Mental Health at Christmas

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By Boris Mackey, Community Liaison Manager, rehab4addiction

‘Jolly’, ‘happy, and ‘fun’ are just a few of the words often used to describe Christmas. It is a time of year that is synonymous with festivities, parties, and spending time with friends and family.

However, some people would describe Christmas differently – stressful, exhausting, or strenuous, for example.

For these people, Christmas can be a challenging time of the year. It brings pressure to plan the perfect day, to buy the perfect gift, avoid social isolation, or even relieve potentially difficult past experiences. As a result, many people might suffer from mental health issues during the Christmas period. Studies have shown that stress, anxiety, and depression, can be particularly high during this season.

It is a time where finances can come under a lot of strain, and people can get into debt. Expectations for lots of gifts and fancy meals can cause some people a great deal of stress – particularly for those that are unemployed. (1)

Loneliness is also particularly prevalent at Christmas. Studies have shown that isolation can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.  Many people do not have family or friends they can spend time with, and some might be going through difficult family situations, such as divorce or bereavement. (2)

Christmas can also put a lot of pressure on people to join in with the festivities; this usually means eating and drinking a lot more than usual. For a lot of people, this can be a mental health trigger. Those suffering from alcohol dependency, for example, or those with eating disorders. (4)

Although these issues can seem overwhelming, there are some helpful coping tools readily available.

One of the most important things to remember is that you are not alone. Many people struggle with Christmas, and it is perfectly normal to find it a stressful experience. If you are feeling overwhelmed or that your mental health is suffering, it is a good idea to talk to someone – this could be friends or family.

However, if you are experiencing Christmas alone, there are medical professionals and local organisations that can help (see useful organisations below). It might also be worth trying to get involved in a local community project or volunteering. These will help combat isolation and provide a chance to connect with like-minded people. (3)

Another great coping tool is to plan and organise your Christmas. This will help minimise things or events that might be mental health triggers. This could also include planning a diet, exercise, or hobbies.

Make sure to take a break from social media too. Social media will contain lots of posts relating to Christmas and has the potential to trigger stress and anxiety. (2)

For more information about mental health issues and coping strategies at Christmas, see the infographic below:

 

Mental Health Infographic for GM Poverty ActionReferences

[1] Richardson, Thomas, Peter Elliott, Ron Roberts, and Megan Jansen. “A longitudinal study of financial difficulties and mental health in a national sample of British undergraduate students.” Community mental health journal 53, no. 3 (2017): 344-352.

[2] Wang, Jingyi, Farhana Mann, Brynmor Lloyd-Evans, Ruimin Ma, and Sonia Johnson. “Associations between loneliness and perceived social support and outcomes of mental health problems: a systematic review.” BMC Psychiatry 18, no. 1 (2018): 1-16.

[3] Yeung, Jerf WK, Zhuoni Zhang, and Tae Yeun Kim. “Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: cumulative effects and forms.” BMC public health 18, no. 1 (2018): 1-8.

[4] Learn more about stress and anxiety which is covered in the Alcohol Rehab Manchester guide.

 

i3oz9sMental Health at Christmas