Christmas blues: How to celebrate when you don’t feel like it

- December 22, 2022 4 MIN READ
Angry looking cat with Santa hat

It’s that time of year again. The time when Christmas cheer is supposed to be in the air, but for a lot of us, it’s just not there. Maybe you’re feeling lonely, or stressed out from all the preparations. Maybe you’re just not in the mood to celebrate, writes Dr Lisa Myers, psychiatrist and author of When the Light Goes Out.

If that’s how you feel, don’t worry – you’re not alone. A lot of people find themselves struggling at Christmas time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holiday season.

Why Christmas is hard for some people

For those who are struggling financially, it can be hard to afford things like presents and food. This is particularly true for Christmas this year and it can make the Christmas holiday feel stressful, overwhelming and even demoralising. It can also be difficult to enjoy the festivities when you are feeling so stressed out, negative or guilt-ridden.

Losing a loved one is always hard, but it can be especially difficult during the holidays. For those of us who are left behind, it can be difficult to know what to do or how to feel. The holiday can become a painful reminder of our loss, as it is typically a time of family and togetherness. All of the happy memories we shared with that person are now overshadowed by our sadness and grief. Having lost my own father in December, I find it a very confronting and anxiety-provoking time.

Unhappy man sitting alone at Christmas table

For some people, the Christmas period can also be a time of increased substance use. This can be a challenge if it is not good for them, but it can also lead to isolation if they are unable to resist the temptation to drink or use drugs more than usual. For many people, the holiday season is triggering and stressful as it poses the risk of a relapse.

Another challenge during Christmas is the prevalence of seasonal mental health issues. Christmas can be a particularly hard time for those who are struggling with depression or anxiety and the increased social pressure and expectation to be joyful can make things feel even more difficult.

How to get through the holidays

The holidays can be tough for a lot of people. Maybe you’re not feeling up for it this year, and that’s okay. Here are some tips to help you get through the holidays.

1. Find fun things to do within a budget

There are plenty of ways to enjoy the holidays without spending a lot of money. You can visit friends or family, picnic in the park, watch holiday movies, bake simple treats or read Christmas stories. Get creative with decorations and use this as family time.

2. Reach out to people in need

There are many people who are alone or don’t have enough money to celebrate the holidays. Reach out to your community and see if there are any events or volunteering opportunities that you can participate in. Helping others is often the best way to lift your own spirit and enhance gratitude.

volunteers serving food

3. Join communal events

There are likely to be many communal events happening around your town or city during the holidays. Check your local paper or online calendar for listings. These events can be a lot of fun, provide a sense of community and ensure that you are not alone.

4. Monitor health and substances

The holidays can be a time when people overindulge in food, alcohol and drugs. If you’re struggling with any of these substances, be sure to monitor your intake and seek help if needed. Enlist a friend or family member to keep an eye out if you might lose control! Remember to stay compliant with your regular medications.

5. Do nice things for yourself

The holidays can be stressful, so make sure to take some time for yourself. Relax in a bathtub, read your favourite book, go for a walk, or listen to music. If you are not one for all the Christmas festivities, see this time as a wonderful opportunity to catch up on tasks, organise your home or simply rest.

Relaxing on a pier by the water

6. Keep a structure or routine

Some people find it helpful to keep a structure or routine during the holidays. This can help reduce stress and make the season more enjoyable.

 7. Connect virtually or through online forums

Do a video call with friends or loved ones who live far away or jump online to join forums and chat groups.

 If you do need to talk:

  • Beyond Blue: phone 1300 22 4636
  • Lifeline: phone 13 11 14
  • SANE Australia: phone 1800 18 7263

Christmas doesn’t always put people in the best of moods – especially if they’re not feeling particularly festive. It’s okay if you’re not feeling up to celebrating this year and there is no shame in it.

The most important thing is that you take the time to relax, remain mindful of what you need to get through whatever it is you’re feeling, and celebrate the season your own way.

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