Why people may suffer from mental health effects during Christmas

The Christmas period is a time for celebration and cheer for many people, but for others, it can be one of the most stressful times of the year.

For some, the Christmas festivities are a chance to unwind and relax before the new year, but for others, it can be a different story.

Especially during this period, individuals suffering from mental health problems can experience higher levels of stress or strain on their wellbeing (1). This issue is not specific to one particular mental health problem but can affect a range of different people.

For example, those with anxiety relating to social situations may find the increase in frequency of social events to escalate negative emotions and therefore struggle to enjoy these situations as much as others seem to.

Individuals struggling with addictions such as alcohol dependency may also find Christmas to be challenging. Commonly in the UK, Christmas is associated with an increase in alcohol consumption, meaning that the avoidance of this activity is incredibly difficult. (2)

As a final example, individuals struggling with weight-related mental health issues such as anorexia or bulimia may also find this time to be a struggle. As well as alcohol, people also eat much more due to the traditions of Christmas lunches and dinners.

Overall, Christmas will be a different experience for everyone, so being aware of these issues and taking steps to help yourself or loved ones is essential during this time.

Ways to protect your mental health during the Christmas period

In terms of taking steps to protect your mental health at Christmas, there are several suggested and recommended activities.

Not all of these methods will be appropriate for every individual but applying those which are suitable will give a boost to protecting mental health and reducing the negative mental effects of Christmas.

What to do to protect your mental health:

· Put yourself first – above all else, acknowledging and attending to how you are feeling should be at the pinnacle of priorities. This includes accepting how you feel as valid, and not as a comparison to how others may appear around you.

· Speak to someone – though not suitable in every instance, confiding in how you feel with another trusted individual is a great way to improve your mental health (3) and ensure support will be provided

· Take time away – in every situation, it is always appropriate and acceptable to take some time away from the focus of the situation. Whether this is moving to another room (such as your bedroom) or taking some fresh air outside, taking time out when you need it is essential.

· Plan for the festive period – being aware of what is coming up, who will be around, and what kind of activities will be taking place is a great way to plan for potential timeouts, triggering situations, and generally cope with the schedule of events.

This list is just a few of the steps you can take to protect your mental health at Christmas.

To learn more, check out the infographic below:


[1] Hillard JR, Buckman J. (1982) Christmas Depression. JAMA. 248(23):3175–3176. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330230073040

[2] Covered in greater depth in Drug and alcohol rehab Essex

[3] Turner, R. J., & Brown, R. L. (2010). Social support and mental health. A handbook for the study of mental health: Social contexts, theories, and systems, 2, 200-212.