Comment & Analysis
Dec 26, 2017

How to Handle the Holidays

Christmas isn't always fun. But there's support available.

Scott AhearnColumnist
Sam McAllister for The University Times

The festive period is a time for joy, celebration and bringing together family and friends to share in the merriment. We also get to take a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of Trinity, though unfortunately, it isn’t always that simple.

December can be a time of stress and loneliness. Meeting family members you only see once a year, money pressure and the feeling that you have too much to do can exacerbate this. As we move deeper into the late December rush and the pending lull of January, it’s important to try and remember how to maintain your mental health and wellbeing.

It’s hard to admit that at such an exciting time of year, you don’t actually feel great. But talking about your feelings can improve your mood and make it easier to deal with the tough times. None of us are superhuman. It’s crucial that you are self-managing your mental health and doing what you can to stay healthy.


We all get overwhelmed by how we feel at times, especially when things go wrong. It’s important to create a space for these conversations and also worth identifying who you can speak to if you are concerned about your mental health. If things are getting too much for you and you feel you can’t cope, ask for help. The Samaritans (116 123) and Pieta House (1800 247 247) are available to speak to all year around.

Over Christmas time, how we eat can sometimes impact how we feel. The festive period wouldn’t be the same without a bit of overindulgence, but a good tip is to balance this over the holiday period – everything in moderation!

Similarly, drinking sensibly is important. Some people drink a lot over the holidays to deal with fear or loneliness, but the effect is only temporary. The holiday period can encourage socialising and it’s very easy to get carried away, but remember to know your limits.

It’s important to keep in touch with family and friends, and reach out if you need to. When putting the finishing touches on holiday plans, we can often become distracted from the support systems around us and lose our footing. Friends and family can make you feel included and cared for. They can offer different views from whatever’s going on inside your own head, keep you grounded and help you solve practical problems.

Enjoy this time to catch up, and remember that present-buying is not the only way of showing that we care about others. December is the perfect time to reach out to loved ones who you haven’t spent much time with in the past year. Make sure to ask how they’ve been and whether they have plans for the holiday. Caring for others is an important part of keeping up relationships with people close to you. It can even bring you closer together and make you feel good, too.

The holiday season is a perfect opportunity to take some time out of your day-to-day life, and gain some perspective to reflect on the year. Practicing mindfulness is one way to do this.

Getting active is also a great way to clear the mind. Cold weather and short days are not the greatest motivation to get out of your bed and do a 5km run, but research shows that exercise releases chemicals in our bodies that can make us feel better. Exercise can boost our self-esteem and help us sleep better.

If running really isn’t your thing, what do you love doing? What activities can you lose yourself in? Enjoying yourself helps beat stress. As busy as the holiday season gets, try and keep up the activities and hobbies you enjoy all year around. You could turn these into festive activities, like making gifts, or socialising with friends, before spending time with family.

Some of us make people laugh, others cook amazing meals. Some of us share our lifestyles with people who live close to us, others live very differently. Don’t feel pressured to do more than you feel up to. Christmas is just one day.

I hope these tips are helpful. From all of us here at TCD Headspace, we want to wish you a joyful and peaceful time over the break. Take advantage of that well-earned break!

Scott Ahearn is a counsellor in Trinity’s Student Counselling Service.

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