Mental health at Christmas: How to cope with anxiety and stress

Wednesday 13 December 2023
Boy looking out of the window at Christmas.jpg

The festive season is often seen as a time of joy, togetherness and happiness. Yet, the reality is that Christmas can often heighten anxieties and stress for many individuals.

We asked our expert practitioners from the Blues Programme for some tips on how to deal with emotions such as grief, financial stress, loneliness and managing expectations.

The Blues Programme

Giving young people the tools they need to look after their mental wellbeing

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1. Why does Christmas sometimes make people's mental health worse?

There can be many reasons why the festive season isn’t always an easy time for people.

For those who have experienced bereavement or loss, it can be a stark reminder of the absence of loved ones.

During the holidays, we try to spend meaningful and quality time with our loved ones, and therefore if you’ve experienced a loss of someone dear to you, it can leave you feeling lonely and isolated.

We tend to put a lot of weight and importance on the holiday season, expecting it to always be joyous, fun, and without conflict. This is unrealistic at the best of times.

The pressure for everything to be perfect can also add to tension, and prevent people from relaxing and having a nice time.

Sad tired mother holding baby

2. What steps can someone take to help cope with grief?

Step 1:

Try not avoid thoughts or feelings about the person you have loved and lost. The more we try not to think about something, the more we will think about it. Distracting ourselves also won’t make the pain of the loss go away.

Step 2:

Speak to family members and friends and agree an appropriate way to include the loved one in the day. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, even just something as simple as sharing happy stories or memories, lighting a candle for them, or visiting somewhere special that reminds you of them.

"Honouring their life and involving them in a day that would have usually been shared with them can allow you to feel closer to them."

Step 3:

Speak to someone you love and trust about how you are feeling about the upcoming festive season. We can often feel we’re alone with these intense emotions, but we’re not.

Family of four reaching into a food delivery package from Action for Children

3. What are some practical steps to help alleviate financial stress?

It is important to think what is it about the festive season that you love? What feels special about this time for you? Lean into these values:

Is it about spending time with friends and family?

Think how you could do this in a way that doesn’t cost a lot of money, but still includes some festive spirit. You could you visit Christmas markets together, as opposed to spending money while there?

Is it giving and receiving gifts from loved ones?

Why not make a special home-made gift for a loved one? Often these gifts take more time and thought, which can feel special to the receiver.

A family wearing Christmas jumpers and novelty Christmas items, baking together in the kitchen

4. How can someone combat loneliness during Christmas?


Volunteering is a great way to spend time with people during the festive season. Research shows that one of the quickest routes to happiness is being kind to other people. You could help many people who will be struggling during the festive period.

For example, people who are experiencing homelessness, refugees and asylum seekers, elderly people, and many other vulnerable groups are amongst those who benefit from kindness during the festive period.

Challenge negative thoughts:

Challenge negative thoughts that tell you that you’re the only one feeling this way, and that everyone else is having a great time. It’s important to communicate with our loved ones openly and without judgement. Let them know you’d like to spend time with them and give them space to share their feelings.

How the Blues Programme can help

Last year, our Blues Programme reached over 16,000 children, young people and families in the UK and was rated a 4+ by the Early Intervention Foundation. With your help, we could reach more young people this Christmas by giving them the tools they need to look after their mental and emotional wellbeing.