How to reduce stress at Christmas
Posted by Justine Clarabut on 22 November, 2019
Christmas should be a time of merriment and joyous celebrations. A time when families and friends come together and have the most wonderful time … well, that is what we all aspire to and in reality, it is an idyllic vision of how we would like Christmas to be. It is how the media portrays the traditional Christmas. It is the child in us that remembers Christmas being fun and full of excitement with no cares in the world. However, this idealised perspective and expectation sets us up to fall short of perfection… Because if we don’t achieve the perfect Christmas Day, then we may feel we have failed!
With all this in mind, save the pun, we believe that taking care of your mental wellbeing is just as important during the festive period as your physcial wellbeing. Stress is a body’s natural reaction to change, whether physical, mental or emotional. However, if stress is not alleviated it will build on itself making us feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. And increased stress levels can lead to more serious physical and mental illnesses. So making sure our stress levels are kept in check is so important, particularly around this hectic and pressured festive period.
So let’s take a look at the causes of stress at Christmas time
- Festive workload – someone needs to put the show on the road! Shopping, cooking, preparing, wrapping, putting up Christmas decorations and an increase in housework to welcome guests, as well as working right up to or even over Christmas, all takes its toll! This extra pressure alone increases stress levels and can lead to emotional breakdowns and anxiety.
- Families – bringing families and friends together, over what can be days at a time, can be testing and undoubtedly stressful. Estrangement and loss also play a big part in our emotional wellbeing, particularly at Christmas. In addition, children being off school for 2 to 3 weeks at this busiest time of year can accentuate stress levels.
- Money/expense. The pressure to have the perfect Christmas and provide for everyone, can drive people into debt. This time of year is the most expensive with prices in shops at their highest. And the list of presents and provisions ever increasing as we all strive to accommodate our loved one’s wishes.
- Alcohol – apart from the obvious social events where drinking plays a huge part in our festive celebrations; stress at Christmas can also lead to an increase in alcohol consumption! Drinking too much not only affects us physically but can also increase feelings of anxiety. Alcohol reduces our serotonin levels and neurotransmitters in the brain which increases feelings of anxiety, particularly when hungover.
- Environment – reduced daylight and poor colder weather can have a negative effect on our mood and mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), sometimes known as winter depression, is a well know phenomenon which happens when the seasons change
- Social media – can increase our expectations of the perfect Christmas. Seeing other people’s posts of glorified social occasions can make us feel inadequate or lacking. Quite often though, posts on social media, are a tiny promotional snippet of the best bits of people’s lives that give their readers the perception that their life is just perfect! Let’s keep this in perspective though; who would post an image of tears, anger, moodiness, arguements or depression?
Ways to deal with stress at Christmas
Share the load – delegate! Sharing the household duties with the family and not thinking that we are some sort of ‘superhuman’ will ease the burden of the amount of extra work that has to be done. With the kids off school, get them involved in the preparations too, or that prooves too much, look out in your area for holiday workshops for kids.
Be present – Be present and let go of the past and future. It is ok and perfectly normal for adults to see and do things differently. Exercising tolerance and stepping back from argumentative situations will ease the way for a happier time; it is just a day or two, maybe more, but in the grand scheme of things it is short lived.
Cut back on lavish gifts to ease the financial burden – make it known in plenty of time to family and friends that you are cutting back this year! Lower their expectations before the big day arrives and put the emphasis on being together and enjoying each others company.
Take a walk outside – lower your stress levels by stepping out into the fresh air. If things get too much, go outside, breath deeply and take a few moments to be calm. Increasing our intake of oxygen is thought to affect the levels of serotonin released in the body which helps us to relax and feel happier.
Manage drinking sensibly! Drink water before, during and after drinking alcohol – it will help lower consumption and keep you hydrated! Don’t drink on an empty stomach as alcohol absorption will be more rapid!
And finally and most importantly, look after yourself
It is pretty inevitable to have an increase in stress at Christmas but we can do something about it. Taking care of your own physical and mental wellbeing doesn’t have to be pushed aside or be difficult at this time of year. Take a look at our top tips for looking after your wellbeing at Christmas
References and further reading