Coronavirus, General

16 December, 2021

Minding your mental health in the festive season

As we approach Christmas, mental health practitioners from our multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) at St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS) share tips on how to protect your wellbeing over the festive period.

While the Christmas season can be a joyful time for many people, others may face significant challenges over this period. From dealing with bereavement following the loss of a loved one or having heightened feelings of loneliness and isolation to spending increased time in intense family situations, there are lots of different things which can impact our mental health and wellbeing over the holidays.

Look after your wellbeing at Christmas

Look after your wellbeing at Christmas

Knowing that Christmas can be a difficult time of year, members of our MDTs address some common wellbeing issues that may arise and provide some tips on how to respond to them.

As we face into another Christmas during a pandemic, what is already a stressful time may become more so. Tips for easing Christmas-related stress and anxiety include being realistic: you might not have the ‘perfect’ Christmas or it might look different to other years, but you can find ways to enjoy and celebrate it. If you become overwhelmed at any point, give yourself the time to take a breather and recharge.

Since the onset of the pandemic, loneliness and isolation have become more prevalent. Figures from the Samaritans in 2020 show that 38% of calls to Samaritans support lines mentioned concerns around loneliness over the festive season, an increase of 5% since 2019. If you are managing feelings of loneliness over the season, some recommendations include having a daily plan, taking part in activities that you enjoy, and practicing self-compassion. Remember that you are not alone in loneliness; lots of people can feel this way, including at Christmas.

Christmas can bring up lots of emotions and feelings for people who have lost loved ones. If you are grieving or dealing with bereavement, give yourself space to be both sad and joyful: it’s ok to have and recognise these different feelings.

At Christmas, we often see more of our family than at any other time, which can lead to pressure and tension. Some tactics for managing family dynamics include choosing who and what to give your energy and time to, and recognising what doesn’t serve you. It can also help to make your wants and needs clear, so that you can manage these feelings and expectations together.

For people who are experiencing difficulties in relation to food or alcohol, Christmas can be a particularly trying period. It is important to protect your recovery during the festive season. Protection strategies could include making plans for what you want to do; aiming to stick to your routines as much as possible; saying no to things that you feel might affect your recovery; and using everyday tools that work for you, such as meditation or daily walks.

Seek support if you need it

Seek support if you need it

Speaking about ways to foster positive mental health over Christmas, our Chief Executive Officer here at SPMHS, Paul Gilligan, said: “This Christmas, we are encouraging everyone to prioritise their mental health by employing strategies to protect wellbeing in the face of the common challenges that present during this time of year, and the additional challenges presented by COVID-19.”

“If you are finding the festive period difficult to manage, speak to a trusted friend or family member and let them know how you’re feeling. By reaching out to someone, this can ease any underlying pressure to behave in a certain way or feel a certain way just because it’s Christmas."

"It is also important to remember that, no matter the time of year, support is always available; whether that means talking to your GP, calling a phone line, confiding in a family member or seeking other supports. Be confident about your own resilience, remembering that seeking help and being honest about how we feel is often the doorway to tapping into our inner resilience.”

If you need some help for your mental health at Christmas, there are supports and services available. You can contact our Support and Information Line from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays), by calling 01 249 3333 or emailing info@stpatsmail.com.

You can also get in touch with the organisations below:

If you are in need of urgent support, find contact details for out-of-hours services here.