Holiday Toolkit

Advice content


We recognise our students may be feeling anxious and in need of more support over the holidays.

As the holidays approach, you may feel a little anxious or stressed about experiencing a change to your routine. We want to reassure you that, if the academic break feels stressful or causes you to worry, there is still lots of support available to you.

Our student support teams have created this toolkit to help in every way they can.

Here are a few tips and pieces of advice you may find useful.

Please do not suffer in silence. There is support out there for you.

We hope you have an enjoyable, safe break and look forward to welcoming you back after the holidays.

Emergency/urgent help

  • If you're in immediate danger of hurting yourself or others:

- Go directly to the Accident & Emergency (A&E) department of your local hospital to get help.-

- Call 999 to request an ambulance if you are unable to reach the hospital yourself

  • If you're feeling distressed and need urgent support:

- Contact your GP surgery to request an emergency appointment

- If your GP surgery isn't open, call the free NHS out-of-hours medical line on 111 for help accessing the right services or contact NHS 111 via their website

- You can call the Samaritans on 116 123 to talk to someone at any time, day or night

  • Free, confidential, 24/7 support is available by text message. Text ‘shout’ to 85258 or visit for more information.
  • text Mikeysline for support
  • look after yourself and get good advice from clear your head
  • information on anxiety, low mood, stress and where you can get help from NHS
Advice for the holidays content

Advice for the holidays

Advice for the holidays

While the holiday season can represent joy, gratitude and togetherness, it can also be associated with family and financial pressure, loneliness, anxiety and tension. Even if you look forward to the holidays, it’s normal to experience periods of stress or difficulty.

According to research from the UK, most people feel stressed, anxious, and depressed over the holidays.  In fact, over two in five Brits have felt stressed during the festive season, while one in four have struggled with anxiety or depression (YouGov 2019 UK)

If you find yourself experiencing mixed emotions, worries, or even real distress over the holidays, that’s okay, and perhaps keep some of these thoughts in mind.

First of all, it’s okay to not be okay during the holidays and reach out for support when you need it.

The holidays may cause a mixture of complicated situations and emotions, such as family and relationship conflict, anxiety around relationships, worries about food, coping with grief, or feeling that everyone else is having a great time and you’re missing out.

All these feelings are valid and okay, and you’re not alone.

Don’t wing it during the holidays - come up with a plan to feel better and take control 

  1. Write down the days you’ll be surrounded by people or have a lot going on. Think through the days that might be tough and identify when you’ll need extra support or breaks.
  2. Identify the people and resources you want to use for support. Talk with these people beforehand or investigate a resource and define strategies for coping.
  3. Set your intentions: Whether it’s sleep, how you eat, how much you drink, where exercise plays a role, or whether you engage in certain conversations, set your intentions in advance so you can feel in control in the moment. This approach can be generalized for the holiday season or you can do this on a day-to-day or event-by-event basis.

Take time to develop a list of coping skills that work for you and then think carefully about when you’ll use them.

  1. Take time to get support from people who understand your experiences on Togetherall. Get ideas, get support, or create your own group of friends to support each other during the holiday season.
  2. Take a nap
  3. Go for a walk alone in a favorite location or walk with someone who helps you feel better
  4. Plan to meditate in a way that works for you and will help you to feel calm and gain perspective.

Remember to allow yourself to be in the moment

Rather than comparing your experiences, feelings and relationships to others’, allow yourself to be present in your life without judgement.

Be realistic about the holidays and plan ahead if you think you might experience complicated emotions.

The holidays can be wonderful, happy, complicated, and stressful.

If you feel like you need a safe space to talk with others who understand, try Togetherall; a free, safe anonymous online community where you can give and get support from others.

Information provided by: Chief Clinical Officer of Togetherall, Dr. Ben Locke

If you're going home for Christmas, but don't want to content

If you're going home for Christmas, but don't want to

If you're going home for Christmas, but don't want to

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book Be Well, Learn Well

Not every student looks forward to going home for Christmas. This can be for many reasons and it is ok for you to feel this way. A few strategies can help you manage how you feel about this.

Many students feel obligated to return home, even when they don’t want to. It is important to remember that you are an adult and are entitled to make your own choices. Take time to think about the following:

  • why you are planning to go home
  • whether you do need to go
  • why you don’t want to return home.

Thinking through what will happen

It may help to think about who you are going home for and who, if anyone, it will help. It may also help to think about the potential consequences of either choice (going home or not), and how likely those consequences actually are.

Student life can be very pressurised and in these circumstances it can be easy to lose some perspective. Ask yourself – will being at home be as bad as I think? Are my fears realistic?

Try to work through the consequences in a calm way and to be honest with yourself about what the likely outcomes are. It may help to talk to someone else about how you feel.

If you are worried about a specific issue it may be useful to discuss this with your family, before you return home - if you feel this is possible. Sometimes, addressing areas of conflict can help resolve issues and strengthen your relationships.

You can get more information about preparing to address conflict here: Preparing to address conflict | Student Space

Reducing the impact of the break

If, after thinking it through, you feel you should still return home, even though you don’t want to, see if there are ways in which you can reduce the impact the break has on you.

Could you:

  • go for a shorter period than you’d originally planned?
  • Break up the time at home, by going out with friends or getting out of the house for a while?

Even if you eventually decide that you have to stick to your original plans, being clear about why you are going home can help you feel more in control and can make it easier to survive the holiday period.

If you do go home, it is important that you look after yourself while you are there. Try to find time for yourself and give yourself small rewards along the way. Keep in mind the reasons you decided to go home – you may find they help to motivate you.

Finally remember that the Christmas vacation is a short break – you will be returning to university soon, ready to start the new term.

Information provided by: If you’re going home for Christmas but don’t want to | Student Space

Advice if you are staying at College over the Christmas break content

Advice if you are staying at College over the Christmas break

Advice if you are staying at College over the Christmas break

Gareth Hughes is the Clinical Lead for Student Space and is a psychotherapist, researcher and writer on student wellbeing, including the book 'Be Well, Learn Well.'

If you are staying at university for the duration of the end of term break, making some plans in advance will help to ensure it is as good an experience as possible.

Your university is likely to be quieter over the break. At least some university buildings are likely to be closed for part of the time and most staff will be taking a well-earned rest from work. It may also be that there are fewer students around and less to do with your time.

In addition, if you normally celebrate Christmas, it can be easy to feel worried or upset at the prospect of spending it alone or away from your family.

While these worries are perfectly normal, there are things you can do to increase your enjoyment of the break. Taking control of your time proactively can help you to get the most out of the break and feel more positive.

Keep busy

Maintaining a daily structure and keeping active will help to maintain your mood and energy levels. A lack of structure and vegging out can be fine for a day or two, but over time it leaves us feeling sluggish and down.

Having a plan for each day can help you to stay active. You may want to think about socialising with friends who are still around; spring cleaning your room, getting regular exercise or studying for next term. This will help you to feel you are achieving something each day.


Volunteering is an excellent way of keeping busy and doing something positive, and at Christmas charities need extra help. Volunteering to help others is also good for us and it can help to build up your CV.

Your university, Students’ Union or Guild may have some volunteering opportunities or you can explore what opportunities there are through local and national charities such as Time Bank.

Volunteering will also help you by putting you in touch with other people and giving you a sense of purpose.


Try to maintain social contact with as many people as possible. Not all students will go home for the whole of the break. Find out when your friends are going to be around and if local restrictions allow, plan socially distanced meet ups with them. If there are periods where your friends aren’t around, try to schedule regular calls and video calls with friends and family elsewhere.

You could also use Togetherall to keep in contact with other students who will still be here over Christmas. This could be an opportunity to make new friends.


It can be tempting in December to stay indoors where it’s warm but you should make sure you are getting outside and exercising each day. Sunlight and exercise improves mood and will help you feel better physically as well.

Try to see the positives

For many people spending time alone may be preferable. If you are going to be alone you will have complete control over your own time, you can do what you want when you want, without pressure to please anyone else.


Give yourself rewards over the Christmas break. These don’t have to cost a lot of money but, if you can, treat yourself to something special. You could, for example, cook yourself a nice meal or just set aside time to watch a movie or read a book.

Seek support

If you are worried about how you will feel during the break it may help to talk to someone beforehand or please remember that Togetherall and Spectrum life provide 24/7 support during the academic breaks.

Information provided by: Staying at university over the Christmas break | Student Space

Estranged Students content

Estranged Students

Estranged Students

Supporting estranged students in higher education (

An advice centre for students who have no contact with their family. Find information about support, financing your studies and accommodation options as an estranged student.

The Christmas period can be challenging for people who have become estranged from their family or children.

This guide is intended to help you with some of the most common festive frustrations and give you an idea of how others in our community cope with the season... 

Information for parents content

Information for parents

Information for parents

Some activities for under 13s 


With concerns about money here is a great blog to read for parents tips on supporting children's wellbeing in the cost of living crisis


Student minds have created a guide for parents about money and mental health 

Students who are Carers content

Students who are Carers

Students who are Carers

Carer Support Line 01463 723560

Connecting Carers Office 01463 723575


Connecting Carers - Connecting Carers & Connecting Young Carers

Care experienced students content

Care experienced students

Care experienced students

Who Cares? Scotland helpline will remain open between 12-4pm Monday-Friday through the holiday period and can be accessed either by calling 0330 107 7540 or emailing

Advocacy support will still be available however due to members of the Highland team taking time off over the fortnight the best way for students to get in touch would be to contact Head Office on 0141 226 4441 who will direct the call to the advocate on-call.

Barnardo's have confirmed that they will have on-call support over the festive period apart from the 25th – 26th December / 1st – 2nd of January. Care experienced young people can contact them for emotional and practical supports such as food parcels, help with heating costs etc 01463 751206.

Foodbank information content

Foodbank information

Foodbank information

Find Your Nearest Foodbank Highland Foodbank


See Christmas 2022 opening hours for more information 


Opening hours for local foodbanks

Money Advice content

Money Advice

Money Advice

Financial support in the local community

Where to get help
Your local Citizen's Advice Bureau (external link)
Payplan (external link) 0800 716239
National Debtline (external link) 0808 8084000
Business debtline (external link)

Money Advice Service (external link) 0300 500 5000

StepChange (external link) 0800 138 1111

Citizens Advice Bureau
The Citizens Advice service helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems by providing free, impartial, independent and confidential advice.

Telephone: 0808 800 9060

Find your local bureau (external link)
Get free advice (external link)

Welfare support
Are you missing out on benefits you might be entitled to, or needing support with money matters or personal budgeting advice? Get in touch for free confidential help and advice.

Telephone: 0800 090 1004





Scottish welfare fund 0800 083 1887

The Scottish Welfare Fund helps families and people in Scotland who are on low incomes.

You can apply for a:

Crisis Grant – if you're in crisis because of a disaster (like a fire or flood), or an emergency (like losing your money or job, or an unexpected expense)
Self-Isolation Support Grant - if you've been asked to self-isolate by Test and Protect because of coronavirus (COVID-19) and will lose income as a result
Community Care Grant – to help you or someone you care for to start to live, or to carry on living, a settled life in the community
You must be 16 or older and on a low income, or getting certain benefits, to apply for these grants

Safety information content

Safety information

Safety information

As the festive season begins and we find ourselves busier than ever, it is important to consider your personal safety.  From securing your home, and taking care when out socialising, to protecting yourself when online, Police Scotland have created a range of advice to help you enjoy the festive season safely. 

More safety information and tips can be found on the Highlands and Island Police Division Facebook page or on the Police Scotland webpage.

Self care in winter content

Self care in winter

Self care in winter

“Practicing gratitude is how we acknowledge that there’s enough and that we’re enough.” —BRENÉ BROWN

Have you tried our uhi wellbeing bingo?

Have you looked at your positives lately?

Look at our self care stocking activity for some ideas or there is a leaflet from NHS Highland about self care in winter .