a note of what helps during these moments, and keep it with you.
- Certain places may feel very uncomfortable for you, for example if they bring back difficult memories. If possible, you could plan to spend less time in difficult places, or not go at all.
- Think about whether you really need to do things if you're not looking forward to them. It may that you can do them for less time, or in a different way.
- Make a list of any services that you might need and their Christmas opening hours. Our page of useful contacts lists some organisations who can help.
- Pharmacies can be closed on certain days over the Christmas period. So if you take medication, make sure you have enough for the whole period.
- 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. See our pages on relaxation for more ideas.
- If you're 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 out some new traditions if any of your previous traditions don't feel possible this year. For example, if they're too expensive, or too difficult because of a bereavement. These new ideas could be a one-off, or they could become part of Christmas in future.
- Try to plan something nice to do after Christmas. Having something to look forward to next year could make a real difference.
I've found the way of having a happiest Christmas is doing what's right for me. Making careful choices who I spend my time with and keeping in mind that it’s just one day. The interactions I have with people throughout the year are just as important.
- 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 practise 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.
- It's ok if there are people you don't want to see at Christmas. If you can't avoid spending time with them, try to think of ways to keep a distance while you're there.
- Let people know you're struggling. It can help to talk to someone you trust about how you're feeling. See our page on opening up to others about your mental health for tips.
- You could join an online community to talk others who have similar experiences to yours. 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 do to help. And let them know if there's anything they could avoid doing. For example, let them know any activities you'd like to be involved in, and how they can support you during Christmas. Or you could tell them any topics you find hard to discuss, so they can avoid asking.
- You don't have to justify yourself to others. But you might feel pressure 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. But try to remember it's not your responsibility to convince other people, or get their permission to look after yourself.
It had helped me to be on Mind's online community in December. It was a nearly Christmas-free place. People knew that we all have to deal with a lot during this time of the year in our own worlds and it was peaceful just to talk.
If you're struggling this Christmas, you may want to find support for your mental health. There are a few ways that you can do this:
- Visit our useful contacts page for a list of organisations who can support your mental health or help with practical problems.
This information was published in November 2023. We will revise it in 2024.
References and bibliography available on request.
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