Looking after yourself during Christmas

While Christmas can be a fun and special time to celebrate with your friends or family, it’s also important to remember that sometimes, that’s always not the case. It can be a time of year that puts a lot of extra pressure on us, especially for students, and it can affect our mental health in lots of different ways.  

Sometimes it can feel a little stressful, anxious, or overwhelming in the lead-up to and during the Christmas break. Over the festive period, it’s so important to make time for self-care, look after yourself and take it easy, especially if your mental health isn’t quite where you’d like it to be.

laf xmas

Whatever you’re feeling, here’s a handful of top tips for keeping your spirits up and making sure you get the most out of your Christmas at UoB.  

How are you really feeling?

If you feel that your mental health isn’t doing so well and know that you may experience feelings of stress, anxiety or worry, then consider any triggers which might affect you. Think about what you enjoy the most at this time of year, it could be spending time with your friends or family, baking, volunteering, or pampering yourself. Whatever it is, prioritise those things which make you feel good!

Our Student Content Shaper Ellen shares her advice, specifically for first-year students, on looking after yourself during the Christmas period:


BA English Literature with Digital Media Communications Student

“For us first years, not only are we distanced from everything familiar, but we are rapidly approaching assignment deadlines and pressure to make the Christmas period feel festive despite being away from our family and traditions. A sure way to alleviate some stress is by visiting the annual Birmingham Christmas Market. You can find delicious food, fun decorations, and a guaranteed mood lift. Or, sometimes we just need a cosy night in to relax and recharge. Nothing screams Christmas more than hot chocolate and a film, my favourites include The Polar Express, The Grinch and Love Actually. A perfect way to lift your spirits!”

It's also really important to know where you can get help if you need it, and here at UoB, there’s a wealth of resources designed to help you take care of yourself. If you think someone you know is struggling, then don’t be afraid to ask someone if they’re okay. They might want to open up, or they might not.

Whatever the outcome, it’s important to just be there for each other, especially over the holidays. And remember, it’s okay to not know what to say. If someone needs urgent medical attention due to their mental health, direct them to their nearest GP, the nearest A&E, or your local NHS Urgent Mental Health helpline which can offer 24-hour advice, support, and assessment. 

Likewise, you can also talk any time you like by logging in to the UBHeard Portal, through Live Chat, or calling 0800 368 5819 (Freephone UK*) or 00353 1 518 0277 (International). You can also text ‘Hi’ to 074 1836 0780 for SMS and WhatsApp support (standard rates apply).  

Introducing UBHeard

Gracie's top tips for self-care over Christmas

Our graduate Gracie also shares her advice on how to unwind, combat loneliness and take care of yourself over the Christmas break.

Personally, I enjoy catching up on my sleep over the holidays and cuddling my dog Buddy (see cute dog picture). I have also started a new hobby too, embroidery, and with the risk of sounding older than my years, I'm not too bad at it. I find that after a stressful day, it really does help me relax, alongside my housemates who have started cross-stitching.


Other ways of taking a break this holiday can involve watching a feel-good film or listening to some of your favourite music. Not everything has to be Christmas-related either, just watch something you enjoy. Making sure you have time to switch off is what is important.

If staying in isn’t your thing, you can maybe try going on a walk (cliché I know but even a short walk can boost your mood!). Try setting yourself a challenge of walking a route you haven’t done before, or maybe meet a friend or family member for some of it, or just have some time to yourself and listen to music or a podcast.

Taking the time to clear your head and having a break is the important part. If being in the cold isn’t your thing, then take a break from the screen and listen to an uplifting podcast in the warmth of your home or a coffee shop. A change of scenery can really help.

Christmas can be an overwhelming time and there can be pressure to say yes to being social when you don’t feel like it. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ – it’s okay to put your mental health first, it doesn’t make you a bad person.

As I write this, I know that most of this is easier said than done, especially when you are feeling lonely, down, and overwhelmed. Reaching out can be especially difficult, but just know that you are not in it alone. Remember to be kind to yourself, there is nothing wrong about feeling lonely and University is full of ups and downs for every single person. You’ve got this!

Eating over the holidays 

Christmas is known for many reasons, the presents, the special holiday spirit that’s all around and especially the food. Given that the holiday revolves around food and eating, and often in group settings, it can be a very overwhelming and difficult time for people with eating disorders. 

empty plate

It might feel impossible to get away from food at this time of year, and it can be stressful or upsetting with the pressure to “indulge”. It may create additional pressure to eat or cause increased worry about bingeing. 

If you’re experiencing the same feeling, the first thing to remember is that you’re not alone. There are many support services out there, all you need to do is ask for it. You can always access different kinds of support by visiting our Time to Talk? intranet page, alternatively, you can read this blog by YoungMinds student bloggers Caitlin, Amy and Aimee on coping with an eating disorder at Christmas

If you’re staying on campus over Christmas 

Going home for Christmas after the first semester at University can be exciting, and for most of you, it means seeing friends from home for the first time in months, catching up with family, and enjoying a well-earned break from study. But that’s not always the case for everyone.

laf xmas 2

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, being away from home during the festive season can feel lonely, especially if you’re an international student. It’s completely okay to feel like this but it’s also that time of year when you can explore Birmingham a little more and everything else on offer during the festive season to have a bit more time to yourself.  

Take some time out for yourself...

Staying in student accommodation over the holidays?

  • You can celebrate with fellow students by joining us for a traditional Christmas dinner at the Vale on Monday 25 December. We’re talking roast turkey with all the trimmings (veggie alternative available), followed by delicious Christmas pudding – all for just £9.50! Even better, if you’re on Student Living Plus, you can use your credit to pay. Register your interest.

We're here for you

  • If you feel that you need support over the Christmas break, there’s a range of mental health and wellbeing resources available for you at UoB. We’ve put together some resources and support services you can still access anytime, any day over Christmas.

Hear from our students 

Sometimes, you just need to hear from other students who might be in the same boat as you or are experiencing the same thoughts and feelings. That’s why we’ve asked some of our Student Content Shapers to share some of their tips on how they protect their mental health.  

  • Whether you're coming from the other side of the world or an hour down the road, if you’re staying on campus over the Christmas period and feel homesick, know this is normal. Read how student Fathima has dealt with missing home. 

  • As we approach the Christmas break, student Kimberley shares her top tips for self-care to help you unwind and beat the holiday blues. Read her top-tips here.
  • Likewise, you can find out how Student Content Shaper Anita looks after her wellbeing over the Christmas break, and get inspired on ways you can recharge. Take a read.
Do you have any more tips or advice on looking after yourself during the Christmas period? We'd love to hear it. Send us your tips by emailing The Student Communications Team at studentcommunications@contacts.bham.ac.uk.


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