Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, according to movies, festive songs and commercial outlets. It’s almost impossible to escape images of ‘perfect’ families celebrating in wholesome ways in the run-up to the big day, or the pressure to attend an array of festive events.
While for many, this is a time to catch up with loved ones, eat, drink and be merry, for others, it’s completely overwhelming. Everything seems to intensify at this time of year, from the crowds and lights to the strain on your finances. Should you be experiencing a mental health issue or enduring disorder, this added pressure can potentially lead individuals to experience a mental health crisis.
If you struggle with your mental health and you want to avoid Christmas related stress, or you are wondering how does Christmas affect mental health, and why is Christmas stressful for someone you love, keep reading. We have detailed the reasons Christmas can put a strain on mental health as well as the methods you or your loved one can adopt to prepare for an anxiety-free festive period.
Why People Find Christmas Challenging
The main thing people need to realise about Christmas is not everyone’s situation is the same. You may be excited about spending time with your family, but for someone else, that could be a trigger for their mental health if their family relationships are strained.
Equally, this could be a time of extreme loneliness if you don’t have loved ones to spend the day with. Constantly hearing about other people’s plans and happy experiences can make you feel isolated if your festive period looks vastly different.
In a similar vein, the constant pressure to attend social gatherings could prove to be too much for the individual and cause their mental health issues to spiral. They may experience social anxiety or panic attacks that could be brought on by the thought of attending lots of events. On the flip side, they may feel excluded if they aren’t invited to parties but constantly hear or see others seemingly having a great time.
Plenty of other aspects of the festive period can also be detrimental triggers for individuals struggling with their mental health. People may feel like they don’t have the time or mental strength to do everything that is expected of them. The money they feel pressured to spend at Christmas can stretch them too thin and make it hard for them to cope in the month's post-December.
Dealing with the loss or grief of the people who are no longer in their life can also bring on severe bouts of depression. Not to mention that many mental health support services operate in a limited capacity.
As such, Christmas can be an especially challenging time and put a strain on anyone’s mental health, whether they have identified mental health needs or not. In addition to New Year's celebrations that can often leave people feeling they are unaccomplished in their lives.
Ways You Can Alleviate Stress at Christmas
You may feel like Christmas is an unavoidable time or something you will never be able to get through comfortably. However, with the right coping strategies to hand, you can enjoy the Christmas period.
Thinking ahead and identifying what part of the holidays triggers your mental health issues will enable you to avoid stress points, so you can embrace the festivities by only doing what you find enjoyable.
- Making notes of what makes you feel comfortable in times of distress, so you can use them as coping mechanisms in future
- Being mindful of the places that make you feel uncomfortable, perhaps those that bring back bad memories and avoiding them if possible
- Compiling a list of the mental health support services that are operating during Christmas hours, so you know exactly who to contact should you need additional support
- Trying to fit in things you enjoy around the events you find stressful. Perhaps going for a walk in nature after visiting family if it will help you unwind
- Setting up a phone or video call to catch up with loved ones instead if you can’t get to them or if you feel spending the day with them would be too much
- Have people on hand that you can quickly chat to if things get too much, like specific loved ones or other people experiencing mental health issues in online communities
- If you can’t do Christmas, take time out. Have an alternative day for yourself instead where you indulge in ‘me’ and put your needs first
How You Can Prepare for a Less Stressful Christmas
The above will help you reduce strain on your mental health at Christmas, but there are also things you can do in advance to improve your mental wellbeing around the holidays.
Manage Your Money
Preparation is key when it comes to finances. Money has to stretch so far at Christmas as you not only have to factor in present buying but the cost of Christmas food, attending events and travel to see whomever you’re visiting, among other things.
By managing your personal finances, you can set out a budget and make a plan for your money, so your spending doesn’t get out of hand during the holidays. This can alleviate so much mental strain as you will know exactly what you need to spend ahead of time. Budgeting for Christmas in advance also makes it easier to save prior to the holidays, so you don’t feel the pinch so hard during December.
Find out more about improving your mental health by getting ready for Christmas with better money management in our blog.
Making lists is another excellent way to get mentally prepared for the holidays and make the festivities seem less overwhelming. Facing the holidays without a plan can make you feel like you’re lost in a sea of presents to buy, festive gatherings to attend and distant relatives to tick off the visited list.
Put everything down on paper that you need to do, whether it’s the Christmas food shop to the present you’re buying for your works secret Santa or the people you plan to visit and when.
Once you have everything set out in a visible list, you can organise your time and priorities accordingly, and mark off the things you have done one accomplished, all of which will help you feel more in control and make your to-do list much more manageable.
Learn More About Mental Health
Whether you are trying to protect your mental health at work or raise your mental health awareness so you are more in tune with your needs, studying mental health courses can be hugely beneficial.
Each individual’s mental health needs are unique to them and can be incredibly complex. There is no one size fits all approach to better managing a mental health issue or enduring disorder, which is why studying mental health is so advantageous.
Taking the time to educate yourself about mental health, whether you are experiencing mental health issues yourself or not, will help you identify the warning signs and prevent or avoid the situations that can bring about unnecessary stress for the individual with mental health needs.
Tell People How You Feel
You might feel like if you opened up about your mental health challenges during Christmas that the people around you wouldn’t be supportive or wouldn’t understand. However, as mental health issues and enduring disorders are becoming more prevalent, more people are doing their bit to help others manage their challenges.
The people around you can only help if they have a better idea of what you’re going through. Telling them how you feel can not only help them help you but also open their eyes to how others may be feeling during this highly stressful time. Awareness is key, as is raising the profile of mental health needs.
Learn How to Put Yourself First
If you or someone you care about is experiencing challenges with their mental health, which will no doubt be amplified during Christmas, studying mental health courses online can be incredibly useful.
learndirect is the leading UK online course provider, with a whole faculty dedicated to mental health courses. So, not only can you learn more about the symptoms and triggers of different mental health issues and enduring disorders, you can do so from home.