Ways to help you look after your mental health this Christmas

11 December 2020 by

Christmas and New Year can be hard enough on the nerves without Covid-19 and its uncertainties. Whether you have existing mental health issues or are starting to feel more anxious or depressed, we have compiled a list of organisations that can help you to cope. Rosalind Mullen reports.

Ordinarily, the NHS says at least one in four of us will experience a mental health problem every year, but – as we are all tired of hearing – these are "unprecedented times". As such, more of us are struggling with issues such as panic attacks, depression and suicidal feelings brought on by everything from fear of redundancy and financial hardship to worries about illness, phobias about wearing masks and so on. According to the Office for National Statistics, more than half the adults in the UK (53%) say Covid-19 has affected their wellbeing and 47% report high levels of anxiety.

If you have concerns about your own mental health, that of a colleague, or you are caring for somebody at home, your first move could be to check what support your employer offers. Some workplaces offer counselling – usually through membership of an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). Many also have trained mental health champions who can provide peer support. And if they organise regular ‘coffee chats' or one-to-ones with team members, this is your chance to give them feedback on how you are coping with the new normal at work and whether you need some flexibility to manage home and work life.

Importantly, however, you don't have to rely on your workplace to get help. There are countless charities and organisations out there offering support for everyone, whether you are an employer, an employee – or now unemployed (see below).

Independent people and culture consultant Sean Wheeler says: "There are a number of support options available. These organisations can provide everything from self-help tools such as mindfulness to professional counselling. Anyone in need can and should seek help as soon as possible and not try to deal with things on their own. Support is out there."

And you aren't the only one suffering. Many people who have previously been unaffected by mental health issues may find problems are surfacing because of the pandemic. As Wheeler says: "Anxiety about job security, a drop in confidence when you have lost your job, and stress about not being able to feed a family or yourself, pay bills or keep a roof over your head are all real issues today that may only get worse as the pandemic continues."

Christmas is an important time to check on your colleagues or to ask if they need support. Wheeler says: "Hospitality is a family. Most families stick together and are there for each other during tough times. Those that support and show kindness at this time will be remembered."


The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) offers specific advice on protecting your mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Stay in contact with people – talk to colleagues or friends about how you're feeling
  • Have a routine so you plan in advance what you'll be doing each day
  • Keep active and exercise
  • Make time for activities you enjoy
  • Reflect on what helps you feel more positive and what does not.

Further advice can be found at www.acas.org.uk/coronavirus-mental-health

Anxiety, depression and phobias

IAPT: Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme

This talking therapy programme focuses on the treatment of adult anxiety disorders and depression in England. To underline the fact you are not alone, the NHS Long Term Plan will enable 1.9 million people with anxiety disorders or depression to access talking therapies through IAPT by 2023/24. Details of local IAPT services are available on the NHS website.


Anxiety UK

Whether you have anxiety, stress, anxiety-based depression or a phobia that's affecting your daily life, Anxiety UK can help. It is supported by an expert team of medical advisers, whom you can access by becoming a member. Its website also provides access to free resources, which include a Christmas and Anxiety Workbook.


No Panic

With its tag "Don't suffer alone – pick up the phone", No Panic specialises in self-help recovery for people living with phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder and other anxieties, who account for 18% of the UK population. The website offers help specific to workplaces as well as a plethora of free advice, tips, blogs and tools, such as mindfulness videos and free downloads on, for example, managing a panic attack. Become a member for £25 a year and you can access services such as one-to-one mentoring and recovery groups.


Industry-specific help

Hospitality Action

The industry charity offers free resources to anyone in any role who has mental health issues in the hospitality industry, including a free 24/7 helpline on 0808 802 0282.

In response to the pandemic, HA has launched a Covid-19 Wellbeing Advice Hub covering topics from virus anxiety and home schooling to wellbeing while on furlough, staying financially fit, coping with bereavement and returning to work. Also check out its Lockdown Lessons films, which feature people talking about their own mental health triggers and offering advice on managing symptoms.

In addition, HA offers financial aid, with its Covid-19 Recovery Grants scheme designed to provide short-term help to people facing hardship due to the impact of reduced hours/pay, redundancy and/or to help cover the gap while you apply for state benefits.

Earlier this year, chief executive Mark Lewis responded to reports that some unemployed hospitality workers were becoming homeless. "We would advise anyone who is at immediate risk of homelessness to contact our 24/7 helpline on 0808 802 0282 or email assistance@hospitalityaction.org.uk, where we can signpost them to appropriate support including help navigating the benefits system, legal advice on tenant's rights, sources of financial support and emotional support, including counselling."

If your company is a member of the Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) you can access a 24/7 helpline on 0808 802 2111.



Now Pause

This is a free, practical, self-care toolkit to help keep your mental health in shape, particularly if you are stressed, anxious or depressed. Launched during the spring lockdown, it features bite-sized podcasts on how to relax, sleep deeply, stay positive and live less stressfully.

A new Christmas podcast meditation will help you to stay calm during the seasonal chaos, and a new instalment is a two-minute relaxation podcast designed for use at the start of online meetings, such as Zoom.

The initiative is powered by hospitality talent and recruitment partner Mum. Craig Prentice, founder of Mum and Now Pause, says: "Stress and anxiety started to show their heads very early on in lockdown back in the spring. There was also a lot of peer pressure on social media to be filling your time doing all types of activities. Listening to people on a daily basis made me realise there was a need for pause and practical help was needed to assist people in relaxing."

Prentice, who founded Now Pause with life coach Andrew Johnson and hospitality marketing expert Peter Kerwood, adds: "I've always worked in hospitality, often in very full-on fast-paced environments [and] found relaxation super-helpful personally."

Podcasts cover topics including how to relax, sleep deeply, stay positive and live less stressfully and stop worrying.


Well Bee

People expert Purple Cubed has launched Wellbee, a paid-for employer platform to help organisations look after their employees and support their physical and mental wellbeing.

Purple Cubed chief executive Jane Sunley says: "Rather than inundating everyone with lots of blanket solutions, which can be overwhelming, and even unhelpful, Well Bee enables each individual to self-assess their own wellbeing whenever they like and to access tailored support, advice and signposting."

There's also a free version of Wellbee available for people who are out of work on the Career Scope website.



Racial issues


A subscription-based meditation app and talks curated for POC and BAME communities, which aim to help reduce anxiety, alleviate stress and promote rest.

The website states: "The app is designed to support Black folks on their path to healing by naming and offering resources for common cultural experiences, like internalised racism and micro-aggressions."

There is also a relief fund for those who can't afford the subscription.



For those who are in danger of losing their home, either because of unemployment or late furlough payments.

Shelter www.shelter.org.uk

Crisis www.crisis.org.uk

Only a Pavement Away www.onlyapavementaway.co.uk

Citizens Advice www.citizensadvice.org.uk

See also Hospitality Action (above)


Financial struggles, due to reduced hours and wages or unexpected expenses as a result of Covid-19, can also harm mental wellbeing. You can access help through a number of organisations.

You may be eligible to apply for one of Hospitality Action's financial grants.


The charity Turn2us offers a benefits calculator to help you find out which welfare benefits you might be entitled to, and a Grants Search to identify charitable funds.


Step Change offers debt advice and fee-free debt management.


Citizens Advice can help you navigate the benefits system.


The Trussell Trust can help you access food banks.



The Samaritans

You can call the Samaritans 24 hours a day to talk about any feelings of suicide, distress or despair in a safe, confidential way. They won't judge or tell you what to do, but they will listen, and talking can help you to understand your problems and cope better.

Phone 116 123



Get help with issues such as suicidal thoughts, abuse or assault, self-harm, bullying and relationship challenges. A trained crisis volunteer can chat to you via text and help you to think more clearly and take steps to feeling better, or partner website Heads Together offers further options on support.

Text SHOUT to 85258



Sane is a confidential specialist for emotional support on issues such as suicidal feelings, schizophrenia, depression and self-harm. It offers a callback service and email support.

Sane also offers a confidential Textcare service that provides emotional support when you need it most by sending bespoke messages to your mobile phone. Visit www.sane.org.uk/textcare and submit your request 72 hours before the time you would like to receive a message.

Also available is a 24-hour peer support forum at: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum, which is a moderated, safe space to share support, ideas and experiences with others.

Phone 07984 967 708

Email support@sane.org.uk


CALM: Campaign Against Living Miserably

This confidential helpline and webchat was launched for young men who were unlikely to contact mainstream services and were therefore at greater risk of suicide. Trained staff listen, support, inform and signpost to counselling services. It also supports those bereaved by suicide, through the Support After Suicide Partnership (SASP).

Phone 0800 58 58 58 (between 5pm and midnight every day)




MindOut's aim is to prevent isolation, crisis and suicidal distress in LGBTQ communities by providing access to advice and information, peer support groups and a suicide prevention service. It also offers an online support service via instant messaging.



Stonewall offers a confidential information service.

Phone 0800 0502020 (from 9.30am to 4.30pm Monday-Friday, with answerphone outside these hours)

Email info@stonewall.org.uk


Government advice

Up-to-date guidance for businesses on working safely and advice on how to raise concerns if you are an employee.

Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery




Tier restrictions


One-stop shops

Mental Health at Work

Curated by the charity Mind, this free resource could be your first stop to find documents, guides, tips, videos, courses, podcasts, templates and information from organisations aimed at helping you get to grips with workplace mental health. It also has a new Coronavirus Toolkit and hospitality blogs.



A one-stop shop offering free help for a broad range of issues to anyone living with a mental health problem or supporting others. An easy-to-access A-Z guide lists common problems and explains how to get help. One section covers workplace mental health, and employees and employers alike can download Wellness Action Plans with practical steps for self-support.

As well as professional help, the website provides tips on how to maintain a good work-life balance, legal advice and more.


Men's Health Forum

Worried about alcoholism, prostate cancer, working stresses or suicidal feelings? Men often find it tougher to ask for help, but if you don't ask, things can get worse. This charity provides 24/7 support by text, chat and email. With men appearing more likely to get Covid-19, there's also a dedicated hub for support. There are also blogs, an A-Z list of health issues and a shop.


Action for Happiness

As well as providing information on inspirational seminars and talks, Action for Happiness offers the chance to join a 10 Keys Group. These local groups offer people the chance to meet up (on Zoom for now) on a monthly basis to check in with each other and set personal actions.



A website and app offering guided meditation and visualisation techniques aimed at stress reduction, pain relief, relaxation, alleviating anxiety, insomnia relief, improved mood and more. Register online to listen for free.


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