Christmas depression and anxiety: how can you look after your mental health?

Young person looking into a shop window at Christmas

While it’s marketed as the ‘most wonderful time of the year’, for many, Christmas can heap stress on top of our already difficult lives.

It can also cause us to feel guilty or left out if we don’t feel like taking part in the ‘jolly’ holidays.  In this blog, we explore a range of tips around positive mental health at Christmas, and how you can deal with Christmas depression and anxiety.  


Why does Christmas make me feel anxious and depressed?

You're not alone. Christmas can be a difficult time for many people. Some may be grieving or separated from their loved ones. For others, this season proves difficult. The festive season is like enforced fun- a time of year when we are told that we should be happy and rejoicing. If we're not, for any number of reasons, then Christmas can make us feel worse. 

Christmas can also cause anxiety for people because of all the extra effort and expenditure needed at this time of year. We may be feeling pressure to see people we'd rather avoid or spend more than we can afford.

There's a lot to organise and the adverts showing happy families seated around a beautifully laden Christmas table don't help. It can benefit us to remember that those images aren't reality: for many of us, Christmas is a simple affair, and our mental health is better when we remove the pressure. 

Man experiencing poor mental health at Christmas

Christmas depression: how can I cope?

Unfortunately, this season can trigger a lot of emotions. Even if you're looking forward to the day with your family, this time of year can trigger memories of years past or feelings that you may not have been expecting. Depression at Christmas is common but not easy to experience.

One great way to combat those feelings is to do more of what you enjoy. Put aside some time each day just for you- even if it's only 30 minutes. Take that time to pamper yourself, do some exercise of indulge in a hobby. Little moments of self-care can go a long way to making you feel better. 

Another strategy is to get your feelings out. You could try talking to a relative or friend, or even just get your thought out onto paper. Sometimes, writing down what's on your mind can help you make sense of what's bothering you and create some space from it. 

Also, get some fresh air and move your body. Sometimes when you're feeling down, the last thing you feel like doing is being active, but it can be a real mood booster. A 30 minute walk can be all you need to feel a little better- try walking through a local park or woods to feel the calm of nature, too. 

When you feel exhausted and like your brain is exhausted, listen to your body and relax. Put your feet up, go to bed early or binge-watch something funny. 

A lady experiencing anxiety at Christmas

Christmas anxiety: how can I deal with it?

This time of the year can really pile on the pressure, in the form of an endless shopping list, and demands on your time and energy. If you're struggling with anxiety, then Christmas can be the last thing you need. 

The key thing to do is to take the pressure off. Remind yourself while we see the image of a 'perfect' Christmas on tv and social media, in reality is doesn't exist. If it feels too much to decorate the whole house or provide a Christmas dinner, then don't be afraid to say so. If you feel like you're drowning in items on your to-do list and gifts to buy, then ask for help from someone-else- maybe your partner can take over some of the tasks for you. 

Many families don't make the full Christmas dinner, which can be a lot of work. Perhaps you could cook a favourite family meal instead- pizza or fajitas, maybe! It's your Christmas so design it to suit you. It's not worth putting pressure on yourself for the sake of what is one day of celebration. 

If relatives are asking too much of you, create boundaries. You don't have to say yes to invitations of to people coming round. If the prospect of visitors is making you anxious then be honest and say it won't work for you this year. Your feelings matter and are valid.


If the expense of Christmas is causing you anxiety, then reduce your budget. The best Christmas memories are always about the good times you have with your loved ones, not how much you have spent or how big your child's present pile is. Those special moments and fun times can often be created for free- for example, kids will have great fun making an obstacle course out of cushions or watching Christmas movies with you. 

Keeping Christmas low key will help you cope with your emotions and remove unnecessary pressure.


In need of support with anxiety and depression? Spurgeons offer counselling services.


For immediate help, contact the Samaritans or text SHOUT to 85258.

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