22 December 2020

5 wellbeing tips for the holiday season

December is usually a season to come together and celebrate with family and friends. This year, however, the pandemic and lockdown restrictions might thwart such plans for many. It is understandable that getting into festive spirit may be harder this year. You may be feeling down because of the uncertainty around. Perhaps you may be dealing with sadness or loss. It is completely normal to experience a rollercoaster of emotions, from stress and anger to disappointment and frustration. No matter how you are feeling about the holiday period this year is valid. In the run-up to winter holidays, Mental Health Europe compiled some tips to help you get through this time. Although there is no one right way to deal with the current situation, there are still many ways you can make the most of this year’s holidays.

1. Stick to traditions and routine 

Traditions are passed on from generation to generation. Especially this year they can help you regain a sense of normality. Whether it is cooking a special family recipe, watching certain movies or decorating your home. Find solace in activities that will put a smile on your face.


More broadly, try to maintain a daily routine to give you a sense of control amid the uncertainty. Developments of coronavirus news might be out of your control, but you can come up with a structured plan for each day. Make sure to include things you enjoy, from pursuing your hobbies or exercising to spending time in nature. While getting enough sleep and regularly eating healthy meals might seem trivial to you, they form the foundation for physical and mental wellbeing.

2. Help people around you

Assisting other people in their time of need and reaching out to someone who may be feeling alone or concerned can benefit both the person receiving support as well as the helper. Research has shown that committing an act of kindness once a week over a six-week period is associated with an increase in wellbeing. There are many ways you can support others, from volunteering to making a donation. Helping others can open up new circles of people to connect with and brighten everyone’s holiday.  Spreading some joy despite the difficult times is a great way to put a smile on the faces of those around you. Simply listening to a friend’s concern can go a long way. In times like these, you can find real comfort in community.



Find out five reasons why being kind makes you feel good – according to science >>

3. Practice gratitude

Although it might take you a bit longer than usual to think of things to be grateful for at the moment, practising gratitude has been proven to improve mental health and relationships with others. Researchers have found out that it can help you to accept change and relieve stress. Everyone can learn to focus on gratitude. It is simply a matter of practice. Keeping a gratitude journal can be a great way to include this in your daily routine. Sharing your gratitude with others is recommended to strengthen the relationships in your life. Shifting your perspective to the positive things in your life can help you feel more optimistic in current times.


Read 35 good news stories from 2020 you might have missed >>

4. Reach out to others

Being separated from family over the winter holidays or making the conscious choice not to see relatives this year can leave you feeling lonely and guilty. Remind yourself that some things are out of your control, but you are doing your part to protect loved ones. Still, finding ways to reach out and connect with others is essential for our mental health. Luckily, there are numerous digital ways to socialise nowadays. Use these to stay in touch with your loved ones, be it a virtual family gathering, games nights or carol singing.


Socialising decreases stress and anxiety while supporting calm and happy feelings. By talking to someone, we share our emotions and experiences, provide or receive support which makes us feel connected. When we socialise and have physical proximity to others, we reduce cortisol levels. Simply sharing our concerns with a loved one can help us feel better.

Regularly talking to a friend or family member can be a helpful way to keep your stress levels under control. Sometimes we need encouraging words from a loved one to lift our spirits. Plan at least one connection a day – make a phone call or have a chat with a family member or friend who you can share experiences. Remember you are not alone in this. Regular virtual meetings with family and friends can be a great source of support to help you enjoy the winter holidays.


If you are worried about a loved one’s mental health this winter, check out these tips >>

5. Be kind to yourself

Amid all the tips on how to cope during this time, it is important to remember there is no one right way to deal with the current situation. Avoid putting too much pressure on yourself with high expectations and ambitious New Year’s resolution in current uncertain times. Take each day as it comes and focus instead on short-term goals – today, this week, the now.


It is normal to feel overwhelmed, stressed, anxious or upset, among a wide range of other emotional reactions about the current situation. Make sure to acknowledge your feelings and to not push away those emotions. Allow yourself time to notice and express what you’re feeling. This could be by writing them down in a journal, talking to others or practising meditation. Thoughts and feelings shared halves the weight on your shoulders. If there’s no one you feel like you can talk to, you can always use a helpline.

Additionally, spending time in natureexercising or trying breathing exercises can do wonders for your mental wellbeing. This will look different for everyone, but try to do things you love as just you. As opposed to ‘we’, ‘you- time’ is important for rebalance and de-stress. Since our everyday routines are often disrupted over the holiday period, make sure you have some uninterrupted time and space where you can retreat, reconnect with yourself and your needs.


Check out MHE’s guide on how to cope with stress during the pandemic >>

Winter holidays are going to be different this year, so take this time of celebration to look after yourself and lean on people for support if you need it. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do this year, focus on all the good things you can do. Look for the small ways to spread love and joy around you this holiday season.


COVID-19 Pandemic and Mental Health

See MHE's information hub which collects advice and resources on how communities can provide efficient mental health support through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.


Helplines and services to support your mental health during COVID-19

An interactive map gathers information on helplines and services in 34 European countries to support your mental health during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.


Stay connected

Get our latest news, personal stories, research articles, and job opportunities.