• Ceri Kerrin

Christmas in Mind

Managing your mental health during the Christmas Season

Christmas is often associated with family and festivities, however, the added stress of family tension, alcohol consumption, social commitments, poor nutrition, loss of a loved one, loneliness, isolation, and financial strain can make the Christmas season even harder for people with mental health difficulties.


Common triggers associated with mental health problems over the Christmas Season.


The first step to managing mental health difficulties over the festive season is to identify triggers. Some common triggers associated with mental health difficulties during the Christmas season are.


1. Financial constraints

2. Family dynamics and commitments

3. Unprocessed grief and loss

4. Reflection on unmet expectations and goals

5. Overcommitting to work, social, family and other obligations

6. Loneliness

7. Comparisons on social media and other platforms

8. Increase in alcohol consumption


Ways to maintain your mental health during the festive season.


Although this is not an extensive list, here are some tips to help maintain your mental health over the festive season.


Plan ahead

With the year coming to an end it is easy to get overwhelmed by social commitments, work deadlines, and family pressure. Planning ahead in terms of how you manage your time and money may provide you with the space to organise your thoughts and include appropriate mental health care support in this busy time of year.


Set Boundaries

It is often challenging to say No. Whether it be to a social commitment, a triggering family situation, or overspending. Setting boundaries is an important part of maintaining your mental health throughout the year, and especially over the Christmas period. If you are feeling overwhelmed, try prioritise your commitments and attend those that are important to you. You don't have to do everything.


Monitor your alcohol consumption

Drinking is commonly associated with the festive season, especially with the increase in social functions and year end commitments. Although, alcohol may leave you more relaxed in the moment, it is a depressant which can result in low mood, aggressive behaviour, poor inhibition control, low distress tolerance and irritability. There is also the added risk of drinking and driving. Maintaining a healthy relationship with alcohol throughout the year, and especially the Christmas season is essential for sustained mental health.


Maintain a healthy relationship with food and exercise

Due to the various social and work functions associated with the end of the year, there are often opportunities to overindulge in food. Research indicates that a balanced and healthy diet and exercise (which releases endorphins, or feel-good chemicals in the brain) are essential in maintaining a healthy state of mind. So as with alcohol consumption, try maintain a balance between celebrating and taking care of your body.


Talk about your feelings

Often when you are feeling overwhelmed there is an urge to isolate and withdraw. Although, this can feel comforting this can have the opposite effect on your mental health. Reaching out to a loved one, religious organisation, or therapist can provide you with the support you need.


Reflect on the year behind, and the year ahead

Taking the time to reflect on the year that has past and planning for the year ahead can help to put the year in perspective. Take the time to draw up a list of what you are grateful for, and what your hope for the future are.


Prioritise self-care

Because Christmas is a time of commitments, it is often difficult to take time for yourself. Setting aside time for self-care is essential during the Christmas period. Find out what you love and take the time to do it. You are as important as everyone else in your life, and as the common saying goes it is difficult to pour from an empty cup.


Get involved

Taking time to give back, can often put life in perspective. Finding a charity or organisation to give of your time can also provide a sense of connection. Giving back can also foster a sense of self worth.


Stay Connected

When you are struggling with mental health issues there is often an urge to compare ourselves to others and isolate. Resist this urge, and stay connected.


How to assist someone you love who is struggling with mental health challenges.

Never give up on someone with a mental illness. When "I" is replaced with "we", Illness becomes Wellness - Shannon L. Adler

1. Asked your loved one how you can help them

2. Listen and offer support

3. Avoid giving advice

4. Remember that you are powerless over your loved ones emotions

5. Be patient with them and yourself - learning new skills takes time

6. Take them seriously - especially if there is mention of self harm and suicide

7. Seek support for yourself if needed.


Resources in Case of Emergency


If you or a loved one are experiencing a crisis and need immediate psychological assistance, please use the resources below​

  • Suicide Crisis Line: 0800 567 567, SMS 31393

  • SADAG Mental Health Line: 011 234 4837

  • Rape Crisis Line: 021 447 9762

  • Department of Social Development Substance Abuse Line 24hr helpline: 0800 12 13 14, SMS 32312

  • Adcock Ingram Depression and Anxiety Helpline: 0800 70 80 90

  • Pharmadynamics Police & Trauma Line: 0800 20 50 26

  • Destiny Helpline for Youth & Students: 0800 41 42 43 

  • Akeso Psychiatric Response Unit 24 Hour: 0861 435 787

  • South African Police Service: 10111

  • South African Paramedic Service: 10177​​​​

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