Nervous Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, he is sitting on the armchair and resting head on his hands
Explains how the period around Christmas and new year might affect your mental health. Gives tips on how to cope and suggestions for supporting someone else.
Supporting others at Christmas
This page is for anyone who wants to support somebody who finds things difficult at Christmas.
Christmas is a hard time of year for lots of people, for many different reasons. It can make existing problems feel worse, and add new ones.
If there are people in your life who find Christmas difficult, this page has some tips to help you support them:
Things that can help
- Understand that Christmas means something different to other people, and may bring up very different feelings. You might feel you’re sharing a celebration, but that might not be what’s happening for them.
- Let them know you understand Christmas can be difficult, and you’re there for them.
- Tell them they’re not alone. They might not know it’s common to find things hard at this time of year.
- Listen to what they say, and accept their feelings.
- Ask if there are things you can start, stop or continue doing. You could suggest they take time to think and come back to you.
- Ask them if there are particular things about Christmas that are difficult for them, and ask what they think might help. For example, it could be helping them plan how to exit difficult situations, avoid certain activities or deal with difficult conversations.
- Remember they aren’t trying to spoil Christmas. No one chooses to find things hard.
- Reach out to people who might be lonely, such as someone living in a care home, a carer, or someone in hospital.
- Look after yourself. Supporting someone else can be difficult. For example, you might feel sad or conflicted. It’s ok to confide in someone about how this is affecting you. Your wellbeing matters too. Our pages on coping when supporting someone else have lots more tips.
“The expectation to be happy over Christmas can feel like a huge burden following you around. You might feel forced to be cheery and smiley but in reality you are feeling like the weather – dark and grey.”
Things to avoid
- Don’t make assumptions about why Christmas is difficult for them.
- Don’t ask intrusive questions about their past or experiences. You might never know why they find it difficult. It’s often a deeply personal reason. You might want to know more, but you can support them without knowing their reasons. It could help to tell them you understand this.
- Don’t try to cheer them up. Whatever your intentions, these aren’t usually helpful things to hear. For example, try to avoid saying things like “but Christmas is supposed to be a happy time” or “you could enjoy yourself if you tried.” It may also help to avoid saying things like “everyone else is enjoying themselves” or “there are people who have it worse.”
- Don’t take it personally if they don’t join in. It may feel disappointing, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care about you.
- Don’t make assumptions about what people close to you can afford. Christmas can be a stressful time for managing money. There may be more accessible ways you can arrange your Christmas for everyone, such as setting a spending limit for gifts. Money Helper has more information on managing money at Christmas.
“I would like Christmas to be a time of giving, care, love and attention, to really listen to someone who needs to be heard. To empathise and try to understand that we are unique and our basic needs are met through understanding, showing compassion for someone who is hurting.”
Supporting someone with a mental health problem
Learning more about a mental health problem can help you support someone who may have a difficult time during Christmas.
There are a lot of reasons someone might find Christmas hard if they have a mental health problem. They might feel like a burden or that they do not fit in if there are parts of Christmas they find difficult to participate in. They might also enjoy some parts of Christmas, but find other parts difficult.
Being more informed about someone’s mental health problem and their experience can help to:
- reduce stigma, misconceptions and assumptions
- make Christmas celebrations more inclusive
- make you aware of what someone may find difficult
- create a safe space for someone to express their feelings and needs around Christmas.
There are certain symptoms of mental health problems that may feel very difficult during Christmas. This can be to do with certain ways of celebrating, such as food, parties or gifts. These might include:
If you need help and support during the festive period or any other time then call us on 01483 602998 or email firstname.lastname@example.org