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What to do if you're feeling down at Christmas

An older woman, sat in a chair looking out of the window

What if it's not a happy time?

If a loved one is dealing with difficult feelings this Christmas, these tips from our friends at Mind, the mental health charity, could help.

Published:

Update: 19 December

The rules around Christmas have changed. You can find the latest guidance here

Many of us are experiencing difficult feelings and emotions because of coronavirus. This is particularly true as we head towards Christmas, with some spending the period alone or worried about the potential risks of mixing with friends and family. We reached out to our friends at Mind to ask them for some tips for looking after yourself and deal with these difficult feelings this Christmas.

What to do about feeling down

There are lots of reasons you might be feeling down and low, such as not being able to do the things you normally would, or feeling lonely. Here are some things you could try to help alleviate these feelings:

  • Find ways to connect with others. You could make plans to have phone calls or video chats. If you’re feeling unsure or nervous about using new technology, Age UK has a guide to using video calls. You could also try Age UK’s Telephone Befriending Service
  • Adapt your routine for winter. Trying out a new winter routine might help give you a sense of change if you’re struggling with how long the pandemic is going on for. You could, for example, try cooking some winter recipes 
  • Try to plan your time to get the most out of natural light. If you can’t get out for a walk, or feel nervous doing so, you could try sitting by a window where you can look at the sky or trees or watch birds.
  • Take time to make where you live feel like a nice environment. You could try putting extra pictures or Christmas decorations up, or listening to a chatty radio station if your home is feeling too quiet.
  • Try and focus on what you enjoy. You could plan to enjoy your favourite food or drink on Christmas day.

How to motivate yourself when you’re finding it difficult

If you’re struggling with low mood, your self-esteem may drop, and it can feel difficult to motivate yourself to do things, even the little things. Starting out with some achievable goals, like ensuring you get dressed every day or cooking yourself a meal, can help you feel good and boost your self-confidence.

You might want to take some small steps to get active at home, to help increase your self-esteem and to look after your physical health. If you’re managing a long-term health condition, the We Are Undefeatable campaign offers a range of tips and advice for getting active at your own pace. Try and be kind to yourself and not put too much pressure on yourself on difficult days.

More about Mind

Mind is a charity providing advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.

What to do about anxiety during the Christmas period

Living with uncertainty can feel stressful and tiring. You may feel unsure about where you can go or who you can spend time with over the festive season. You might be nervous about seeing loved ones, or have reservations about plans you’ve made.

To help you cope with your feelings of anxiety, you could:

  • Try to focus on the things you can control. It might be helpful to list the things that are in your control on one piece of paper, and the things that aren’t on another. If there are Christmas events or traditions that you can’t do this year, it may help to think of them as paused or postponed rather than cancelled.
  • Make a plan for Christmas. You could think about when you want your Christmas to start and finish this year, any Christmas traditions you’d like to preserve, as well as any that you’d like to part ways with if there are some Christmas activities that you don’t usually enjoy.

Finding the right person to talk to

It’s hard to know who to talk to when we’re experiencing difficult feelings. But there are people who want to support you, even if you’re not able to articulate what you’re feeling or what would help you. It’s always OK to seek help. Here are some things you could try to get support:

  • Talk to someone you trust. This could be a friend or family member, with whom you feel comfortable sharing your experiences. Just talking about what you’re experiencing can help you feel less alone with what you’re going through, and the person may be able to help you think about where to seek help.
  • Talk to your doctor (GP). The NHS still wants you to seek help during the coronavirus pandemic, for your wellbeing as well as your general health. You’re not wasting anyone’s time by doing so. Your GP can be the first step towards finding treatment and support that may help. Here are some tips for talking to your GP and preparing for an appointment.
  • Contact the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393 for help thinking through your options for support. Mind's website has details of Christmas opening hours.

Supporting a loved one

You may be worried about how your loved ones are coping during the pandemic, especially if you’re not able to see them as often as you normally would. You could try to:

  • Show your support. Not everyone will want to talk about how they’re feeling but asking how they are and keeping in touch with them can help them know that they can talk to you if they want to.
  • Ask how you can help. People will want support in different ways and at different times, so asking what they think would help them is a good way to open the conversation.
  • Be open-minded. It can be difficult to understand what someone else is experiencing but listening without judgement is an important way of supporting someone who’s struggling.
  • Look after yourself. Supporting someone else can sometimes be stressful. Making sure that you look after your own wellbeing can mean that you have the energy, time and distance you need to be able to help. Try to set boundaries around the support you can offer and try to share your supporting role with someone else if you can.

Age UK Advice Line

Receive reliable, up to date information from our free, confidential national phone service for older people, their families, friends, carers and professionals.

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Last updated: Dec 20 2020

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