The holidays are just around the corner and, for most people, this is a reason to be happy and celebrate. And yet, studies show that Christmas can be a difficult time from a mental health standpoint, especially now, when we have COVID-19 concerns to add to the usual Christmas anxiety.
According to a YouGov study, only 27% of people in the UK believe that Christmas has a positive impact on their mental wellbeing, whereas 19% answered that Christmas has a fairly negative impact, and 7% a very negative impact, compared to the rest of the year.
Looking at how different age groups responded, we can see that seniors are less likely to experience holiday anxiety: for people ages 54 and up, Christmas doesn’t have any sort of impact on mental health. The same can be said about younger people between 18 and 24, who are more likely to perceive Christmas as an uplifting time of year.
Meanwhile, over one third of Brits aged 45-54 feel worse during the holidays. Other vulnerable groups include the unemployed, divorced, and widowed. As for parents with children, opinions tend to be divided: 44% of Brits living with children said that they felt happier, while 56% said that Christmas caused them more stress. Nevertheless, the latter were also at lower risk of loneliness and depression.
The survey pointed out a worrying fact: women are more likely than men to experience poor mental health around the holidays: over one third of women reported feeling stressed and anxious, compared to less than a quarter of men. This gap could be explained by the fact that many women take more responsibility at work while retaining traditional roles in the home, such as cooking Christmas meals and buying gifts.
According to YouGov, stress, anxiety, loneliness, and depression are the most notable mental health challenges around the holidays. These can appear even in people who don’t normally struggle with mental health, while people with pre-existing conditions can see a worsening in symptoms.
Overall, two in five people said that they struggled with stress, and one in four struggled with anxiety and depression. Less than a quarter of Brits said that they feel lonely around the holidays.
As for the reasons why Christmas can be a stressful time, the answers vary depending on the respondents’ age, social status, and financial situation. The most common stressors include:
- Financial pressure: having to balance buying gifts with the usual expenses
- Attending numerous social engagements
- Having to spend time with family members you’d normally try to avoid
- Relationship conflicts caused by the fact that one partner has more responsibilities than the other
Last but not least, Christmas can be an emotional trigger: since it’s a time traditionally spent with loved ones, it can cause feelings of grief and loss if those loved ones are no longer around. If the upcoming holidays don’t bring you peace and quiet and you find yourself overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, you are not alone. Many people experience Christmas as a challenging time, but help is available. Talking to a certified therapist can help you better cope with these negative feelings, manage symptoms, and reframe your thinking patterns.