We might moan about the expense and the stress of Christmas but it’s still an exciting time for many of us (big and small).  For some, however, it can be a real challenge. There are lots of ways we can make a small but vital difference to people who are struggling to feel the festive vibe.

Reverse advent calendar

Marking the days to Christmas with an advent calendar is a great excuse for chocolate before breakfast.

But if you’d like to try something different this year,  put the advent tradition into reverse by gifting items to your local Foodbank.

Simply get a box and encourage family members to place a food item in it every day, or as often as you can, throughout December. You can donate your box before Christmas.  Alternatively, give local families  a better start to the new year by dropping it off in early January.

Get started with a Foodbank donation

To get started, find your local Foodbank, and it really helps if you check the guidance on donations. Find out what’s needed by following your local Foodbank on social media or checking out their website.

You can’t go far wrong if you donate non-perishable staples such as tinned meat, fish and vegetables, rice pudding, and long-life milk. Providing food that can be eaten cold is helpful because people don’t always have the equipment needed to heat food or insufficient money to pay for power. You can also donate personal products, such as deodorant or soap, as well as cleaning products.

If you prefer, you can donate money via the Trussell Trust. Some Foodbanks are set up to accept donations locally.

Support someone who finds it a challenge

There are lots of reasons why someone in your life might be struggling this Christmas and finding the festive season a challenge. They might worry that they’re a burden, or don’t feel they can take part. It’s easy to make assumptions but important to ask them what they think might help. Find out how you can be supportive – mental health problems can make some parts of Christmas more difficult.

People may also feel more lonely. A recent survey suggested that 17per cent of people felt lonelier at Christmas – both young and old.  You can help in small ways by sending a card or text, by greeting passers-by.  Better still,  pop round to someone who is on their own for a coffee and a chat.

Donate to your local community

Local charity Surviving Christmas sets out to provide relief to people in Hastings or Rother suffering hardship or distress during the Festive Season. You don’t need to be permanent resident to receive help.

You can do something for a host of local charities and organisations by buying a ticket for the Rother Lottery.

Giving children in hospital Christmas too

Spending time in hospital over Christmas isn’t fun for anyone, but it’s even worse for children.  Young people can really struggle when they are away from their family and worried about their treatment.

Rockinghorse set out to ensure it’s still a special time of year for disabled youngsters and children in hospital.  The charity provides Christmas parties and festive activities, including visits from Santa, as well as delivering Christmas meals and hampers to families.

Become a secret Santa for a vulnerable child

You can help ActionAid’s work by becoming a Secret Santa.   A donation for a present, food, warm clothes or even a bed will make Christmas more special for vulnerable children in the UK.

Silly things that make everyone smile

Save the Children’s Christmas Jumper Day is on Thursday 7 December.  It’s easy to take part.  Just wear a festive woolly to work (schools often join in too) or just around the house, then donate money in exchange. If you don’t have one, decorate your own.  The more sparkles, the better, it will make everyone smile.

Other ways to help (and not just at Christmas)

There are many other ways you can offer support to local charities to help people who are not only struggling this Christmas  but throughout the year .