Cultural and religious celebrations take place throughout the year, which provide an opportunity for communities to come together and connect in festive cheer.
But what if you’re feeling down when it seems like everyone expects you to be happy? That can be tough and you might assume you’re the only one experiencing difficulties, although this is rarely the case. Many people struggle during the holidays for a number of reasons. For some, it may exacerbate existing low feelings, for others it could be social or financial pressures.
Whatever the reason, we’re here to share insights and a few tips to help you take care of your mental wellbeing and enjoy your time as best you can. Even if you love big celebrations, you might still find this helpful for yourself or for looking out for a friend or family member who finds them difficult.
Let’s look at why some of us struggle during festive seasons:
Feeling sad at a time when it seems like everyone is supposed to be happy is hard enough. This can be made worse if you also experience guilt or shame about how you are feeling.
Celebratory periods often mean more invitations to social events and family gatherings. If you’re not feeling great, this could be overwhelming. You may feel obliged to say yes to everything or if you say no, you might feel like you’re missing out. It can be hard to find balance between listening to what we need and fulfilling our social obligations.
Trying to buy presents for lots of people when struggling to make ends meet is stressful. We may want to give the best gifts, but be unable to, and it can feel like we’re letting people down.
Adjusting to loss
If someone you love has passed away, their absence can make traditionally joyful occasions feel sad.
What can you do to take care of yourself during festive periods?
Be kind to yourself
If you’re feeling down, try and accept this for what it is rather than feeling guilty about it. Everyone is at different stages in their lives and how you’re feeling isn’t wrong, so be gentle and comfort yourself in the kind of way that you would a friend.
Talk to loved ones you trust
You might be able to take advantage of more family and friends being around during the festive period – let them know how you’re feeling. If you keep it all to yourself and withdraw instead, your loved ones may be confused and hurt. But when people understand, they are able to respond to you with compassion and be there for you. Let them know how to support you. Do you need extra hugs? Ask for them. Do you need an hour a day to yourself? Let them know.
Take time for you
Take some time each day to do something that helps keep you calm – this could be as simple as taking five minutes for a sit down and a cup of tea, reading a book or going for a walk. This might also give you a little more routine and structure to the day.
Listen to yourself; say 'no' sometimes
There may be lots of invitations to celebratory events, but you don’t have to go to all of them. If there’s a night you just want to stay in and relax, listen to that feeling. It’s OK, there will be plenty of other times you do want to go out.
Gifts don't have to be expensive
Your time and effort is a meaningful way to show how much you care about someone and it doesn’t have to cost a thing. Try giving an ‘I owe you’ gift: get three strips of paper and turn them into gift vouchers by nicely writing out what they can be ‘cashed in’ for. You could gift three home-cooked meals throughout the year, for example. Insert your vouchers into a card and see how happy they are with your thoughtful present.
Remember those you miss
If you’ve lost a loved one who would usually be with you, take time to remember them; it could be more painful to avoid speaking about the person than it is to acknowledge their absence. There may be tears. There may even be laughter as you recall memories - both are ok. You could do something simple such as giving a toast in their honour before a meal, or listening to a song they used to like. Another suggestion is to write them a card or a letter with how you feel and any thoughts you would like to express.
Take the time
These are just a few ideas for looking after yourself during festive periods throughout the year. There are lots more and you will find that some work for you and some don’t. Taking a little time to explore what helps you to feel better will benefit you in the long run.
You can inspire others to look after their mental wellbeing by sharing what you do. Take part in our new video campaign and film your response to the prompt 'I feel better when' to share how you stay calm or lift your mood when you need to. Find out more and use your Student Portal details to login.
Share what you do to stay happy, healthy and motivated throughout your studies by ubmitting your #UoLWellbeing advice.
If you need more emotional support, remember that we are affiliated with Nightline, the confidential listening service run by students, for students. You can email their trained volunteers at firstname.lastname@example.org and receive a response in 48 hours. Visit their website for more details on how to get in touch.