Published on: 22 December 2020

On TV, the Christmas holidays are a time of happy families, delicious food and great presents. But for many people, the festive season is a difficult time, even in the best of years – let alone in the COVID-19 pandemic year of 2020.

The Samaritans charity’s latest research shows being separated from family and loved ones over the Christmas period is one of the biggest concerns facing callers.

A survey in November 2020 of more than 1,400 of the charity’s volunteers found that about a quarter of those who took part (27%) had spoken over the last three months to people who were feeling concerned about their wellbeing over Christmas and the winter period.

The most common worries were about being separated from family and loved ones, and how to cope with being lonely during Christmas or having to spend Christmas alone. Yet there can also be challenges for those who gather with their families on Christmas Day and find they are struggling with the ‘pressure cooker’ environment. 

Here are some ideas on how to manage your mental health if you are struggling to cope at Christmas.

Try and appreciate any time you have with those who live in your household, or any friends or neighbours you can see. Many of us won’t be able to be with the people we care about over Christmas this year; if that’s your situation, try to enjoy what time you have and look forward to the time you will have with them in the future. Arrange some video calls and try to arrange some dates in the future when you can meet in person, so you have those get-togethers to look forward to.

If you are feeling lonely, think about whom you could call, even if it’s just for five minutes.  If you know someone else who may be lonely, send them a text or ring them and say ‘hi’.

If you have lost a loved one or lost contact with someone this year, the holidays are often the time you miss them most. This may be especially true this year when we cannot see many of the people we care about. It’s normal to miss someone you care for, so expect to feel sad – but focus on the positives too. Remember the good stuff about that person and what makes them special to you. If you want to shed a tear, that’s OK too.

Five ways to wellbeing

As we approach the end of the year, people often think about what has happened over the last 12 months – and end up reliving only the disasters and disappointments. After a year like 2020, is may be difficult always to find positives to focus on. But it’s important to think about things that have gone well, too. There will always be successes, even if they seem small.

At Christmas, as at all times of the year, remember the five ways to wellbeing:

  • Connect with other people – even if it’s just a two-minute chat with a neighbour or a short phone call or video call
  • Be active – go for a walk or a run to get some air and stretch your legs 
  • Learn new skills – do something creative, for instance, to take your mind off things
  • Give to others – find ways to say thank you or help others, and you will feel more positive in return
  • Practise mindfulness, or ‘being in the moment’, and enjoy the good moments – take in how they feel and what’s special. Learn more about mindfulness on the NHS website

As always, it’s also a good idea to aim to eat well and get plenty of sleep.

Learn more about Derbyshire Healthcare’s mental health and wellbeing services on our website.
If you find that you are struggling with your mental health over the festive period, please read our help in a crisis page