How to beat Christmas stress

Here’s how to keep the Christmas cheer alive during one of the busiest times of the year.

Stress less with these tips


As the year draws to a close, you’re supposed to be full of festive cheer and goodwill. So why is it you often feel more stressed, than merry? We look at four common causes of stress at this time of year and the best ways to tackle them.


Festive stress #1: The mad rush

The end of yet another year is manic - there are the get-togethers to organise, presents to buy, food to prepare, parties to attend… It’s more than enough to drive any relatively calm and organised person over the edge.

Thankfully, there are a few good tactics you can employ to prevent the mad scramble. Shannah Kennedy, a life coach and author of Simplify Structure Succeed, has three tips.

1. Plan, plan, plan. Keep a file on your computer and pop all your Christmas ideas into it.

2. Schedule shopping days. Schedule a couple of days in your diary when it suits you best.

3. Start saying no. You don't have to go to every festive event. Politely decline invitations to those events you don't need to attend so you have enough energy for the ones you want to enjoy.


Festive stress #2: How can I pay for all of this?

A credit card hangover hot on the heels of Christmas can quickly extinguish any lingering festive joy. To help manage expenses over Christmas, talk to your family about instigating a 'present-buying plan'. Some ideas include only buying presents for the children; having a 'secret Santa' where everyone draws one name out of a hat and only buys a present for that person, or setting a limit on the cost of presents for each person.

To help reduce your Christmas food budget if it's your turn to host this year, ask if your friends and family can all bring a plate on the 25th. It means you're not carrying the cost of putting on a festive spread, all on your own, and most people enjoy feeling like they're contributing something. Just make sure you coordinate the effort so that you don't end up with five vegie and hummus platters, and not much else!


Festive stress #3: Loneliness

Christmas is traditionally a time for celebratory family get-togethers, but according to Lifeline, it's also a time of year that can heighten feelings of isolation for some people. Psychologist, Dr Jacques Rizk says if you’re feeling isolated, try to resist taking on society’s expectations of a big, jolly, family Christmas. “Acknowledge that it is a time when people socialise and play happy families, but if that’s not your reality, that’s okay, too,” he says. “Make Christmas your own. If you have a smaller group of friends, then have a small, meaningful gathering and celebrate Christmas that way.”


Festive stress #4: Family feuds

“At Christmas time, different family members who normally keep their distance from each other are cobbled together,” says Rizk. It’s not unusual for old relationship patterns to return to the fore at once-yearly gatherings like Christmas. For example, a particular relative may have the ability to annually transport you back to feeling like a timid, vulnerable child. If that’s the case, Rizk says it pays to go in prepared: “Know that you’re likely to experience the emotions and role pressures of that former you. But the aim is to act differently – you don’t have to take on those old roles anymore.”

Perhaps those who face the greatest challenge are newly separated families. If this is your first year as a separated parent, be realistic and don’t try to force a happy scenario. “Acknowledge this is the first year with a different set-up, and that’s okay – you can start a new tradition,” says Rizk.


5 quick festive fixes


1. Put thought into gifts - When it comes to giving presents, it really is the thought that counts. There’s no need to buy extravagant gifts.

2. Be accepting - It’s common to feel stressed at this time of year. Just remind yourself it will all be over for another year before you know it.

3. Manage expectations - Try not to over-promise and don’t expect so much.

4. Limit alcohol - Drinking excessively can fuel arguments and cause out-of-character behaviour.

5. Look after yourself - If you take care of your physical health – eat properly, get enough sleep – your mind will feel better, too.