Coping with stress at Christmas and New Year

Stressed woman looking at Christmas tree with festive lights.

Taking care of mental health during the festive season is crucial, as it can be a time of stress for many of us.

So here are 14 ideas for looking after our mental health during the Christmas and New Year holidays. You don’t have to tick off the whole list; just choose the suggestions that seem most appropriate to you.

1 – Set realistic expectations

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to create a perfect experience. Set realistic expectations and understand that things may not always go as planned.

2 – Maintain a routine

Try to stick to a routine as much as possible. Consistent sleep, meals and exercise can help maintain stability and reduce stress. during periods of increased activity and change.

3 – Stay active

Regular physical activity is known to have positive effects on mental health. Go for a walk, engage in a favourite sport or practice yoga to help manage stress.

4 – Connect with loved ones

Spend time with friends and family. Social connections can provide emotional support, and spending time with loved ones can be a great way to create positive experiences and boost your mood. If face-to-face gatherings aren’t feasible, then use virtual platforms to stay connected.

5 – Set boundaries

Learn to say no when you need to. If you start feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to decline invitations or to take some time out for yourself.

6 – Practice mindfulness

To help manage stress and stay present in the moment, try incorporating mindfulness and relaxation techniques into your routine, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises.

7 – Limit alcohol and caffeine

Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption can contribute to anxiety and disrupt sleep patterns. Be careful how much you drink and try to stay hydrated with water.

8 – Get enough sleep

A lack of sleep can negatively impact your mental health, so make sure you get enough sleep. Try to establish a calming bedtime routine and create a comfortable sleep environment.

9 – Express gratitude

Simply acknowledging the things you’re thankful for can improve your mood. Focus on the positive aspects of the festive season, take time to reflect on what’s good about your life and express your appreciation to others.

10 – Prioritise self-care

Be kind to yourself during the holidays. Make time for self-care activities that bring you joy and relaxation. Whether it’s reading, listening to music, taking a bath, practicing mindfulness, walking the dog … do something you enjoy.

11 – Limit social media and screen time

Social media can sometimes contribute to feelings of inadequacy. Over Christmas and New Year, try to limit your exposure to social media and help reduce stress by taking breaks from screens.

12 – Budget wisely

Financial stress can be a significant source of anxiety, so set a budget for holiday spending and stick to it. Instead of buying material gifts, try focusing on enjoying experiences and making meaningful connections.

13 – Embrace flexibility

Accept that not everything will go according to plan – and that’s okay. Be flexible and open to change. Adapt to unexpected situations with a positive mindset.

14 – Seek professional support

If you find the Christmas and New Year period particularly challenging and are feeling overwhelmed, try talking to friends, family or a mental health professional. Remember you’re not alone: many people experience heightened stress during the festive season.

Emergency help

For immediate mental health support, please contact Samaritans on 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258.

If you feel you might harm yourself or someone else, contact your GP or seek psychiatric help at the nearest Accident & Emergency department.