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Managing your mental health at Christmas

A mes­sage from Rehab 4 addiction

The fes­tiv­i­ties of the Christ­mas sea­son bring hap­pi­ness and joy to a lot of fam­i­lies and peo­ple. For some, Christ­mas brings a chance to have big par­ties, and con­nect with dis­tant fam­i­ly and friends.

For oth­ers, it’s an oppor­tu­ni­ty to enjoy a lowkey cel­e­bra­tion with their clos­est, and most imme­di­ate loved ones. How­ev­er, for a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion of peo­ple, the Christ­mas peri­od is the cause of anx­i­ety and stress, which can build-up to cause a seri­ous decline in men­tal well-being.

The source of Christ­mas-relat­ed wor­ries can vary from per­son to per­son. A lot of peo­ple will relate to wor­ry­ing about the finan­cial cost that Christ­mas can bring, and the accu­mu­la­tion of unwant­ed debt that it can cause.[1]

Some people’s anx­i­ety over Christ­mas is relat­ed to feel­ings of stress which stem from being too busy and hav­ing too much to do: shop for presents, attend Christ­mas par­ties, vis­it fam­i­ly, and organ­ise Christ­mas food.

Some drink an exces­sive amount of alco­hol to ‘self-med­icate’ their wor­ries and ‘cel­e­brate’ the end of the year.[2] How­ev­er, a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple see a decline in men­tal well-being around Christ­mas due to emo­tion­al, rather than finan­cial or prac­ti­cal, rea­sons. Because of its asso­ci­a­tions with fam­i­ly, the Christ­mas sea­son can under­stand­ably remind peo­ple of lost loved ones. It isn’t uncom­mon for the peri­od to bring back mem­o­ries which can be com­pli­cat­ed to deal with. [3]

Even hap­py mem­o­ries can result in sad­ness and resur­faced feel­ings of loss. There­fore, know­ing that the Christ­mas sea­son is close by, and expect­ing com­plex emo­tions, can be the source of intense anx­i­ety for some people.

These feel­ings can leave peo­ple feel­ing emo­tion­al­ly iso­lat­ed from oth­ers who are enjoy­ing the fes­tiv­i­ties, and can result in a seri­ous impact on men­tal well-being.

Seek­ing com­fort from fam­i­ly or friends, rather than con­tain­ing emo­tions, can be an effec­tive way to mit­i­gate against the most strong­ly neg­a­tive emotions.

Shar­ing your feel­ings, and dis­cussing them with some­one you trust, can help you to reflect on them and under­stand their cause.

Lone­li­ness is anoth­er com­mon emo­tion that can be inten­si­fied dur­ing the Christ­mas peri­od. If you have a dif­fi­cult rela­tion­ship with your fam­i­ly, or if you live in an area where you have few fam­i­ly or friends, the Christ­mas sea­son can be espe­cial­ly hard.

Watch­ing oth­er peo­ple enjoy­ing fes­tiv­i­ties and spend­ing time with fam­i­ly and friends can empha­sise under­ly­ing feel­ings of iso­la­tion, mak­ing the hol­i­day a source of sig­nif­i­cant anxiety.

There are sev­er­al steps you can take to avoid or reduce the feel­ings of lone­li­ness felt dur­ing the Christ­mas peri­od. First, it’s impor­tant not to com­pare your sit­u­a­tion to oth­er people’s.

Everyone’s cir­cum­stances are dif­fer­ent, and mak­ing com­par­isons can often ampli­fy neg­a­tive emo­tions. Sec­ond­ly, it can be use­ful to keep your­self busy with some­thing productive.

This could be as sim­ple as learn­ing a new hob­by (you could try some­thing sea­son­al, like cro­chet­ing) or could be more com­plex, like a vol­un­teer­ing project.

By work­ing on a Christ­mas vol­un­teer­ing project you know that, even though it might be a dif­fi­cult time of year for you, you’re help­ing to do some­thing pos­i­tive for oth­er peo­ple. Most impor­tant­ly, reach out to your local community.

There will be oth­er peo­ple in your area in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, expe­ri­enc­ing sim­i­lar emo­tions. You can use the Christ­mas time to find new friends, and form strong bonds with your local community.

While Christ­mas can lead to com­plex emo­tions and neg­a­tive­ly impact men­tal well-being, there are ways those feel­ings can be man­aged and addressed.

Learn about oth­er tips on how to pro­tect your men­tal well-being dur­ing the Christ­mas peri­od by check­ing out the info­graph­ic above.


[1] Talk­ing about your mon­ey wor­ries at Christ­mas

[2] Cov­ered in more detail in the Rehab for alco­hol in Lon­don arti­cle.

[3] Mon­ey and anx­i­ety at Christ­mas