Tips for Coping with Mental Illness at Christmas

This post is a part of Nicole Carman’s mental health-related holiday post series, “Taking Care of your Mental Health during the Holiday Season.” It was written and contributed to this post series by @Catlady1492, who is a beauty and mental health blogger I have gotten to know on Twitter.

To see the post line-up for the previous and remaining posts in this series, please visit this page on Nicole’s blog, Navigating Darkness. If you enjoy this post, please comment and consider sharing it on social media!

Hey there! So, Christmas… It’s meant to be the most magical time of the year, and it can be, but it can also be an extremely stressful, overwhelming time as well.

As someone with mental illness, that all ramps up to the point that, if I’m honest, I don’t really enjoy Christmas anymore. I wish I did, but it’s just not what it once was for me. Overtime, however, I am beginning to learn the best ways to make it the easiest for me, and a lot of these tips honestly should be used by everyone regardless if you have mental illness or not because Christmas should not be something you need a Holiday from afterwards!

1. Don’t see people you don’t want to see.

Christmas is a time for seeing friends and family, and that can be brilliant, but it can also mean sometimes being pushed into seeing someone who may be triggering for you, or who you just find difficult to deal with. So don’t!

It is okay to say no. It is your Christmas, too, and you don’t have to see them if it’s better that you don’t.

2. Pace yourself.

As a kid and well into my teens, we would have people over to our home on Christmas Day and then we would go to theirs on boxing day, normally after sales shopping. All good fun, but nowadays I know I wouldn’t cope with that at all!

Know your limits. If you can only manage Christmas Day, then see anyone else a few days before and/or afterwards. You don’t need to have a wild week of Christmas.

3. Escape if you need to.

Continually being social, putting on a brave face, and fielding questions can get tiring. At least for me, I can’t be myself around many people because my illness can be a pretty taboo subject.

To so many people, mental illness is scary. When I need too, I will go and find a quiet place for a bit. Generally, on Christmas Day for me, there’s a gap of a bit of downtime in the afternoon. This is when I go upstairs, touch-up my makeup, and just breathe for a bit.

If you’re not at home and need a moment, go to the bathroom. Take your phone, sit down, and breathe for a bit. Scroll social media for a brief moment and gather your thoughts.

It’s okay to take a moment when you need to.

4. Be prepared.

For most people with mental illness, especially anxiety, not being prepared or not having a plan can make everything much worse. Get your Christmas shopping done early (thank you, internet), have your Christmas plans settled, and book an online food shop slot.

Have things done, dusted, and sorted in advance so you don’t have any last minute panic.

5. Internet, use it.

Pretty much the whole of December these days, everywhere gets very busy and difficult to deal with. Luckily, the internet is a brilliant thing and you can order pretty much anything now. Black Friday is a very good time to get started!

If the idea of braving the boxing day sales is terrifying (it is to me), online is also brilliant because you don’t have to miss out.

6. Make time for what matters to you.

It’s so easy to get caught up in what everyone else wants at Christmas, but it’s your Christmas, too! Make
time to watch that film, eat that chocolate, or just browse the sales.

Self-care is so extremely important at this time of year — Remember to do it!

7. It’s okay if it all gets to be too much.

Even following these tips, things can get on top of you and become too much. It’s all right if this happens. Just stand back and stop a moment. You can cancel things if you need to! Have a movie night at home or just do whatever you want to do to relax, and don’t beat yourself up for it.

We all need a moment.

8. Everyone’s Christmas is different.

This is something I struggle with a lot. I always feel like I should cope with more over Christmas than I usually do. I always see people going to friends and family and being super social, and I feel jealous, but that was never the kind of Christmas I had!

It’s okay if your Christmas is quieter. It’s okay if you can cope with only one day here and there. It’s your Christmas, and it can still be enjoyable. It is just as valid as anyone else’s.

9. Have a plan if it gets to be too much.

No matter what you do, sometimes things can just go tits up and you find yourself bordering a panic attack, just wanting to curl up and cry during the “happiest time of the year.” It’s okay! I suggest having a bag containing your favourite self-care items in a safe place. When it all gets too much, break it out and have some shut off time to yourself, or if you’re like me and do better with company, have that time with your loved ones!

10. Enjoy yourself.

I know it’s very difficult, but Christmas is a time to just breathe and enjoy yourself! Take a deep breathe and do your best to enjoy it.

I hope these tips help, and that you have a calm and happy Christmas!

Cath x


My name is Nicole, and I’m very happy that you decided to stop by and visit my blog! I write about mental health, and I post the occasional product review. I’m most passionate about writing, mental health advocacy, and gaming. My husband and I live in the South with our five tabby cats and two parakeets. If you ever want to connect with me, please don’t hesitate to visit my Contact page.

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  1. November 20, 2018 / 8:29 AM

    I absolutely love this. I feel the same way about so many of these suggestions. What I connect with most is that things about Xmas seem more enjoyable as a kid, but with a mental illness when ur full grown, it is very stressful and can even be triggering. So glad we have posts like this to validate people in that position.

    • Nicole
      November 21, 2018 / 12:04 PM

      Yeah, for me honestly it’s more stressful than enjoyable. It’s been that way for the last few years.

      • November 21, 2018 / 12:36 PM

        Yyyup. Same here

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