The holidays, especially Christmas, are supposed to be a happy and cheerful time to celebrate with your loved ones but if you’re struggling with your mental health, holidays can be a difficult time.

I have struggled to get through Christmas and other “happy” occasions in the past because I was struggling mentally and the guilt of feeling like my low mood would ruin it for others and the worry that I seemed ungrateful worsened my mental health. It is important that we remember not to feel guilty for the way that we feel. Your thoughts are valid. Your mental health is important. You being late to a Christmas gathering because you had a panic attack has not ruined everyone’s Christmas. Mental Illness doesn’t go away for the holidays and many people are struggling with mental health during this time.

I think it’s important that we don’t try to hide our struggles behind false positivity. If you have people that care about you that will be with you over the holidays you should open up to them if it is safe to do so. Try to explain to others why you feel this way – explain that your mental health is making it hard for you to be around people and that you can’t fully enjoy yourself. Make sure they know that it isn’t anyone’s fault that you’re struggling and that you’re not being ungrateful if you seem sad and disconnected. 

If the people around you haven’t experienced mental health issues themselves they might find it hard to understand why you don’t seem any better, or maybe even seem worse, during such a “happy” time. If they aren’t understanding or supportive when you try to explain how you’re feeling, seek outside support. If you have anyone in your life who is struggling with their own mental health perhaps you can get in touch with them or join an online support group or get in touch with services like platfform or MIND to see what other support is out there.

It is very important to remember to put your mental health first. If you need a break, have a break. Don’t do something that may make you worse or trigger you. Even if you don’t have mental health issues the holidays can negatively impact your mental health as it is a stressful time. There is usually a physical, mental and financial strain put on most people during the Christmas season. It is exhausting trying to prepare everything, attend different commitments and if you’re a perfectionist like me, making sure everything goes to plan and giving everyone the perfect gift. Remember to set some time apart to relax and focus on yourself. Self care is important and it is not selfish to prioritise yourself now and again. Christmas is about giving but not giving too much of yourself.

Not everyone has a healthy family or home environment to spend Christmas in and dealing with spending Christmas around toxic people is something that many people unfortunately have to deal with. You may not be in a safe environment and you may not have the means to leave or spend the holiday period with someone else. This alone can understandably worsen your mental health. Reach out to the support systems I mentioned earlier if you’re spending Christmas with people who are worsening your mental health. There are others out there going through the same thing and you can support each other. Remember, you deserve better and some day you may find people to spend the holidays with that actually deserve you.

Being alone is also something some people may be struggling with this holiday season. If you’re spending Christmas alone and this is understandably having a poor impact on your mental health, have a look to see if there is anything available in your community. There are charities organised gatherings and Christmas dinners. There are also many volunteering opportunities with charities who are trying to help those less fortunate this Christmas. Have a look online to see if anything appeals to you. (Volunteering is also a good idea for people who don’t want to spend Christmas with toxic family members too!)

Focus on the positives, for example the fact that you get to spend time with that family member that you haven’t seen in a while, but don’t feel like you have to force yourself to be positive and happy the whole time especially if you end up burying your true feelings. You can focus on positive things and find little things that bring you joy without resorting to toxic positivity and doing things that will ultimately harm you. 

The holidays are important and mean lots of things to lots of different people but holidays and traditions are not more important than your mental health. I hope you all have the best holidays you can in your circumstances and I hope you all stay safe over this season.