How to look after your mental health at this time of year

If we told you the holiday season of Christmas is linked to a decrease in overall life satisfaction and emotional well-being and a decline in mood, would you believe us?

Christmas can have a surprising dark side when it comes to mental well-being. While many revel in the festive spirit, it’s important to recognise that the holiday season can affect your mental health.


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In today’s article, we’re exploring why this is the case and how to navigate the potential mental health challenges that can pop up during the festive period.

Christmas and our mental health

The holiday season is synonymous with joy and festivities, yet it also brings along its fair share of not-so-fun challenges that can impact our mental well-being. However, fear not, as recognising and addressing these issues directly is crucial to guaranteeing a genuinely happy and emotionally healthy experience during this wonderful time of year.

So why is our mental health vulnerable at this time of year?

Increased stress and anxiety

The pressures of holiday preparations, such as shopping, decorating and cooking, can lead to heightened stress and anxiety. The desire for everything to be perfect and the fear of letting loved ones down can be overwhelming.

Here, we have Emily who is having a tough time over the Christmas period:


Before Our Tips:

As the holiday season approached, Emily found herself caught in a whirlwind of stress and anxiety. The pressures of the financial cost of Christmas, cooking a sumptuous feast and selecting the ideal gifts for her loved ones weighed heavily on her shoulders. The desire for everything to be flawless, the fear of disappointing her family and the relentless pace of holiday preparations took a toll on her well-being. Each passing day seemed like a race against time.

To help manage and mitigate these stressors, we’d like you to consider the following practical stress-reduction techniques:

  • Time management: Aim for a realistic schedule that breaks down your tasks. Refrain from attempting to conquer everything at once; prioritise and conquer tasks individually. Whenever possible, delegate responsibilities. Trust us; you don’t have to be the lone soldier trying to do everything.


  • Budgeting: Money can be a major source of holiday stress. So, set a budget for your holiday expenses. Consider handmade, cost-effective gift ideas – they’re often the most meaningful. Remember, the spirit of giving doesn’t always come with a hefty price tag.


  • Mindfulness exercises: We all need a breather sometimes. So, practice mindfulness techniques like meditation, deep breathing, or yoga. They’re your mental spa day, helping you stay grounded and reduce anxiety. Taking a moment for yourself amidst the holiday chaos can do wonders for your mental health.

Let’s check in on how Emily is doing after following our tips:

After Our Tips

Emily got organised with a realistic schedule, divvying up tasks and enlisting help from the troops. Setting a budget eased the financial worries, and she discovered that handmade gifts held more meaning than expensive ones.

The pivotal moment was Emily embracing mindfulness exercises. Meditation, deep breathing and yoga became her sanctuary, keeping her grounded and reducing anxiety.

The result? A joyful, stress-free holiday season filled with meaningful moments and cherished memories.

Social and family pressures

Balancing family dynamics and handling friend gatherings can put some real emotional strain on you. Perhaps you have to visit that toxic family member who really dampens your mood or deal with the pressure to turn up to events with friends when all you want to do is hit the sack and sleep for the next four thousand years. We get it and so does Eric…

Before Our Tips

Eric found himself on the brink of the holiday chaos. He dreaded visiting a toxic family member whose mere presence could dampen his mood for days. The impending family dinner was no better, with two feuding relatives turning the atmosphere frosty. On top of that, his friends were pushing him to attend gatherings when all he craved was a quiet respite. The pressure was taking its toll on his mental health, casting a dark cloud over the season’s joy.

To help manage and mitigate these stressors, we’d like you to consider the following practical stress-reduction techniques:

  • Open communication: Sit down with your loved ones, maybe over a cup of tea or your favourite beverage and have a heart-to-heart. Tell them about your boundaries and what you expect from the holidays. This way, everyone can be on the same page and there won’t be any misunderstandings or hurt feelings.
  • Recognise your limits: Recognising your limits is a gift you give yourself, wrapped in self-compassion. We all want to make everyone happy during the holidays, but it’s okay to say “no” when needed. Don’t feel guilty about it; prioritise your well-being. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and remind yourself that you’re not Santa – you can’t be everywhere and do everything all at once!
  • Practise self-care: Set aside some time for activities that satisfy you. Whether baking cookies, hitting the gym or simply enjoying a quiet moment with a cup of hot cocoa, self-care is the little present you give yourself. It helps you recharge and reduces stress, making the holiday season a whole lot merrier.

So, how did Eric do?

After Our Tips

Eric decided to have an open conversation with his family, and they all agreed on manageable plans, ensuring everyone was on the same page. Eric also recognised his limits, saying “no” to a few invitations when needed. He took time for self-care, enjoying his hobbies and relaxing walks. As a result, Eric felt less stressed, and Christmas became a joyous and peaceful time for him and his family, with precious moments of togetherness and happiness.

Struggles with maintaining sobriety

The holiday season can pose significant challenges for individuals in recovery or facing addiction struggles. The prevalence of increased drinking and drug use at social gatherings and family events during this time of year can be particularly daunting. Even a simple trip to the local supermarket reveals enticing deals on alcohol, a marketing tactic mirrored by drug dealers. These circumstances can create a difficult environment, dampening the festive spirit and strain mental health.

So, what can you do if you’re in this situation over Christmas?

  • Recognise the warning signs: One important thing is to recognise the warning signs. When stress and anxiety go up, so can the temptation to turn to drugs or alcohol. If the festive period is becoming too much, take a step back and re-evaluate. Ask yourself if you need a few minutes, hours or even days to collect your thoughts and go again.


  • Setting the boundaries: Setting limits is another good idea. If you’re in recovery or helping someone in recovery, it’s important to be clear about the boundaries around substance use. Try to avoid situations where you might be tempted to give in to those cravings, like the local pub or off-licences. If people are coming to your house to celebrate Christmas, kindly ask that they leave any alcohol or drugs in their own house. If they truly care for you, this shouldn’t be an issue.


  • Reaching out for professional help: The warmth and understanding that professional help can provide can truly make a big difference in your life. They offer guidance and a safe, non-judgmental space to share your struggles. So, don’t hesitate to seek their support. Your well-being is a precious gift, and it’s never too late to unwrap the promise of a brighter, healthier future.


  • Utilise your support networks: Remember to lean on your support networks. Reach out to friends, sponsors or others who understand what you’re going through. They can encourage and help you get through the tough times. Don’t be afraid to ‘bother’ your network during the Christmas holidays; they care about you and want to help you.

Final thoughts

Amidst all the holiday cheer, it’s important to recognise the potential impact on our mental well-being. Christmas stress and anxiety can creep up with all the overwhelming preparations and those social and family pressures that can pile on the strain.

Remember to take our advice and think about prioritising tasks, setting budgets and sneaking in some mindfulness exercises to reduce anxiety and stress.

For those in recovery or battling addiction, spotting those warning signs, setting clear boundaries, seeking professional help and leaning on your support network are all key.

By taking these steps, you strive toward a merrier and emotionally healthy holiday season filled with treasured memories and well-being.

Need some extra help over the Christmas period?

Feeling overwhelmed this Christmas? Don’t go through it alone. UKAT’s dedicated professionals are here to support you on your journey to better mental health and overcoming addictions. Reach out today, and let us help you regain control of your life. You don’t have to suffer in silence; we’re here to guide you towards a happier and healthier future—your well-being matters. Contact UKAT now.

(Click here to see works cited)
  • Mutz, M. 2015. “Christmas and Subjective Well-Being: a Research Note.” Applied Research in Quality of Life, 11, 4, 1341–1356. doi:10.1007/s11482-015-9441-8.
  • Sansone, R.A. and Sansone, L.A. 2011. “The Christmas Effect on Psychopathology.” Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience, 8,12, 10–13. Available at: