Managing Mental Health At Christmas Time

By Audra Larkin, Veteran Support Officer, Cork/Kerry Area

Mental Health does not take time off at Christmas and this can be a stressful time for many. Firstly, being aware of your own feelings over this time can serve to manage the holiday time. For many, it is the first Christmas following loss. For others, issues like Finances, Family Dynamics, Loneliness, Over-Stretching, “Getting it all done” and a Lack of Sleep can cause the impact. Being able to manage your mental health at Christmas is a skill that will serve you throughout the year.

Most people experience stress and anxiety from time to time and this is normal. The stress results because extra demands have been placed on your brain or physical body.  However, if not managed our Mental Health is impacted by issues like Depression, Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Seasonal Adjustment Disorder and many more areas.  Our mental health can be affected at any time, however, for some, the Christmas period can be an exceptional time when the issues we face can increase.

We can also be affected in other ways like physical effects. With the increased demands and pressures of the holidays, it is also common to have physical effects. Some physical effects that may happen with stress can include things like Tension Headaches, Backache, Stomach Ache, Anxiousness Increased Heart Rate and Muscle tension. Being aware of how we carry stress is a great help to being able to identify when it gets tough for us.

The following are tips to manage the Christmas Period

1.     If you have experienced loss this year, acknowledge those losses and emotions. If you have experienced loss this year, acknowledge that celebrations will likely be different.

2.     Remind yourself it is okay to feel sadness, guilt, fatigue, and frustration.

3.     Talk and listen to others about what you are experiencing.

4.     Arrange to meet a friend or attend a community event where you can be around others. This will reduce the isolation factor.

5.     Offer to help others. This itself can counteract feelings of loneliness and isolation and bring about a feeling of achievement.

6.     Eat well although eating and cooking during the holidays can be time-consuming and if celebrating alone can produce the “what’s the point question”. Cooking is in itself a therapeutic experience where you are actively engaged in creating. This produces a feel-good factor when accomplished.

7.     Try to get enough sleep; sleep is crucial as when we are tired, we make different choices and decisions than what we normally would when fully rested.

8.     Stay active. Get out of the house for at least 30 mins each day. Whether a quick walk or sitting in the park admiring the view, the impact of the fresh air and daylight will lift your mood.

9.     Be kind and gentle with yourself. We all have good and not-so-good days. Do not criticise yourself and any attempt to do any of the above is an attempt and should be seen as an achievement.

10.  Try to practice gratitude and maintain hope. Reminding yourself every day that there are things that you are grateful for this leads to enhancing hope for the future.

My top tip which I use every day with clients is that no matter how bad a day seems; a day will only always have 24 hours and after that, it is a new day. So, imagine time spent sleeping, time spent eating, and time spent at any activity decreases the hours in a day, so the average person has about 6-8 hours to combat in the day. Make a list of things to do, read a book, go to the cinema, invite a buddy round, all of this uses up the remaining time. And if needed take it hour by hour, so make a list of a few things that you feel you could do to manage the hours left in the day. My last Christmas tip is to reach out if needed, it takes strength to reach out to somebody.

Use the Free Mental Wellbeing Support Programme for ALL Veterans, which is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Call 1800 911 909 or 01 5180350 or visit for more help and advice on your Mental Wellbeing and Health. Access password is LAYAEAP.


Samaritans – services are available 24 hours a day, for confidential, non-judgmental support.

Freephone 116 123, any time – /

Text About It – is a free, 24/7 service, providing everything from a calming chat to immediate support for your mental health and emotional wellbeing. Free-text HELLO to 50808 for an anonymous chat with a trained volunteer, at any time.

Aware – Information, support and peer groups for people experiencing anxiety, mild to moderate depression, bipolar disorder and mood-related conditions. Support also for friends and family members. Freephone 1800 80 48 48, 10am to 10pm every day – /

Pieta House – Free individual counselling, therapy and support for people who self-harm or are thinking about suicide and people who have been bereaved by suicide. Freephone 1800 247 247, any time, Text HELP to 51444 – standard message rates apply –

Shine – Support services for people living with mental health difficulties and their families.

ALONE – National support and referral line for older people. Phone 0818 222 024, 8am to 8pm every day –

Seniorline – Confidential listening service for older people provided by trained older volunteers. Phone 1800 804 591, 10am to 10pm every day.

Age Friendly Ireland – Programmes and networks to support older people –

“Don’t ever lose hope. Even when life seems bleak and hopeless, know that you are not alone.” – Nancy Reagan

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