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Have yourself a mentally healthy Christmas

One of our Parent Champions gives some tips on how to manage the Christmas season during the coronavirus pandemic.

Tree branch coated in ice

Christmas is fast approaching and, with lockdown restrictions continuing, this year’s festivities will almost certainly feel different to those which have come before. There is still so much uncertainty around the pandemic, and many of us will continue to struggle as we have done throughout much of 2020.

While we will have some opportunity to celebrate with family members following the new guidelines, there is clearly the need for caution. For many families, there is the continuing vulnerability of those who are already in poor health. There is the fear of putting their health at risk at this time, and this adds to the anxiety which many people are feeling right now.

So, what tips would I give to help plan for a safe, comfortable and healthy festive period?


1. Keeping an eye on the finances

When I was a child, the biggest cause of arguments around Christmas time was financial worries. My parents would over-stretch themselves to get us presents. This would, in turn, create severe stress and conflict within the home. As a child, I would rather have had a happy Christmas full of love, than presents to open.

So, remember not to stretch your finances. Set a budget and try to stick within it. If you have suffered financially as a result of the pandemic, be realistic about what you can buy this year (and don’t be tempted to take out loans). Be sensible and give your children the gift of love. My Christmas memories aren’t happy ones. Make happy memories with your children. 


2. Working together as a family

With the Government restrictions around coronavirus, you may be feeling isolated from family members because of pressure to ‘choose’ which households to celebrate with. The key here is to try not to take all of this too personally or allow it to create conflict. If this is difficult for you, it may well be difficult for them too. Keep working together as a family and respect each other’s decisions.

Look forward to spending time together in other ways and at other times (including future Christmases!), when we can be together again. 


3. Keeping each other safe

The rules about staying safe during the pandemic apply just as much at Christmas. If you are wondering about bringing two households together during the festivities, and particularly if anyone is in a vulnerable group, remind yourself of what precautions you have been taking up until now. Also, look again at the guidelines with regards to washing hands, social distancing and mask wearing so as to minimise the risk.

Again, communicate openly about how you will manage this. It may be that the loved one you are concerned about is worried too, but doesn’t want to say for fear of offending others. Be honest with each other. You may even decide to celebrate later, in a different way, when the restrictions have been eased.


4. Coping on your own

For those of us who don’t have others around, Christmas can be an especially lonely time. The coronavirus restrictions may make you feel even more isolated. Remember, Christmas is just once a year and very soon it will be behind us. Try and keep busy by joining online forums, hobby clubs, neighbourhood groups, listening to podcasts or writing blogs.

Try to be positive and think about the changes that you could maybe bring to others who are in the same position as you. Don’t let this single day out of 365 affect your mental health.


5. Staying healthy

Christmas can be a time for gluttony, as we all know! However, there is a strong link between what you consume and your mental health. So, while this time of year is definitely one of delicious food and drink, remember ‘everything in moderation’. So many of us face guilt after Christmas, and this can lead to poor self-image and self-esteem.

If you are feeling particularly stressed at this time of year, also try to limit the amount of alcohol that you drink. Excess alcohol and poor mental health is not a good mix either. Look after yourself, and stay healthy.


6. Reaching out

Finally, don’t feel that you are alone. If you need help, reach out to those who you trust. There are also many resources available with further advice and support, including the Anna Freud Centre’s self-care page.

I wish you all a happy and safe Christmas. This year will certainly be different to those which have come before, but let’s make of it what we can. Your happiness, health and safety are paramount, and this is the most precious gift we can all wish for.


Our urgent help page features organisations and services that offer help and support for young people 24/7. Our self-care page has over 90 self-care strategies that young people have said help them when they are feeling low or anxious.