For many, Christmas is a very joyous time of year. It is synonymous with food, warm drinks, presents, time with family and friends, as well as a small break from work! However, for some, it can be a rather difficult period, as it is common for numerous people to have mental health struggles exacerbated over the Christmas weeks.
Likewise, it can be difficult to set aside time for yourself to look after your mental health during this time of year – when in fact it is especially important! Be it general stress, financial concerns or something more specific such as seasonal depression, it can be a time of year where your mental health requires some attention.
Why do these dips occur?
There are many reasons to potentially explain these mental health dips. These reasons, of course, can vary from person to person.
- Seasonal Depression. This a more specific one that may not apply to all, but seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is characterised by depressive symptoms that follow a consistent seasonal pattern. Many with this disorder experience heightened depressive symptoms (such as low mood and a lack of energy) during the winter. This can make Christmas inevitably uncomfortable due to its timing.
- New year anxiety. Feeling anxious at the thought of a new year is also rather common. It can lead us to evaluate parts of our life and their progress such as relationships, careers, etc. We may set goals for ourselves and then worry we will not reach them, or feel we haven’t achieved what we should have from the previous year.
- General stress. Christmas can bring forward it’s own stresses! One of these may include financial difficulties – which is especially common for students and young people, but we think everyone can appreciate Christmas is pricey! Other seasonal stresses may include having to travel a lot to see family or worries regarding body image and weight. More relevant for this year, people may feel stressed about getting ill or other’s around them getting ill.
- Lonely time of year. As we stated, Christmas is a very family-orientated time of year, which can be a blessing from some. However if you are not close with family, or do not have family to spend time with, this can make Christmas very triggering mentally. This can be exacerbated during conversations with other’s when asked what you are doing over the holidays.
- Fewer services available. Getting mental health support over the coming weeks can always be difficult as very few remain open throughout. However, there is support available out there, which we will cover a little later.
What techniques can be put in place?
So now we know a little bit more about why this happens, let’s go through a few techniques to help maintain our mental health:
- Time for self care. Taking time for yourself can be really hard, but self-care, as always, is really important. Try to fit in activities that boost your mood, and give yourself time to relax. For more tips on self-care, do read our blog on this topic here. Remember, you can do activities that have no relation to Christmas if that would also help!
- Mental health exercises. Alongside a self-care routine, try to fit in time for your mental health specifically. This could be in the form of mental health activities such as journaling, identifying and reevaluating negative thoughts, or keeping a gratitude log. Keeping productive can also help. There are multiple things you can do – try to fit those into your routine too.
- Talk to others. Sharing with others your difficulties and how you feel can be really beneficial to your mental wellbeing. Even just talking can provide you with different perspectives, helping to stop negative thoughts becoming more overwhelming. Before holidays really begin, maybe find a person you can confide in.
- Plan your holidays. It might be a good idea to acknowledge what it is about Christmas that is difficult. In this way you can plan and organise your time to suit you so it is less stressful. For example, spend time with trusted friends, have set time to work and relax, and fit in that all-important self-care!
How can you help others?
Sometimes it isn’t ourselves that are struggling, but those around us, and that can be a stressful thing to see. And so here are some tips on how to best support those around you struggling with their mental health.
- Listen. Sometimes the most effective form of support is to let the person speak, without interruption or giving advice. This can be a difficult habit to break, especially if you are an instinctive problem-solver. Instead, listen to the person whilst remaining accepting and open-minded.
- Reach out. For those who are alone- reach out to them! Spend some time with them. It can mean a lot, especially if the person lives alone.
- Ask their opinion. Sometimes the best way to gauge how to best support someone is to just ask. With this encouragement, they may open up about how you can best support them, and allow them to feel less alone.
- Look after yourself! Trying to help those around you can be exhausting and emotional, so make sure you are looking after yourself and talking to others for your own support too.
How can Brighter Life Therapy help?
As with many services, we will be closed between the 18th December and the 3rd January, and are re-opening on the 4th January. There are, however, 24/7 services that you can use such as:
- Samaritans: call 116 123
- Childline: call 0800 1111
- Shout texting service: text 85258
If you are interested in using our service in the new year, we do provide CBT and counselling sessions for young people and adults. Please do not hesitate to contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will get back in touch after the holidays.