How To Avoid Christmas Stress

Psychotherapist Samantha Carbon

Tips by therapist Samantha Carbon

Christmas can be a challenging and stressful time, which individuals may struggle to navigate. Expectations can be overwhelming. Anxieties can be heightened when you are suddenly spending full days with family or friends you rarely see.

The nerves can transport you back to childhood occasions when you were expected to be a certain way, to please others; to be perfect; to try hard, and to be seen to be strong. It’s important to acknowledge your feelings during the festivities.

Sidestep the hype

Avoid getting caught up in the frenzy of Christmas having to be an idealised occasion – it is a marketing technique. It’s important that you limit your Christmas stress and attend to the basics – sleep, rest and eat well.

Be realistic; create your own brand of how you would like your Christmas to be. Rituals and traditions of the past change and diminish, so create your own way of doing Christmas.

Notice your feelings

If the year has been tough, please give yourself permission to acknowledge that you can’t force yourself to be happy, just because of the festive season.

In the run-up to Christmas, carve time out for yourself – whether it’s for a massage or pampering or just a trip to the cinema. Give yourself the same care and consideration you would give a best friend.

Think about what Christmas means for you. It may be about volunteering and making yourself useful, which can be a positive experience, a way to lift your spirits and give yourself rewarding fulfilment.

‘Tis the season to declutter!

Use the Christmas holiday as an opportunity to sort through your wardrobe and donate unwanted items to a worthy cause.

Set boundaries

Saying no to others’ demands can be a struggle at this time of year, so start thinking of your own needs when work or family activities are being planned.

Christmas can often be an occasion to overindulge, financially and emotionally. Setting your boundaries now can give you the space to decide what you wish to participate in or spend on, and what you don’t.

Delegate and communicate

A problem shared is a problem halved, so open up communication with the family now on who is doing what to share the burden. With everyone playing a part, you can work together towards a common goal of a special meal or enjoyable get-together.

Discuss present budgets with family so everyone is in agreement, and share your concerns on what the month of January tends to look like financially. The long wait until payday is a regular topic shared in my therapy rooms by clients!

Reduce Christmas stress. A family walking through a snowy wood, arms round each other

Unplug the family and reconnect – with each other

Suggest that your family do something different after Christmas lunch, like going for a long walk and reconnecting with each other, freeing all of you from the various electronic devices and media. If they are interacting properly, you can relax and let them look after each other.

Saying no is OK

Saying no to invitations and Christmas parties with friends and family or colleagues can be challenging. If you’re the type of person who wants to please others by saying yes, but really mean and want to say no, this can have an impact on you and raise your levels of Christmas stress.

Saying yes to all and sundry can be overwhelming and counterproductive. Saying yes to too many things, especially when it comes to family, can result in you saying no to the important things that matter to you.

Every time you say yes to something or someone but internally you want to respond with a no, you are saying no to your own needs and wants. You are effectively giving away your own precious resource of time to fit in, be seen, and be liked.

It’s worth monitoring the number of times you say yes. At the end of this week, were your own personal priorities and decisions achieved, rather than having to please others?

Being aware of the possibility that it is simply easier to go along with others, rather than putting yourself first, is the first step towards realigning and recognising what’s important to you.

It’s important to put boundaries in place, so don’t respond to an invitation straight away. Give yourself the space to sit with the invitation and consider whether you will get something from it. You can still fit in, be seen and be liked with your boundaries in place.

I believe that tough decisions made today can support individuals to reach a happier place tomorrow, so it’s important to put your needs first this Christmastime.

Read more on Samantha’s areas of expertise here.

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Sarah Proctor

I've worked on a variety of regional newspapers and national magazines. My Weekly and Your Best Ever Christmas are fantastic, warm-hearted brands with an amazing, talented team. I'm a sub-editor and particularly love working on cookery, fiction and advice pages - I feel I should know all the secrets of eternal life, health and happiness by now, but hey, we all need that regular reminder!