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Mental Health at Christmas

17th Dec 2021

Guest Blog from Rehab4Addiction.

Christmas is something that a lot of people look forward to all year round – it is a chance to relax, enjoy the festivities, and spend time with family and friends.

For others, however, the thought of Christmas can be fraught with stress and anxiety.

There are a lot of expectations that surround Christmas: having the perfect meal, buying the perfect gift, or being surrounded by lots of friends and family.

Although an enjoyable time for some, many people find these expectations unrealistic and the source of mental health issues.

An example of this is the financial pressures that come with trying to meet these expectations. Those struggling financially, such as those that are unemployed, might find it hard to pay for gifts or an expensive Christmas dinner.

It is not uncommon for many people to get into debt over Christmas – this can then perpetuate stress and anxiety.

Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol is another issue. Alcohol is particularly troublesome for those who have suffered with alcoholism in the past, because Christmas can serve as a relapse trigger. (1)

Loneliness is also common for many at Christmas, particularly for those that do not have close family or friends. As a result, Christmas can lead to depression, feelings of isolation and being left out.

The same is true for those that might be going through a divorce or have recently lost a loved one.

Christmas is also often a time of excess – whether it is eating too much or drinking more than usual. For those suffering from addiction, eating disorders, or those that are health conscious, this excess can lead to mental health issues. (2)

Ways to Protect Mental Health at Christmas

The stresses and mental health issues associated with Christmas can vary from individual to individual. However, there are some great ways to help prevent Christmas from becoming overwhelming.

If you are worried about being alone, then reaching out to a local community project might be helpful. Also, many organisations run volunteer programmes over the holidays; this is a great way to meet people and help those that are less fortunate (see useful organisations below).

It is also good to manage expectations and plan ahead. There is no reason that Christmas needs to be synonymous with eating or drinking too much or buying expensive gifts. (3)

Managing expectations should also encourage people to say no to things or events that might be mental health triggers, such as parties.

Another great tip is to create a regime. Planning a diet, or a way to eat well and drink sensibly, and a way to stay active, will help reduce stress and anxiety.

It is also recommended that people take regular breaks from social media over the holiday season. If Christmas is a source of stress and anxiety, then seeing hundreds of posts relating to Christmas will not help.

If you are suffering from Christmas-related anxiety or depression, one of the best things to do is talk to somebody – whether a friend or family member or a medical professional. (4)

To learn more about mental health during Christmas and ways to help stay mentally healthy, check out the infographic below:




[1] See Alcohol Rehab Wales for a discussion on relapse triggers.

[2] https://researchonline.nd.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1039&context=pastoral-liturgy

[3] Brownell, Kelly D. “Personal responsibility and control over our bodies: When expectation exceeds reality.” Health Psychology 10, no. 5 (1991): 303.

[4] Turner, R. Jay, and Robyn Lewis Brown. “Social support and mental health.” A handbook for the study of mental health: Social contexts, theories, and systems 2 (2010): 200-212.

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