Coping Tips for the festive period

If you find Christmas a difficult time of year, here are some of our tips to help you get through it.

- Be gentle, generous and patient with yourself

- Plan ahead

- Manage relationships

- Look after yourself

- Talking to other people

- Get support

- Be gentle, generous and patient with yourself

  • It's ok to prioritise what's best for you, even if others don't seem to understand.

  • Think about what you need and how you might be able to get it.

  • Consider talking to someone you trust about what you need to cope.

"I don't really celebrate Christmas and always enjoy taking the day as time just for me, a whole day of self-care and selfishness!"

- Plan ahead

Think about what might be difficult about Christmas for you, and if there's anything that might help you cope. It might be useful to write this down. For example:

  • If you sometimes experience flashbacks, panic attacks or dissociation, make a note of what helps during these moments, and keep it with you.

  • If you're going to be somewhere unfamiliar for Christmas, think about what you need to help you cope. Are there things you can bring to make you feel more comfortable? Or is there somewhere you can go to take a break?

  • Certain places may feel very uncomfortable for you, for example if they bring back difficult memories. Could you plan to spend less time in difficult places, or not go at all? Are there any reasonable excuses for you to stay away?

  • Think about whether you really need to do things if you're not looking forward to them. Can you do them differently or for less time?

  • Make a list of any services that you might need and their Christmas opening hours. National Mind's page of useful contacts has some suggestions.

  • If you're worried about feeling lonely or isolated this Christmas, think about some activities to help pass the time. For example, this might be doing something creative or spending time in nature. See our pages on relaxationfor more ideas. National Mind's page on Christmas and coronavirus also has some tips for spending Christmas alone during the pandemic.

  • Try to plan something nice to do after Christmas. Having something to look forward to next year could make a real difference.

- Manage relationships

  • If other people's questions are difficult, you could plan some answers in advance so you're not caught off guard. For example, about your plans or how you're doing.

  • Think about how to end difficult conversations. It's ok to tell someone you don't want to talk about something, or to change the subject. It might help to practise what you'll say.

  • Suggest an activity or an easy way to move on, if you want to help end an unwanted conversation. For example, this could be playing a game, or taking a screen break if you’re on a video call.

  • If other people don't seem to understand how you're feeling, you could share this information with them. You could also think about writing down how you're feeling and sharing this with them, if conversations are difficult.

"I've found the way of having a happiest Christmas is doing what's right for me. Making careful choices who I spend my time with and keeping in mind that it’s just one day. The interactions I have with people throughout the year are just as important."

Look after yourself

  • Set a 'start' and 'finish' time for what you count as Christmas. Remind yourself that it won't last forever.

  • Set your boundaries. Say no to things that aren't helpful for you.

  • Let yourself experience your own feelings. Even if they don't match what's going on around you, they're still real and valid.

  • Take time out. Do something to forget that it's Christmas or distract yourself. For example, you could watch a film or read a book that's set in the summer. Or you could try learning a new skill.

  • Let yourself have the things you need. For example, if you need to take time out instead of doing an activity.

  • If you can't avoid something difficult, plan something for yourself afterwards to help reduce the stress or distress you might feel.

- Talking to other people

  • Let people know you're struggling. It can often feel like it's just you when it's not. See National Mind's page on opening up to others about your mental health for tips.

  • It doesn't have to be people who are already in your life. You could join an online community to talk others who have similar experiences to yours. National Mind’s online community Side by Side is a safe place to connect with others who understand what you’re going through.

  • Tell people what they can stop, start or continue doing to help you. For example, you could let them know any activities you’d like to be involved in, and what they can do to support you during Christmas. Or you could tell them any questions or topics that you find hard to discuss, so they can avoid asking about them.

  • You don't have to justify yourself to others. But you might feel pressured to, especially if someone asks a lot of questions. It could help to let them know that certain situations are difficult for you, and tell them what they can do to help. It might also help to tell them that you understand they may see things in a different way.

  • You might not be able to make others understand. That's OK. It's not your responsibility to convince other people, or get their permission to look after yourself.

- Get support

If you're struggling this Christmas, you may want to find support for your mental health. There are a few ways that you can do this:

  • Call Samaritans on 116 123 (freephone). They're always open.

  • Text SHOUT to 85258. This is a free 24/7 crisis text service run by Shout.

  • Visit National Mind's useful contacts page for a list of organisations who can support your mental health or help with practical problems.

South East and Central Essex Mind, 112a Southchurch Road

Southend-on-Sea, Essex, SS1 2LX

Charity registration number 1148451