The effects of Covid-19 have been enormous on the way people live their everyday lives, and the concerns that have come with the latest variant; Omicron is the Christmas gift no one asked for. And it has put even more pressure on people as they plan their Christmas get-togethers.

Official statistics from shows that mental health has deteriorated for lots of people since the start of Covid restrictions, but Christmas itself can be a challenging time for many, even without the pandemic according to Wiltshire Mind.

Community fundraiser at Wiltshire Minds Laura Oatley said: “Christmas can mean different things to different people and their experience may change each year.

"For many of us, Christmas can trigger feelings such as loneliness, stress or worry about money, and often someone may experience seemingly opposing emotions at the same time.”

One of the best ways to improve people’s mental health is to help them feel less alone by offering a helping hand. Laura suggested several ways in which people can make sure they are there for their loved ones over Christmas.

Igniting a meaningful conversation

She noted: “Try to avoid ‘cheering them up’. People feel most supported when they feel heard and that their feelings have been understood rather than needing someone to try and change them.

Phrases like “Christmas is supposed to be a happy time”, “Other people have it worse”, “Cheer up, it’ll be fine” can feel dismissive and minimise their feelings.”

Sometimes it can be difficult to break the boundaries when asking someone how they are.

If someone tells you they are fine, Laura advises: “Ask them for a second time how they are. We often treat ‘how are you?’ as a general greeting, but asking a second time ‘how are you really doing?’ shows you really do want to know."

Helping prevent Covid anxiety

With more Covid restrictions being introduced, Laura added: “There is no right way to respond to a pandemic and all experiences are valid.

“Try to understand how others are thinking and feeling, and be respectful of that. For those you are spending time with over Christmas, it may be useful to check in with how they are feeling about COVID and what safety measures they may need to feel comfortable.

“Remember to take care of yourself and notice what things, in particular, lead you to feel stressed or anxious about COVID. For example, it may be useful to limit your time on social media or watching the news so that you aren’t overwhelmed.

"Try to focus on the things you can control rather than worrying about the things you can’t. If possible, try to find moments of joy and fun to help provide some respite from the difficult emotions you may also be feeling.”

Looking after your own mind

To be able to help others, mental health experts often remind people to make sure that they are taking the time to look after their own well-being.

Wiltshire Mind recommends using the ‘Five ways to Wellbeing’ as a prompt. These include: connecting with others, being active, taking notice of smaller things and being present, learning something new (even listening to a podcast counts), and giving back; which helps create a sense of purpose. 

For people who are struggling with their mental health at the moment, there are many support services available, and Wiltshire Mind urges anyone in crisis to seek help as soon as possible. 

Laura said: “Treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding as you treat others. Be patient with yourself and others, and know that this time of year can be challenging for many of us, especially during a pandemic. 

“Be mindful of what you need and try to communicate this to the people around you, including setting any relevant boundaries such as topics you don’t want to talk about or events you don’t wish to attend. Consider talking to a friend or loved one about how you are feeling.”

She added: “For confidential crisis support, you can contact the Samaritans 24/7 on 116 123 from any phone. If you are a young person under the age of 35, you can contact the Papyrus HOPELINEUK by calling 0800 068 4141 or texting 0800 068 4141, they are open from 9am to midnight every day.”

Wiltshire Mind supports people all over Wiltshire experiencing mental health problems and is mostly dependent on funding from the community. The charity currently raising urgent funds so they can continue providing support to people who need them. To donate, you can visit their Just Giving page here.