Mental health & the festive season

This time of year can be wonderful. Christmas parties…. Christmas decorations everywhere…. Planning get-togethers with friends or family you’ve not seen for a while. Whether you celebrate Christmas, or not, this time of year can be wonderful.

And for some people it’s just not. For some people this time of year can be stressful, it can bring painful memories, loneliness, heartache, anxiety, sadness.

For some people, who live with mental health disorders like depression and anxiety, the pressure to enjoy the festive period can be weighty and excruciating.

Some tips for ways that we can support people who may be finding this time of year tough:

* Be aware that this time of year can bring added pressure for many.

* Watch out for signs that people are struggling – any change from what is usual in appearance, behaviour, mood, tone or contact could be a sign that someone is struggling.

* Reach out. Understand that it can be even harder to ask for help when everyone else *seems* to be having a good time.

* Check in regularly – especially with those that we know find this time of year tough, or who live with mental health conditions.

* Know that some people use alcohol and substances to manage feelings of distress or anxiety, and this time of year involves a lot more opportunities for doing so.

* Also know that some people are doing their best not to drink alcohol, for all sorts of reasons, and the party season can bring added pressure to drink.

* Be aware that feelings and thoughts of suicide can increase when feelings of mental distress, stress, anxiety, or use of alcohol/substances peak.

* Let your friends / family / colleagues know that you care, and that you are there to listen without judgement if they need someone to talk to.

If YOU are finding this time of year tough, here are a few things that might help:

* This time of year can bring a lot of pressure – to have fun, to be happy, to join in, to buy presents, to happily receive presents, to be thankful and joyful, to play the games, to enjoy it all. You don’t have to do any of it! It’s ok for you to not like parties, not want to join in, hate Christmas jumpers, despise brussel sprouts and pigs in blankets. It is ok for you to do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself just now. If that means saying no, opting out, declining the invitation, having a pizza on Christmas Day, staying in your pj’s rather than donning your best frock/shirt – that’s ok!

* Get some resources in place that you can reach for if things get tough(er). Friends you can call, books to read, music to listen to, favourite podcast shows, things to distract you. It can help to write it all down, so you can refer back to it when you need to.

* Be purposeful in planning some self-care. Whatever it is that works for you. It might be a long soak in the bath, a good chat with a good friend, a walk in nature, some mindfulness – whatever it is, find time for it.

* Open up to someone you trust, if you can. Let them know how you are feeling and how they can support you.

* Accept help. It’s ok to need some support – it’s not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of courage.

* Seek professional help. You can contact your GP or refer yourself for professional mental health support via your local IAPT service (do a search engine enquiry for your local IAPT service).

* IN A CRISIS. Please, if things get really bad, call emergency services on 999, contact your local mental health crisis team, or present to A&E.

* If you need to talk to some impartial please contact Samaritans free on 116 123 – they are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

With love….. the MHIB team.


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