Mental health over the festive period

Christmas in the UK seems to start the moment summer ends, and for some it is an exciting and enjoyable time of the year. On the other hand, it can affect people’s mental health negatively as it is a time of year that brings extra pressure. That pressure may be financial, social or work related – if you find the festive period makes you feel under pressure, the reason will be personal to yourself.

Christmas brings with it a number of expenses, whether that be on gifts, Christmas meals or parties or the impact the winter months has on our energy bills – this can lead to worries around money which can have an effect on mood and mental health. Social plans seem to ramp up over the festive season – it gives everyone a reason to get together or go out, there is often a work party or a meal out. Some people find going out overwhelming or become anxious in busy bars and restaurants, this can mean they avoid plans and isolate themselves at home or find it hard to decide whether to go or not.

For some industries and professions Christmas can bring a break from work with some time off – for others it can be a busier time for them, for example for people in retail and hospitality. For those working in healthcare and emergency services, the festive period continues as normal, if anything with fewer staff on duty adding to the workload. This can understandably cause low mood, fatigue and increased stress levels.

Christmas can be really triggering for someone who has suffered a bereavement or gone through a significant adjustment such as a relationship break up, parents divorcing or a diagnosis of illness. It can be hard if this makes the things you do to mark this Christmas different to previous years, feeling like it is something else highlighting what has changed.

Christmas creates a belief that we should all be happy, excited and busy with social plans. This can lead to pressure on yourself if you don’t feel happy and excited and you aren’t tied up with going out and celebrating, with the rise of social media and the number of people sharing their lives, it is even easier to compare ourselves to others. This can lead to us feeling lonely, different or doubting our self-worth.

The festive period centres mostly around food and drink which can be difficult for those who struggle with their relationship with food or are living with an eating disorder. Meals out may feel overwhelming if they don’t feel comfortable eating in front of people or eating something they haven’t prepared themselves. For someone who doesn’t enjoy drinking alcohol, they may feel under pressure to drink or fear going out because they don’t want to be judged for not drinking.

It is important to acknowledge that not everyone finds Christmas fun and exciting, for some it is difficult and can have a negative impact on their emotional health and well-being.

What can you do to help yourself this Christmas?

Be gentle and patient with yourself – it is ok to prioritise what is best for you, and other people opinions should not matter.

Plan ahead – think about what might be difficult about Christmas for you and if there is anything that might help you cope. Try planning something you enjoy for after Christmas to give you something to aim for and look forward to.

Look after yourself – Remind yourself that Christmas won’t last forever, set boundaries and say no to the things that don’t serve you. Acknowledge your feelings, don’t suppress them as they are still real and valid. Do something that helps you forget about Christmas and brings a time of year you prefer in to your mind. Most importantly, let yourself have the things you need.

Talk to someone – Are you keeping the way you feel about the festive period to yourself, this may be making it more difficult for you. Is there a close friend, family member or colleague who you could share your feelings with. If you don’t there are online communities and services that provide a space for people to open up.

Whether you find Christmas touch every year or have noticed that this year is difficult for you and that is a new feeling for you, you don’t have to suffer in silence.

Text ‘Shout’ to 85258 for confidential support via text.

Join ‘Side by Side’, Mind’s online community – https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/side-by-side-our-online-community/

If you are feeling suicidal call Samaritans on 116123.

Billie Pursglove

Billie Pursglove

Owner of Energy Psychotherapy and BACP Registered Member.