What comes to mind when you think about Christmas?
For some of you it may be an exciting time ahead spent with your loved ones exchanging gifts, eating delicious food, attending work Christmas parties, social events and/or religious services. However, for many people Christmas can be a highly stressful event.
Some of the reasons Christmas can be stressful include:
- Financial stress
- Managing separated and blended family dynamics, including impact on children
- Spending time with in-laws and own family when the relationships are already strained
- Buying presents
- Busyness of Christmas
- Different expectations, values and beliefs about Christmas
1. Saying no is okay
Consider attending the social events that provide meaning for you rather than feeling like you have to attend every event out of obligation. It is already a busy and exhausting time of year so pacing yourself and saying no to invitations doesn’t have to lead to feelings of guilt.
It’s also ok to only attend a Christmas lunch or dinner for a short time if it is too upsetting or going to cause high levels of anxiety. You could even consider catching up after Christmas when the craziness of it all has settled. Not everyone may be pleased about it, but you need to think about your own self-care and what’s important for your own mental health and well -being.
2. Limit Alcohol Content
Many people like to enjoy an alcoholic drink or two during the Christmas festive season. Try to be mindful of your alcohol intake and also the reason for drinking. For example, is it to help cope with feelings of anxiety, loneliness or grief? Perhaps it is your first Christmas since you and your partner separated, or maybe you are spending Christmas away from your children, or this might be your first Christmas without a loved one. Remember alcohol can contribute to feelings of anxiety, stress and depression and may worsen those already negative thoughts and emotions.
3. Manage Family Expectations
As adults, Christmas may be loaded with spoken and unspoken expectations. Emotions can run high. Feelings of disappointment and resentment may emerge when the day doesn’t go as well as you might have hoped.
People aren’t going to change how they interact just because it is Christmas. If there is a family member who tends to say things that make you uncomfortable, either try to let it go or avoid them if necessary, choosing to sit next to someone that you will feel more relaxed with. If a particular interaction is really upsetting you, take some time out by going for a walk, taking some deep breaths and talking to a close family member you can trust.
4. Be Mindful of Your Spending
Ask yourself before you purchase gifts, is this within my budget? Try to set a budget at the beginning and shop around. Ask yourself, do I need to be spending this much or could I source this somewhere else at a more affordable price? Consider making some of your gifts or if you have children, they could make homemade Christmas cards and wrapping paper to save on costs. Maybe you can do a Secret Santa with some of your family to avoid having to buy multiple presents.
5. Practice Self-Care and Relaxation
As it can be a busy and chaotic time of year, try to slow down and take time out for yourself. Think about your values and what gives you joy and meaning. Is it going for a walk, spending time with a close friend, practicing yoga or attending pump class at the gym? It might be reading, painting or gardening.
This is a time when we can all feel burnt out so trying to keep our self -care cup closer to full will give you the resources to better manage this time of year. Try to practice anxiety reduction strategies such as mindfulness and deep breathing. Insight Timer and Headspace Apps offer a range of meditations for all ages.
Although many face-to face services close down over the Christmas period, there are still mental health services for families that are available over the holiday period. These include:
- Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA): 1300 726 306
- Miscarriage, stillborn and newborn death support (SANDS): 1300 072 637
- SANE Australia Online Forums – www.saneforums.org
- Lifeline 13 11 14
- Suicide Call Back Line 1800 659 467
- BeyondBlue 1300 224 636
- Mensline 1300 789 978
- KidsHelpline 1800 551 800
-Article written by Catherine Williams