Stress and the Festive Season. We’ve Made You A Guide (And Checked It Twice)
The festive season is something most of us look forward to with great anticipation all year. The experience for many is joyous and exciting and it is a time we can stop, reflect and create memories with our friends and families. However, for many people it can also be a time of great stress, anxiety, disappointment and loneliness. The Christmas period can bring high expectations. Financial pressures can intensify and so too can family conflicts which can make this a very stressful time of year. If you are someone who feels the pressure during the holidays, this blog is for you. Here we will delve into some practical strategies you can apply to manage stress and anxiety during the festive period regardless of your circumstances.
Festive Period Financial Management
The holiday season is a tricky time for many families financially. Do you often overspend and not consider setting a budget? You’re not alone. Whilst Christmas is the season of giving and it can be a meaningful experience spoiling family and friends with extravagant gifts, this can also lead to feelings of stress and overwhelm. Fortunately, there are many ways to reduce financial pressures during this period. Here are some tips for managing your Christmas finances and reducing your financial stress during the silly season:
- Identify what causes your financial stress during this time Purchasing countless gifts and attending social events can be an expensive (and exhausting) feat. Strategise ways you can reduce spending. For example, you could suggest to your family and friends that you only buy gifts for the children, or perhaps you could organise a ‘Secret Santa’ among the adults where one family member is responsible for purchasing a gift for one person.
- Set a Christmas budget
Finding low cost ways to have fun is part of the fun! Afterall, it’s about quality time and moments shared, not how much we spend on one another. Try not to let money hinder you from precious time with your family and friends. If you can’t afford expensive restaurant meals or cocktail catch-ups, organise a party in the park, or a get-together at home where everyone brings a plate of food.
Family Tensions & Managing Anxiety
The holiday season can bring with it connection and joy – but also family challenges. Old resentments, complex family dynamics and unresolved conflicts may arise or trigger anxiety as momentous occasions (such as Christmas) tend to evoke strong emotions and heightened stress levels in many.
Family relationship problems can lead to increased social isolation and reduced wellbeing, but it has been suggested that conflict may be exacerbated by family and societal rituals and expectations relating to Christmas (Relationships Australia, 2018). During this time, it is important to work towards
managing our interactions in a healthy manner and make the most of our ‘perfectly imperfect’ connections at this special time of year.
Here are some ideas:
Be mindful of expectations
Christmas might not always transpire as the family reunion you hope for. Plan how you will manage any feelings that may arise, such as anxiety or disappointment.
Drink in moderation
It may be tempting to indulge a little too much during the festive period, particularly if it relaxes you, but alcohol has been proven to contribute to anxiety and depression whilst making stress harder to deal with and affecting our long term mental health . Additionally, alcohol is a depressant, which means it can disrupt that balance, affecting our thoughts, feelings and actions – which is certainly not ideal if tensions are present (Drink Aware, 2021).
In the lead up to a big family event such as Christmas Day, reflect on what you will and won’t participate in, and how you might handle difficult situations if they arise. If there is conflict or tension with another family member, prepare for how you’ll respond. For example, if your family member often drinks too much and says inappropriate things, you might prepare some responses in advance to help ease your anxiety and uncertainty. You could say something like ‘I don’t believe this is the time for this topic of conversation but would love to sit down with you over a coffee in the new year”. You could also have some ideas for changing the topic of conversation. You might set other personal boundaries in order to help you move through the situation smoothly. Perhaps you could limit the time you spend with certain people, or choose to sit next to those you feel at ease with.
Additionally, you could have an empowerment statement to say to yourself throughout the day if you feel your anxiety levels increasing, such as ‘I am perfectly safe, all is well’. Remember, you can also politely excuse yourself from conversations or behaviour that crosses your boundaries.
Managing Loneliness During The Holidays
You might be alone at Christmas for different reasons, such as the death of a loved one, living far from relatives, or because of social isolation. For those who have recently lost a loved one, Christmas can intensify feelings of grief and sadness. This is why it’s important to plan ahead to protect your mental health. Afterall, we all deserve to feel the Christmas spirit, no matter where we are or who we are with.
So how can you combat feelings of loneliness if you find yourself isolated or grieving a loved one over the Christmas period?
Connect with friends and family
Even if you’re separated by distance, you can stay in touch with loved ones by writing Christmas cards, connecting online or by phone.
Why not lend a hand to a local shelter over Christmas? There are lots of charities who need help. You'll connect with people and have the ooportunity tomake a positive contribution.
Attend community events
Take a moment to find out about events taking place locally and get involved. Whether it’s Christmas carols or local markets, getting out and about can help minimise feelings of loneliness and may even inspire the forming of new connections or friendships.
Make plans for Christmas Day
Put a plan together in advance to avoid feeling lonely, sad or bored on the day. Perhaps you might go for a nice early morning walk and then make yourself a special breakfast whilst listening to Christmas carols. You could even buy yourself a gift in advance. To get out and about you could attend a local service, or venture outdoors to enjoy a delicious dessert. Whatever it is, make it special - after all, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Maintain Mindfulness & Stay Healthy
Acknowledging and changing behaviours that contribute to your stress will support you in navigating through the Christmas period in a balanced and mindful manner. Remember to stay healthy by eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep so you have a better chance of coping with any Christmas stress that may creep in.
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