For many people the change of routine and chaos of the festive season can prove to be a challenging time, especially after a second year of the pandemic.  

Friend of REAL. Leadership, Alexandra Lichtenfeld shares some thoughts on how to make the Christmas period slightly easier to deal with if you are feeling low.

Nail the basics

As obvious as it may sound, making sure you’re taking care of yourself during the festive season, is incredibly important. If you’re travelling at Christmas and staying at a friend’s or family member’s house, keep in mind that your routine may be disrupted, and try to minimise that bump as much as you can.

For example, if your usual self-care routine for when you’re feeling particularly low involves taking yourself away and watching Netflix for a bit, you need to make sure you allow yourself to do those things if you need to, even when you’re away from home. It’s essential to prioritise the things that make you feel better – just because it’s Christmas, doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice the routine you’ve put in place to manage your mental health.

The same goes for the real basics, such as getting enough sleep, eating the right meals and monitoring how much you’re drinking. 

As boring as it sounds, when we are struggling with our mental health the basics are vitally important for recovery. Make sure you get enough sleep; you’re drinking enough water and eating three proper meals a day. Set yourself small challenges, like getting up, showered, dressed, all of which sound simple but can be enormously difficult when suffering from depression, and make sure you celebrate those tiny victories too.

We spend so much of our time, effort and energy over the Christmas period making sure everyone else is having a good time, it is important to carve out a little bit of time for yourself. 

Start small; it could be as simple as a couple of hours on the sofa with Netflix and a Chocolate Orange. And as much as you can, ignore the social and commercial pressure to celebrate in a certain way and concentrate on what the season means to you.

Talk it out

When you’re feeling low and depressed during the Christmas season, it’s more important than ever to talk to those around you about what you’re going through. Instead of hiding yourself away and avoiding friends and family, try to reach out, help them to understand what you’re going through and lean on them for support.

Helplines such as the Samaritans (116 123) can provide free emotional support for anyone going through a difficult time, and their phone lines are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

Perhaps the single most important thing we all need to have at Christmas is somebody to talk to, to find yourself somebody to confide in and discuss the challenges Christmas presents you with. In my role as a Samaritans volunteer, I come across so many people who don’t have anybody to talk to and if that’s you, the service is absolutely there to help.

Admitting you’re feeling low is a huge step and shouldn’t be underestimated, but sometimes it can be really hard to share your feelings, particularly with those closest to you who might not understand.

Sometimes those slightly on the outside of the family unit such as cousins or close friends can feel easier to approach, especially if there is someone who has been open about their own feelings in the past. However, at times it can be easier to chat to a stranger and there are many brilliant helplines open over the Christmas period.

Stay away from social media

Social media can be damaging for our mental health at the best of times, so during the festive period – when people are sharing highlights of their ‘perfect Christmas’ – it’s best to stay away.

Limit your use of social media as everyone else always seems to be having more fun than you. Sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter can have a direct negative impact on feelings of loneliness, anxiety and low mood. In fact, studies have shown the more time people spend on Facebook, the lonelier and more dissatisfied they become with their own life.  On the other hand, people who limited their use of social media to 10 minutes per platform, per day, experienced significant reductions in loneliness and depression over a three-week period than those who continued using social media as normal.

If seeing everybody having ‘so much perfect fun’ on social media causes your anxiety to go through the roof, have a social media detox for a few weeks and give yourself permission to switch off.

Do something different

Getting out of the house and doing something different can be a great way to distract yourself from the pressure of the Christmas period. While it can be hard for people dealing with depression to get out and about for a number of reasons, if you’re able to do so, getting involved with community projects and activities can be a great way to give yourself something to focus on over the Christmas period – although this has been made more difficult by Covid-19 restrictions, there are activities you can do.

Don’t hide away, however much you want to. Volunteer for local charities. Accept invitations, arrange to meet up with family and friends, join social and activity clubs to meet new people. Smile and you will attract positive vibes from others – many of whom probably feel just like you do inside.



Being self-aware is essential for good mental health. Over the festive period try and learn more about yourself. Steady yourself, ready for the new year and bring your self-awareness to the plate both personally and professionally. Self-awareness can be as simple as noticing the emotions that you feel when you spend time with certain people or the thoughts that run through your head when you feel nervous about trying something new.

What does it mean to be self-aware?

Recognising what you do well and where you need to improve.

Knowing whether your values are aligned with your actions.

Identifying your emotions and managing them well.

Recognise how your attitude and behaviour impact the people around you.

Research shows that people who are self-aware:

Make better decisions.

Are more confident leaders.

Feel more confident about their work.

Build on their professional strengths.

To become self-aware there are three things you must be able to do:

Become aware of your thoughts.

Identify your feelings, emotions and moods.

Recognise your strengths and weaknesses.

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