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12 blogs of Christmas: I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

12 blogs of Christmas: I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

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The best-selling Christmas song of all time has been covered by artists from Bing Crosby to Lady Gaga.  Though it is one of the most well-known Christmas songs, it differs from many with a distinctly nostalgic undertone.  Indeed, the composer Irvine Berlin is said to have written it following the death of his three-year-old son on Christmas day in 1928.   Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, many of us can relate to this song’s message, which captures the contrast between the expectations and reality that we may feel during the holiday season.

While the festive season is a time to celebrate, with an emphasis on creating joy and happiness, it can also be a time tinged with sadness.  It is likely to be a time when lost loved ones are remembered, or feelings of loneliness may be heightened by the focus on family gatherings and holiday parties.  As we are encouraged to look back on the year that has passed, it may also be a time that prompts more introspection, which can lead to its own challenges.   Though it can be a difficult subject to think about, this is therefore a time when it makes sense to be all the more mindful of mental health.

Numerous organisations provide statistics on the holiday season’s impact on mental health.  They demonstrate that while many people feel increased feelings of wellbeing and happiness during the festive period, a comparable number of people find that it has a negative impact on their wellbeing.  A YouGov survey found that younger people were more likely to feel happier during the holidays, while people experiencing divorce and bereavement were more likely to find that they felt low during the festive season.[1]

There are both external and company-backed resources that employers can put to use during the holiday season, to ensure that their employees have access to information and support.  Mind UK provides more information on why the holiday season may be a more difficult time, which can help people understand their feelings and feel less alone in struggling with it.  They also provide a resource page on coping with challenges which are more likely to come up during this time.  These include financial difficulties and managing relationships which may be under more strain, and offers advice on how to be kind to oneself at this time of year.  The Mental Health Foundation has a page on looking after your wellbeing during the festive season, with video links providing more information on various aspects of wellbeing.  These pages also link to support resources.

Employers may wish to share links to resources such as these, to not only help their employees but increase understanding around why people could be experiencing more mental health difficulties around the holidays.  Employers could also consider mental health organisations in their charity initiatives that may be running at this time of year, to both raise awareness within their company and support these services when they may be needed most.

In terms of employer-backed mental health support, the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) is one of the cornerstones of an employer’s wellbeing toolkit.  These services are often provided by insurers alongside group benefits schemes.   A simple reminder to employees about the EAP service, including contact details, could make a difference to employees who are struggling to cope.  The EAP gives direct access to trained councillors who can provide in the moment help, or can signpost to other support organisations.  The EAP can also provide a series of structured telephone or face-to-face counselling sessions, which are likely to be accessed more quickly than through the NHS.

While it can be hard to think about sad aspects of the holiday season, it is important to recognise that it can present heightened mental health challenges.  As many organisations are working to develop a more supportive approach towards mental health, as part of their overall wellbeing strategy, it makes sense to acknowledge that support may be especially relevant during the festive period.  By providing access to information and resources, employers can ensure that mental health support is not forgotten at a time when added challenges may be lying under the surface.

[1] https://yougov.co.uk/topics/health/articles-reports/2019/12/18/christmas-harms-mental-health-quarter-brits