For some people Christmas is a time to look forward to. Spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts and enjoying the break from school or work.
It can also be a very stressful time on top of the everyday stresses and worries that we deal with. This could be from the pressure to create and live up to the expectations of having the ‘perfect’ Christmas, having the money to finance Christmas (i.e. food, drink, gifts), buying the ‘best’ gifts, spending time with family and perhaps with family members who have difficult relationships with one another.
Due to traditions of overindulging in food and drink, it could also be a very vulnerable and stressful time for those who have a difficulty in their eating habits or have an eating disorder. The thought of being around food or pressure /expectation to eat when at social events or family gatherings can lead to increased stress and anxiety levels.
Stress levels may increase around the festive period, increasing the chance of developing feelings of anxiety, anger, isolation, depression and impacting upon relationships.
Thankfully, there are some simple, practical steps that we can put in place to deal with such issues during the festive period.
Make time to socialise
Choose to spend time and socialise with those who you care about the most. Whilst you may feel pressure to spend time with family, try to find a balance between time to relax, rest and socialise. Plan time to participate in fun activities with people who you enjoy being around, which may help to lift your mood, de-stress and allow you to feel more relaxed.
Exercise helps to lower stress levels and it can help us to take a break from the ‘business’ of preparing for Christmas. Don’t stop any exercise routines you may already have been doing throughout the year. You may want to start a new exercise activity to give yourself that break, such as going for a walk, bike ride, swimming or yoga, any activity that you will enjoy and help you to relax.
Personalise your Christmas preparations
Getting things ready for Christmas can feel stressful. There are gifts, food, drinks and decorations to prepare. Perhaps you enjoy baking or being creative with arts, rafts or decorating. How about combining the two and spending time baking some Christmas treats, creating/personalising Christmas cards or crafting your own Christmas decorations? Spending time doing something you enjoy and find relaxing, whilst also preparing for Christmas can help to keep your mood high, stress levels down and feel energised or motivated that you are getting things done for Christmas.
Budgeting your Christmas spending in advance may help you to feel less stressed, if you are already having money worries or know you have to limit spending. Perhaps deciding on a price limit for the gifts you buy for each other or choosing which social events you want and can afford to attend. Finding alternative, cheaper ways to make your money go further, such as making gifts if you are creative, as the activity itself may also help you to feel less stressed. By budgeting in advance, it may also prevent you from feeling any additional stress due to bills arriving after Christmas or being in further financial difficulty in the New Year.
Seek professional help
If you find yourself feeling stressed on the run up to Christmas it may be helpful to access support before your stress and anxiety levels become worse, as a preventative strategy, rather than when it has escalated to feeling unmanageable. At any stage counselling can help to address stress-related issues before and during times when you may feel under pressure. You can access therapy through your GP, your workplace or you can access it privately.
Myira Khan is a BACP Accredited Counsellor and Supervisor, providing both face to face and online counselling through her private service in Leicester. Myira works with adults, couples, children and young people.
Myira is also a Clinical Supervisor, an Elected Member on the BACP Board of Governors and the Founder of the Muslim Counsellor and Psychotherapist Network (MCAPN) which supports Muslim counsellors and psychotherapists throughout their training and career development, as well as working to end stigma and break down barriers around mental health within BME and Muslim communities.