Christmas is a time when many of us feel blessed; surrounding ourselves with friends and family. Not everyone is as fortunate. In this post, I'd like to share some thoughts on how to make the most of Christmas, if perhaps you are spending time alone (or even if you are not) or if you are aware of someone that is.

If Christmas gives you a sense of anxiety or stress; then you are not alone. Almost 25% of people have said that Christmas can have a negative impact on their mental health, whilst 54% of people surveyed have said they are concerned for the mental health of someone they know. What is meant to be a wonderfully happy time, can in fact be a time of anxiety and unhappiness.

Loneliness, stress and debt are the main triggers for people struggling over Christmas. (Perhaps this is a conversation for another time - but doesn't it seem that we may have lost sight of what Christmas is about). Personally, married to an American, I find Thanksgiving a lot easier in that there is no gifting at all and it's about spending time with people - friends and/or family.

Loneliness can be a big cause of people's poor mental health, so finding ways to get out and about, to interact with others can be a way to make the most of the time. Similarly, spending time with family may be a cause of anxiety.


At home

  • Allow yourself to feel how you feel without judgement
  • Use this time to listen to what you want or need
  • Give yourself some downtime if you need it
  • Switch off your social media - a bit of a digital detox can be good for you!
  • Don't compare yourself to others; most people have their own challenges that we don't know about
  • Remember - there is no such thing as a 'perfect' Christmas

Going out

  • If there are 'things' you don't feel like doing, feel free to say 'no' to time
  • Be open to invitations to do things - even if they are last minute
  • Do something new or different - last summer, we broke a cycle by doing (an organised) moonlight swim
  • Say 'no' to things if you don't feel like it - this is your holiday. If you need some downtime that's absolutely fine
  • Set realistic expectations about any gatherings you may be going to
  • Maybe put a few things in the diary to provide a bit of structure over the holiday period


Getting out

  • Spend some time in the fresh air (note I didn't say sunshine as in the UK this is unlikely). Wrap up warm. Even if the sun isn't out, and it may be raining, snowing or blowing a gale; fresh air certainly helps. Get out and feel the elements or take in the environment around you- be it a local park, woods or an open space.
  • Why not volunteer somewhere locally - unfortunately this year, with the cost-of-living crisis, the support offered by local charities has never been so important. Volunteering can have several benefits from encouraging interaction with others, getting out of the house and helping to provide a focus or purpose.
  • Visit a Warm Space locally - there will be others doing the same thing and will provide an opportunity for interaction (and getting warm).
  • If you have more time that you normally do - why not try something new or explore your local area on foot (safely of course).

Interacting with people

  • Speak to someone - try to find a time that is convenient with them (if possible) just to say hi or wish them happy Christmas. Whether it's face to face or online, connecting with a friend or member of the family can help your mental health and make you feel better.
  • Check in with someone that may be alone over the holiday period - perhaps you both would like someone to chat to.
  • Anticipate any awkward conversations that may arise; either how you approach them or even shut them down to avoid unnecessary stress, arguments or anxiety.
  • If you are spending time with people, you could try telling them how you are feeling in advance, as to avoid any awkward conversations or so they are at least sensitive to how you are feeling.
  • Surround yourself with positive people (you generally know who they are) or in a positive space / place to give you that uplift. Having relatively recently stopped drinking I know how important it is to have support from my friends in supporting my decision. If people aren't supportive, then it's OK not to prioritise time with them.
Do what you enjoy and may be make time for yourself

Time on your own

  • Get enough sleep! Don't wear yourself out - this is supposed to be a time to rest, recharge and rejuvenate!
  • Try to fit in some exercise, particularly if it's part of your regular routine; walk, run, stretch - do what makes you feel good.
  • Do what makes you happy - if you have time, indulge in that hobby - even if you've not had the chance to do it for a while or take a long bath.
  • Sometimes what we eat can affect how we feel. Christmas can be a time when we over indulge. Try to make sure you still get enough fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Be mindful how much you drink; if you know that certain drinks (or amounts) affect how you feel at the time (or the day after), try not to overdo it. Drinking and hangovers can exacerbate any underlying emotions.
  • Don't look back on the previous year; rather look forward to the year ahead and the possibilities that may present themselves
  • Try writing a gratitude list to acknowledge all the good things in your life. (Keeping a regular journal is a great way to maintain a positive outlook).
  • If Christmas creates financial worries, try to plan or budget what you can and want to do. Taking control can be the first step in helping to alleviate a sense of anxiety

If you've read this, and can think of someone that maybe struggling or indeed by themselves this winter - why not reach out to them, check in and see how they are. Even a small act can make all the difference and show them they are not alone.