How Christmas can affect your mental health

Although Christmas is the happiest holiday of the year, for some it can be a time of distress and anxiety.

Christmas is usually a time spent buying presents for loved ones, eating and celebrating with family, but the pressures increase every year to make the festivities bigger and better.

With trying to make everything perfect, from the spuds to the gifts, it is no wonder that people’s mental health can suffer severely during the festive period. According to a study conducted by Mintel (2018) around 36% of Brits felt some kind of stress at Christmas.

A workshop on how to look after your mental health this Christmas

Your Space and Live Well LGBT + Leeds teamed up to produce a workshop on how to manage stressful situations during Christmas.  

Chaitan Parmarr, part of Your Space, a community development service, spoke to Leeds Hacks about the activities that he produced for the workshop.

“The session was around coping with Christmas, looking at strategies to help during the busy period as well. We did a stress bucket exercise, which was looking at resilience – or how we all and how as individuals we handle daily stress, how we cope with that and how we can prevent getting too unwell, as well as how that changes over the Christmas period.”

One of the members of the group, Erica, explained that Christmas leads to a lot of stress for some. “The most stressful thing that people suffer is around money and presents, because you are made to believe that because somebody gives you a present you have to give them one as well.

“You start to look at the value or the cost and you try to give them a present that cost as much or more, so that puts a lot of stress on people. People go and take loans because they want to get the best present. Especially young people are really into technology and that’s very expensive, and this can put people in debt because people want to give their friends and family what they ask for.”

Each year Christmas becomes harder. Here’s some ways to deal with this stress

“Whatever happens I get to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and that will keep me sane”

Everybody has their own different issues and stress and there are many different ways to handle this, from getting support to watching your favourite movie to keep you calm.

Fran Webb, the representative from LBGT + Leeds, also spoke about different strategies they had to relieve stress.

“Chaitan got us to do this exercise where we had to identify our own personal ways of relieving the stress. We all had a sheet and thought a bit on our own about what we needed to get through Christmas as healthy way as possible. For some this was focusing on spirituality, for some it was making sure you didn’t eat too much. For me it was making sure absolutely whatever happens I get to watch It’s a Wonderful Life and that will keep me sane.”

The most recent Psychiatric Morbidity survey found that around six million people in the UK suffer with either depression or a form of anxiety, something that can be tested especially during busier periods like Christmas.

Mind Survey produced a study that found around 25% of people felt anxiety about social gatherings at Christmas.

Fran explained that especially for people in LGBT it can be hard. “It was one of the members who actually suggested that we do this workshop, because I think from an LGBT perspective it can be a hard time, because not everyone’s family knows who they really are. The fact that you’re stuck with families a lot can make it really difficult, so we talked a bit about how to manage different social pressures and how to stay true to yourself but also safe in that you don’t have to tell everyone everything if you didn’t want to.”

Different people suffer from different stress, but there are many different ways to relieve this stress.

There are many ways you can get help. If you feel like you’re struggling this Christmas, please reach out to receive help at either MindWell Leeds or Anxiety Leeds.

About the Author

Georgia Dossis
Georgia Dossis is a student journalist who writes for Leeds Now

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