• Christmas can be a difficult time for many people

  • Counsellor Saff Mitten explains why so many people seek counselling at this time of year

  • If you are finding the festive season challenging and think a counsellor could help, you can find one here

Although Christmas is a festive period it's not always a happy time for everyone. Some people really struggle with life in December, perhaps more-so than at any other time of the year.

As a result it is quite a common time for people to seek out a counsellor and start having counselling. This is partly because of the widespread preconceptions that we have about Christmas and the New Year, that this whole period should be a happy, sparkly, carefree time for socialising and celebrating with friends and family. But if the reality of our lives doesn't match that picture - and for many of us it doesn't - we can feel really low. Some people even describe feeling like failures.

The festivities at this time of year only serve to draw attention to the lack that many people feel in their lives.

The festivities at this time of year only serve to draw attention to the lack that many people feel in their lives in a range of different ways. One of the common issues is the lack of a partner and a sense of loneliness and even despair at the prospect of another Christmas without someone special to celebrate with. This is so pervasive it's something even the ads on TV reinforce, like the current John Lewis ad and the penguin who longs for a mate. Not surprisingly like all fairytales he gets his happy ending, but the reality is many people don't and this can lead to worry that maybe they never will. Some people also become increasingly aware of their lack of close friends to celebrate and go out with for Christmas drinks after work and over New Year, both of which are well established traditions. This is another form of isolation or loneliness that can be difficult to cope with, particularly when it seems as if everyone around you is much more popular and is out having a great time. Also many people find that being around their families can bring up painful memories from childhood as they are cast back into the family dynamic and their childhood role when spending more than a day or two in the company of their family as a whole. Even thinking about this can cause anxiety and may act as a catalyst for some people to seek out counselling to try and address (and heal) these family related issues and let go of the past.

The additional stress of the festive season can suddenly increase normal levels of anxiety.

Additionally, in my experience as a counsellor and psychotherapist, anxiety is another common issue that brings people to therapy at this time of year - be that social anxiety or anxiety about life issues. The additional stress of the festive season can suddenly increase normal levels of anxiety, making them feel unmanageable. The end of the year is also a time that we find ourselves reflecting on what we have achieved over the previous 12 months and some of us end up feeling disappointed. As a result, there are those who find a counsellor at this time because they want to ensure that yet another year doesn't pass by without them moving closer towards creating the kind of life they want for themselves. Some people want to create more balance in their lives and discover a greater level of joy and happiness. Some have career or personal goals they want to make a reality. And some people don't know what they want to change but they know they aren't happy with the way things currently are. In all these circumstances counselling can potentially be useful and beneficial - not only to help people address the issues they are struggling with, but also to provide them with support and understanding as they navigate their way through this tricky time of year and beyond.

Further reading

Self-care for the christmas period

Overcoming christmas stress and anxiety

The 12 wellbeing days of christmas

What if christmas makes you feel bad?