What to do if you are struggling over Christmas

Although we all dream of a relaxing Christmas, where all worries melt away, the reality is different for a lot of people, with the festive period seeing high-stress levels in many. So, we need to know how we can manage our mental health over the cold winter months.

While restrictions have eased this year, the festive period may still be different to previous years for many people. It’s important to know that you can still access support if you need it.

If you have time off work over Christmas

Many people who have time off from work over Christmas still experience stress. If you do have time off from work, try not to think about work too much, and don’t check your work emails unless you really need to. Remember that it’s okay to allow yourself time to unwind and relax. Taking time to do this will also allow you to feel refreshed on your return to work, as taking breaks is beneficial to your productivity as well as your health.

If you’re at work over Christmas

If you are at work over Christmas, make sure that you know what tasks are the most important to complete, and take work breaks if and when possible. And if you’re feeling down or stressed about being in work, talk to someone about it.

What else can you do to manage wellbeing over Christmas?

  • Stay active  It is important to stay active, and especially so if you have time off from work. It can sometimes be harder to exercise during winter months, when it is darker, earlier. So try to plan a time to get outside, get fresh air, and go for a walk. Consider doing some exercise to manage your mental health. There are organised Christmas Day walks and runs in many places, and this can be a great way to keep active as well as socialise.
  • Remember it doesn’t have to be perfect – Christmas doesn’t need to be a perfect day, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
  • Reach out to others  A lot of people find this time of year isolating, and so it is important to spend time with friends and family, but also to reach out to others who might be feeling lonely. Asking someone who is lonely how they are could make all the difference at this time of year.
  • Watch your food and drink intake – Many of us see Christmas as a time to indulge. While this is fine for some, it may be useful for some people to keep an eye on what they are consuming. For example, watch your alcohol intake if this is something that could cause you stress or unpleasant feelings.

Remember that you can always call The Samaritans on 116 123 for help, including on Christmas Day.


Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a type of depression. SAD is sometimes known as ‘winter depression’ because the symptoms are usually more apparent and severe during the winter.

The symptoms of SAD include:

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • irritability
  • feelings of despair, guilt, and worthlessness
  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

If you suspect you could have SAD, seek support and take the time to look after yourself.

Further resources:

Christmas and mental health

Overview of seasonal affective disorder