for better mental health

Christmas and mental health

Explains how the period around Christmas and new year might affect your mental health. Gives tips on how to cope and suggestions for supporting someone else.

Why is Christmas a hard time?

Christmas can be difficult for anyone, at any point in their life. You might know other people who are also finding Christmas hard this year.

This page covers some things that can affect how we feel at Christmas:

You might relate to some experiences listed on this page. But you might also have other reasons for finding Christmas hard that aren't listed here.

"I find it extremely lonely and isolating. It all seems to drag on for months as well."

People who aren't there

Christmas isn't the same without Ruth

"Although I was expecting it, it was like watching it all happen to someone else."

People who are there

  • Abuse and other trauma, whether past or current – including seeing people who trigger you.
  • People not accepting you, for example if family members don't accept your LGBTIQ+ identity.
  • Difficult relationships (find out more on the Relate website).
  • Dealing with other people's expectations.
  • Other people deciding things.
  • Family norms or cultural expectations.
  • Demands on your time – pressure to socialise or see people.
  • Listening and empathy – pressure to be available for others.
  • Boundaries – having less privacy, for example being in someone else's house.
  • Worrying about gifts – what you buy, who you buy for and how they'll be received.

Money and practicalities

  • Not having enough money or being in debt (find out more on the Money Advice Service website).
  • Coping with the timings of payments, benefits or wages.
  • Things being closed when you need them – for example, food banks and other support services might be able to help ahead of Christmas, but are often closed on public holidays. (Search for food banks on the Trussell Trust website).
  • Extra costs and pressure to spend money, for example presents, outfits or food.
  • Existing problems managing money and your mental health, which might get worse at Christmas.
  • Childcare – for example working when children are off and being unable to spend time with them, or worrying about costs.
  • Finding enough time to do everything.
  • Routines change or aren't possible to maintain.

Society and the outside world

  • Pressure to enjoy yourself and look happy.
  • Media, adverts, and representations of Christmas can be upsetting, at odds with your own experience, and be hard to avoid.
  • Public spaces and Christmas events can have more noise, lights, crowds and smells, which can be overwhelming.
  • Food and alcohol – including pressure to eat and drink things you don't want to, or can't. (Find out more in our pages on food and mood, eating problems, and drugs and alcohol).
  • Comments about food, diet or lifestyle.
  • Travelling, logistics, staying somewhere else can all be difficult to organise, stressful or disruptive.
  • Impact on sleep and routines.

My Christmas with BPD

"It's a fight that I'll win, but it's a tough fight all the same."

"I love decorating my tree and watching Christmassy films, but it's also a very emotional time, especially when you watch TV adverts and family sitcoms and everyone is so happy... Then you realise you have... You."

Access to support and services

  • It can be harder to find out quickly what service to use, because opening hours change.
  • GP surgeries tend to close over Christmas, and appointments are harder to book. (For medical help you can contact NHS 111 in England or NHS Direct Wales).
  • Therapists usually don't work over the festive period.
  • Fewer services are open, or run a reduced service – for example crisis teams and some helplines.
  • Pharmacies close and it can be harder to get medication. (Find out more about emergency prescriptions on the NHS website, or contact NHS 111 in England or NHS Direct Wales.)

Coping with depression and anxiety at Christmas

"I'd go for the meal to be polite and then escape as quickly as I could from the packed pub or restaurant."

This information was published in December 2019. We will revise it in 2020.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

Share this information

arrow_upwardBack to Top