The Christmas and New Year period is a time for joy, celebration, gift giving and family and friends. What could be so stressful about that right?Media builds up Christmas to be such a happy, festive time with family and friends, it makes it more glaringly obvious when your own situation isn’t picture perfect.
For many people, Christmas can mean a time of extra pressure, stress and anxiety.
Why we get stressed around Christmas and New Year
Christmas is an expensive time of the year. There’s the expectation and financial pressures of buying gifts for everyone, having the Christmas feast with all the trimmings, and paying for holidays, whilst keeping up with the regular bills. Data by finder.com.au shows that Aussies spend $1,325 on average each for Christmas, and 22% of Victorian families have struggled with their mortgage payments at least once during the festive season.(1)
Family conflict and tension
Family members don’t always get along. Separation, divorce and unresolved conflict can add to the Christmas tension. Family gatherings can mean extra hassle and coming face to face with issues or people we’ve been avoiding can make us feel vulnerable, sad or angry. The worry, tension and drama of frayed relationships at family get together s can cause stress and anxiety, especially if it’s been unresolved for a long time.
Loneliness and isolation
We are often reminded that Christmas is a time to share with friends and loved ones. So when you are on your own, going through a relationship break up or divorce, it can feel even lonelier and sadder.
Juggling festivities, kids, work and holidays
For many people, juggling all the preparation, festivities and work can be stressful. There are the work parties, the school end of year events, the social gatherings… And for parents with school aged kids, there’s the juggling act of working, taking holiday leave, and looking after the kids when they’ve got 4+ weeks of holidays.
Lack of sleep
Combine all of the above with tiredness and a lack of sleep, the busy festive period can have a negative impact on our mood, and lead to a risk of stress, anxiety and depression.
8 Tips for coping with stress and anxiety this Christmas
With so much going on around the festive season, it’s important to keep in mind the things that can help reduce our likelihood of stress and anxiety.
1. Spend less. Consider low cost Christmas options or start a Christmas kitty
If the financial stress of Christmas spending is getting you down, try to plan ways to reduce your spending. For example, suggest to family and friends to only buy gifts for the kids; organising a Kris Kringle (Secret Santa) present swap for the adults or making gifts.
Find low cost ways to have fun, like a BBQ or picnic in the park. Get everyone to bring a plate of food to share.
Check out some of our dietitian's simple, yummy and healthy platter ideas.
If you’ve already spent a bit more than you planned, set a Christmas budget for next Christmas and divide it by 52 (weeks). Start saving and putting this amount into a Christmas kitty for next year.
2. Set realistic expectations
It’s important to set realistic expectations for yourself. Christmas might not be the perfect family reunion you dreamed of. Plan how will manage any negative feelings that come up.
Avoid known triggers. For example, if your family has a history of arguing over a certain topic, don’t bring it up. Drink in moderation as alcohol can contribute to unwanted behaviour, stress, anxiety and depression.
3. Make plans to be with other people if you are feeling lonely or isolated
If you are feeling lonely or isolated, making plans to get out and about and be with other people, may help relieve loneliness and reduce negative feelings. Attending a community service like Christmas carols, or volunteering with a charity may help open new friendships. Helping others can also help build positive feelings and confidence.
If you are separated from family and friends by distance, connect online or by phone. It may also be helpful to write down a list of people or services you can call on if you are feeling vulnerable, lonely or isolated.
4. Eating well
Maintaining good eating habits and a healthy diet including plenty of wholegrains, fresh fruits and veggies will help keep your body healthy and give you much needed energy to get through the long days. It can be tempting to feast on all the treats at this time of year. But most people don’t lose the weight they gain over Christmas. Click here for 10 ways to avoid permanent weight gain.
Routines can easily go out of the window when you’re juggling the many things on your to do list. Try to make sure you get at least 30 minutes exercise a day, like going for a brisk walk. Try these 8 exercises to do on your lunch break.
6. Relaxation and me time
Remember to set aside some time each day, even just 15 minutes, for yourself. Taking a break and clearing your mind can be a great way to calm your nerves and beat stress. You can meditate, sit outside and watch the sky, have a cuppa, listen to your favourite CD or a podcast, go for a walk…It’s about making time for you. For some people relaxing can turn into an eating binge. Emotional eating can make truly relaxing difficult. If you're an emotional eater click here.
7. Get plenty of sleep
Sleep plays a crucial role in your physical and mental health. Make sure you get enough sleep by sticking to your normal bedtime and bedtime routine. If you need help to get a better night’s sleep, read our 10 sleeping tips.
8. Get help if you feel stressed, anxious or depressed
If you are feeling stressed, anxious or depressed, seek help from friends, family or a health professional like a counsellor or your GP.
Inspiro has counsellors and psychologists who can help you understand what’s causing you stress, anxiety and depression, and give you strategies to cope, take control and feel better again.
Call now on 9028 0153 to discuss or make an appointment with Inspiro’s counsellors who specialise in helping people with depression, anxiety and stress.
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(1) Finder.com.au survey of 2013 Australians conducted in October 2018.