Ruairi Stewart

Do You Struggle At Christmas? Here’s How To Look After Your Mental Health If You Find This Time Of Year Difficult

Though it’s supposed to be ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, many of us find Christmas tough on our mental health. In fact, a quarter of the population finds Christmas more challenging than the rest of the year, while about one in four of us have struggled with anxiety or depression over the festive season, according to a YouGov survey.

“This time of year can be overwhelming,” says psychotherapist Ruairí Stewart aka ‘The Happy Whole Coach‘. “The Christmas period comes with the expectation that we should be happy, carefree, merry, spending time with friends and family, but for many, it brings peak stress levels as we attempt to juggle responsibilities, meet expectations and cope with feelings of depression and anxiety.”

Ruairí explains that it’s common to feel tired, sad and disconnected at this time of year – particularly after a year of uncertainty.


Locked down and lonely? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one…


Here are his top tips if you are struggling at this time of year…

Ease financial worry by spending within your means

The pandemic has not been financially kind to many of us, meaning pressures around spending money might feel even more intense this year. If this is the case for you, communicate with those around you and express that although you would buy them the world if you could, this year will have to be toned down. Banish any feelings of guilt or shame and remember, most people are probably feeling the exact same and might be relieved to know the reciprocal pressure has been lifted. You could even suggest that instead of giving gifts this year – you will be donating to charity, and would love it if people could do the same for you.

Make a plan of action

Try to get your shopping done as early as possible and order online ahead of time to allow for any delivery hiccups. We all know that leaving things to the last minute causes unnecessary stress, so do your future self a favour and get organised early! Make a list of everyone you need to buy for and jot down some ideas of what they might like. Avoid blindly searching google/wondering round shops without a plan of action.


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Let go of unrealistic expectations

Everyone has their own version of Christmas and an idea of what the experience should be. For a lot of people, this means living up to certain expectations and that can be a lot to take on. If this year has taught us anything, it’s to focus on what’s really important in our lives. It might not be possible to host the whole family on Christmas Day, or to host your annual NYE party, but try not to focus on what can’t do, and focus on the things you can. Connect with the people around you, put some extra decorations up at home, try a new turkey recipe! Accept that this year might look a little different, and try to embrace it.

Schedule in time for self-care

December marks the end of a challenging and confusing year, so you might be in need of some self-care and alone time during your Christmas break – allow yourself time to unwind and chill out. If you’ve spent the best part of this year on a never-ending Zoom call with your work colleagues followed by virtual drinks with friends, communicate to those close to you that what you really need is a little breathing space to recoup. Burnout will be affecting a lot of people this year, especially those who have been working towards this end of year break.


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Connect with others

If you’re feeling isolated – perhaps you live alone or have been shielding this year – stay connected to friends and family using apps like FaceTime, Zoom or Skype. This is for your benefit as much as it others, so reach out to those you know will be finding Christmas difficult or spending this time on their own. You could even volunteer with organisations to help those most in need. Shaking things up and doing Christmas a little differently can bring feelings of joy and content.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask a friend or loved one to help with some of your responsibilities. You don’t have to take everything on yourself – it’s important to feel supported but you will have to ask for this support in order to receive it – there is no shame in asking for help, it’s actually a sign of strength. If you don’t feel you have anyone you can turn to, there are lots of amazing organisations you can contact such as MIND and CALM.

Seven Ways To Work On Your Relationship Whilst Dealing With Wedding Stress

This year has been challenging for everyone, and even if you’re the most loved up couple that you know, it’s likely 2020 has presented you with a few trying moments.

Whether you struggled being cooped up 24/7 in lockdown, or you’re dealing with the uncertainty of not knowing whether your wedding will go ahead, it can be hard to stay calm and patient all the time. We asked psychotherapist Ruairi Stewart, aka The Happy Whole Coach, for his top tips on managing your relationship during a stressful time.

Photo credit: James Rudland

“Right now, it can feel as though life as we know it is at a standstill. There is so much uncertainty around when things might return to some form of normality,” says Ruairi, “With so many having to cancel or drastically restrict their weddings for the foreseeable future, here are some things you can do to help manage your relationship during this difficult time.”

Show Yourself Kindness and Compassion

This means really allowing yourself to feel what you feel and to not judge yourself for how you are experiencing this unexpected loss. You might feel a mixed range of emotions such as sadness, guilt, anger, frustration, and disappointment – this is all perfectly normal and to be expected.

This is a form of grief you are experiencing and it’s important that you allow your feelings in. You don’t need to feel guilty for being sad or upset. This also includes not engaging in any negative self-talk or berating yourself for things you ‘could or should’ have done differently.

Read more: A beginner’s guide to yoga for your wedding

Be Open and Communicate

Don’t assume your partner is a mind reader. Communicate with them, tell them how you are feeling and what you would like from them. Begin by saying “I feel…. stressed and overwhelmed” and “I need… some quality time spent with you, a hug and some reassurance”.

If your partner opens up to you about how they feel, sit with them, listen, and empathise with them. Validate their experience and tell them you are there for them. Please don’t try to fix things or fall into the trap of giving advice, sometimes people just need to feel heard, understood and know that support is there for them.

Read more: Perfect gift choices for the bride

Use Your Support Network

Reach out to those around you – friends or family who help lift your spirits and you can be totally yourself around. Speaking to these people in your life can help shift your perspective and keep you feeling grounded with so much uncertainty going on around you.

You might even have friends or family in your network who are in similar circumstances so you can support each other and find creative solutions based on what worked for them or helped them out.

Read more: Hen party ideas that are COVID-19 friendly

Find a Creative Focus Point

This could be anything from playing an instrument to taking up a new hobby or reconnecting with an old passion. It could be redecorating a room, or something that helps occupy your time and energy away from wedding related talk or planning. The time will pass regardless, so you may as well do something you enjoy to help you destress and unwind.

Acknowledge the Bigger Picture

The circumstances may not be ideal, but you and your partner are alive and healthy, you love each other and want to be together. You have the rest of your lives together and this is just a challenge for you to face.

Things might not have gone to plan, but that’s okay because there is so much to look forward to in your future and you will be able to celebrate your big day when things settle. Gratitude for what you have can be a powerful way to shift your perspective and help you see the big picture if you get overwhelmed.

Read more: Coronavirus cancelled my wedding and here’s what I learned

Celebrate Your Original Wedding Day

Make a point of marking the day and doing something to celebrate if it feels right. Dress up, have drinks, have a nice meal, or celebrate with friends and family over Zoom. Whatever happens make sure you take time to mark the original wedding day in some way.

Read more: Beautiful ways to celebrate your cancelled wedding date

Focus on the Future

Ask yourself what you want to be able to tell your future kids/relatives/friends about how you both coped during this time with so much uncertainty. What will you say about how you worked together, how you adapted, how there was so much adversity and yet you both came through things together stronger than ever? Hold this thought in your mind, think about your long-term future and realise that this will pass and that you are both strong and resilient.

Feeling inspired? Make sure you read our guide to managing stress whilst wedding planning.