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mental health christmas

5 ways to look after your mental health this Christmas

From the hectic and often alcohol-fuelled festive run-up to hosting dinner on the big day, Christmas time comes with its own set of challenges. These five expert-advised tips can help you prioritise your mental health at Christmas.

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Mental health at Christmas

Whether you love the festive period or shudder every time the TV adverts, radio, or shops you enter blast Christmas songs, Christmas can be emotionally and mentally tough.

One YouGov UK survey1 found that one quarter of people's mental health suffers over Christmas. It revealed that some of the main mental health problems at Christmas include:

Eating disorders, grief, and empty nest syndrome can also become extra challenging to navigate during this time of year.

To help you look after your mental health at Christmas, consultant psychologist Dr Elena Touroni, co-founder of The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, shares her five tips.

1. Take the pressure off the big day

"Christmas is often filled with expectation, which can accompany the added pressure for things to be just right," says Dr Touroni. "If things don't go the way we'd planned, it can leave us feeling like we've failed in some way."

To reduce this pressure, she encourages you to be kind to yourself and to remove any expectations of what you think Christmas Day should be like.

What could this look like?

  • Deciding early in the season if you're genuinely feeling happy and calm enough to host Christmas Day.

  • Asking family or friends to support and share festive tasks - for example, being responsible for elements of Christmas dinner or setting the table.

  • Setting a budget that you're comfortable with - as well as reducing financial stress, this can help you to think about what's most important to you at Christmas and to worry less about creating a picture-perfect Christmas setting.

  • Laughing at the imperfections - remember that Christmas Day itself rarely runs smoothly and some disasters, like a burnt dinner, often lead to laughter and shared memories.

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2. Practice plenty of self-care

Self-care means taking the time to do things that bring you joy or relaxation. When it comes to your mental health at christmas, self-care has proven benefits for stress management, energy levels, and even illness prevention2.

According to Dr Touroni, you should make time for the things that nourish you and provide you with a sense of mental wellbeing. December can be very busy, so it's important to feel that you can reserve time for self-care, even when it means saying no to someone else.

What could this look like?

  • Eating healthily and staying hydrated - unhealthy foods and even mild dehydration can negatively impact your mood and energy levels3. Although important all year round, the amount of alcohol and unhealthy foods around at Christmas make this a key December priority.

  • Keeping up with the exercise - busy festive social calendars and hangover days often disrupt exercise routines but maintaining just 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day can boost your mood2.

  • Embracing relaxing hobbies - for example, going for nice walks, reading, DIY projects, or running yourself an indulgent bath.

  • Focusing on positivity - recognise when any negative thoughts are brought on by Christmas and try to challenge them with a positive thought.

3. Don't force yourself

Christmas can be a difficult time, we can feel the pressure and expectations to do certain things or see certain people. If you're feeling low, exhausted, stressed, or anxious, Dr Touroni warns against doing something that you feel might make these feelings worse.

What could this look like?

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4. Remember that you're not alone

"Remind yourself that Christmas can be triggering for lots of people," says Dr Touroni. It can sometimes look like everyone else is out having fun, especially on social media, and if we're not enjoying ourselves, it can make our mood worse as we feel more alone.

What could this look like?

  • Remembering the statistics in this article to realise you're not alone.

  • Taking a social media holiday and putting that phone or laptop away for a few hours, especially in the evening.

5. Talk it out

If you're struggling with your mental health at Christmas, you don't need to battle through it alone. Talking to friends and staying connected to family can remove a lot of the burden and pressure we feel at Christmas and help you to know that you have a network of support. If you need further tools to help you return to a more positive mental state, speak to your GP or a private therapist.

Further reading

  1. YouGov: How does Christmas impact people's mental health?

  2. National Institute of Mental Health: Caring for your mental health.

  3. Mental Health Foundation: How are diet and mental health linked?

Article history

The information on this page is peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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