How to manage your mental health over Christmas
Christmas can feel as though it is everywhere at this time of year. From November onwards, there is a steady stream of reminders that it is edging closer. The festive period can bring complex emotions for many - from feeling overwhelmed to feeling pure joy. But for some people, the more difficult emotions and pressures that Christmas brings can be hard to manage.
It’s important that we all look after our mental health at this time. In this blog, our Advice Team tell us some practical ways to think about the financial and social side of Christmas. We also asked our social media audience for their top tips on staying well over the festive period. So sit back, grab a cuppa and delve into your bumper Christmas wellbeing guide.
Tips for how to manage your money worries
Office drinks. Christmas meals. Presents. Rising heating bills. The festive season isn’t easy on our wallets. Money worries and mental health are intrinsically linked, so it’s important to manage your finances. That might sound difficult, but there are some simple steps you can take to limit the impact of a busy Christmas. So, let’s get started.
First, setting a budget for the month can be helpful. Teresa said these things help her in a comment on our Facebook page: “Being organised, not leaving things to the last minute. Making lists so I'm not holding everything in my head. Delegating where I can. Setting a budget I can afford and sticking to it.”
Teresa’s right! A good place to start with budgeting is prioritising your most important bills and outgoings. These might include:
- Gas and electricity bills
- Council tax
- Mortgage or rent
- Loans secured against your home
Need help planning your budget? Don’t worry, we have a budget planner to help you.
Not sure what your priority bills are? Our guide on priority and non-priority debts can help you work this out.
Make a list of the things that want to buy during this festive period such as party food, outfits and gifts to get an estimate of cost. This will help you budget.
Being organised, not leaving things to the last minute. Making lists so I'm not holding everything in my head. Delegating where I can. Setting a budget I can afford and sticking to it.
Some other tips for budgeting your money effectively over the holidays:
- Compare prices at different retailers
- Look online for discount codes
- Keep tags and receipts intact.
An important reminder: After you have bought an item think about if you have stuck to your budget. It’s very easy to overspend. Just because you have bought something, it doesn’t mean it can’t be returned. Over the Christmas period some retailers give an extended returns period on products too. The returns policy will often be found on the receipt.
Use the jam jar method
Another useful money management tip is to use the jam jar method of saving. The jam jar method is where your money is put into different pots intended to be spent on something specific. Lots of banks give you the flexibility to manage your money in this way. You may label your pots as:
Breaking down your income into jam jars, may make it easier to see what budget you have available.
Avoid loan sharks
No matter how desperate it gets, it’s important to avoid the temptation to engage with illegal money lending services known as ‘loan sharks’.
The organisation ‘Stop Loan Sharks’ reported that nearly 1 in 10 families used loan sharks last year to cover the cost of Christmas. The use of loan sharks often leads to serious financial issues because people do not have enough money to survive.
You can report a loan shark to the charity ‘Stop Loan Sharks.’
If you need debt advice, here’s a list of national debt organisations:
Tips for socialising over the holidays
Annual traditions, family get-togethers, festive parties. Socialising over the holidays can be really fun, but for those of us living with mental illness, these gatherings can be overwhelming. The sheer volume of social situations can be daunting when you need to take time for yourself.
Dealing with difficult relationships
Relationships can be complicated and become even more so during the Christmas period. There may be pressure for you to interact with people who have caused you pain or trauma.
If there is someone like this who is going to the same event as you, here’s some things to consider before you go:
- Do you feel more comfortable simply not attending the event?
- Are you able to leave early?
- Are you able to talk to someone, such as a friend or relative to support you before or after the interaction?
- Is anyone else going to be there for support who you feel comfortable with?
- What are you going to do to manage how you are feeling following the event? Such as go to sleep, meditate or talk to an emotional support line.
For some people with conditions such as social anxiety, even interactions with loved ones can be challenging.
This was something which came up a lot when we asked our social media audience for their tips on staying well over the holidays.
Never jeopardise your mental health to please others, family can be tough around Christmastime, if something is too much for you then politely decline, nobody has the right to force you to do something that you don’t feel up to.
Faye said “If it feels like it’s too much and will exhaust you or upset you, say no. Doesn’t matter what ‘it’ is, don’t compromise your mental health for anything. But make time for something silly that’ll make you laugh too!”.
Chris agrees and says: “Never jeopardise your mental health to please others, family can be tough around Christmastime, if something is too much for you then politely decline, nobody has the right to force you to do something that you don’t feel up to.”
It doesn’t all have to be negative around this time of year. There’s lots of things which can be beneficial for your mental health too!
Primrose does what she can to immerse herself in the celebrations: “Eating lots of yummy Christmas themed treats, lots of twinkly lights, warmth - blankets and hot chocolates, happy movies and songs”
Villayat says, “Create something. It can help a lot: write, paint, take photos on your mobiles, crafts, music.”
Jenny finds getting outside helps, “I take my dog out somewhere quiet with no one else around, I love sunrise walks.”
Dealing with grief
Christmas can reawaken grief. Meaning that symptoms of grief may resurface during the Christmas period.
Grief is emotional pain that happens when you lose someone, or something, that you care about, such as a bereavement or a relationship breakdown.
Specialist bereavement charities, such as Cruse Bereavement Support, run a national bereavement helpline and can offer one to one support.
For more information, you may find our webpage, ‘how to manage feelings of grief’ useful.
Dealing with loneliness
Loneliness can be felt when by ourselves, or in the presence of people. Such as if you are in presence of someone who you don’t feel cared for or understood by, or you are a carer for someone who is unwell.
Christmas can feel like a lonelier period, with many reminders of family gatherings and social events through the media and advertisements.
If you are worried about the impact of feeling lonely over the holidays, it can be good to stick to a routine. It might be different from your usual work routine, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose all sense of structure. Doing things that you know are beneficial to your mental health, at specific times, can give your day a sense of purpose and drive. Exercising in the morning, seeing a friend or going for a walk in the afternoon, structuring your day can help limit your loneliness.
Remember that it is ok to find the festive period tough. You’re not alone in feeling like that. But it won’t be like this forever, and there are ways to get through this time.
If you’re concerned about your mental health or someone else’s, there’s a few things you can do:
- Contact our advice and information team
- Look at our ‘worried about your mental health’ factsheet
- Look at our ‘how to manage stress’ factsheet
- Look at our ‘how to cope with suicidal thoughts’ factsheet
- Look at our ‘drugs, alcohol and mental health’ factsheet
- Call the Samaritans