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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

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