Although Christmas might be one of the best times of the year, it can also trigger immense stress and anxiety over a variety of things. Some people can find shopping incredibly stressful, especially when buying for many people, and others can hate the idea of a big family gathering with expenses, presents and celebrations. Others can feel under pressure to have the ‘perfect’ Christmas and ensure that everyone has a brilliant time, and others can feel worried about receiving gifts or injustice in the world. So, if you’re one of the people who sees Christmas as stressful and a little worrying, this post is for you; I’ll talk about several methods you can use to alleviate feelings of anxiety and stress over the festive period and have a better holiday. I’ll split up the post into three sections that talk about a certain anxiety so you can skip ahead to the section that applies to you or read the whole way through.
Section 1: Pressure at Christmas
Christmas is often projected as a ‘perfect’ time, with gorgeous meals and pretty packages and happy families. This isn’t always the reality, though, is that people argue, money could be tight, some people may be going through a difficult time or families might not be together for Christmas. The whole process of Advent can increase the problem as there can be a very prolonged run-up to only one day, meaning there is little time to fit everything in.
Because of this, people can feel pressure to create a very iconic Christmas and ensure that every little detail is perfectly planned out.
Set Out Expectations
Younger children can often have the expectation that Christmas has to be perfect too; I definitely remember crossing my fingers on Christmas Eve that there would be no issues, no matter how minor. The reality is that it’s just another day, made for celebrating the birth of Christ and spending time with those you love. No matter your age, you can adjust your beliefs of what Christmas should be by having a family chat or simply reminding yourself that it’s another day and little arguments or small issues can happen, and they don’t have to ruin the day.
Have a Break
For people taking exams right after Christmas, for those faced with the task of cooking dinner, and for those who are beginning to feel the pressure, take a break. Having a rest from the noise and hustle of Christmas is important, and making sure you get time to yourself can really change your mood. Remember to be kind to yourself and remember that your mental health is very important; treat yourself well!
Section 2: Stress at Christmas
Due to Christmas shopping, cooking, hosting for the family and budgeting, Christmas can become stressful. Kids can also be stressed out by long lists of things to do, or even too many gifts; busy schedules leading up to Christmas can also stress people out. Again, this can be made worse by the adverts and stories advertising a ‘perfect’ Christmas, where everything goes right.
You can contact people and ask if they would be happy to stick to a sensible budget; this way, you are secure in knowing that you’ve both spent a good amount and that you’re on the same page. Our family did exactly that this year, and I think it helped my mum with feeling more organised and also feeling less guilty; as a very fortunate family, we often receive a lot of gifts that may not necessarily be things we need, so the limitations were placed in order to stop that happening. A simple email or group chat can really reduce your stress and also help the family concentrate on what really matters, like spending quality time together and simply having a good time.
By selecting a few chores each and doing these, you can cut down the time that everyone spends around the house and make it a little evener. It could alleviate pressure from many people and also make the festive period a little more fun.
Take a Walk
Self care (mentioned below!) is great, and it’s one of the most effective ways to beat stress. Taking a short walk outside can actually be very beneficial to your mind, and it can allow you to see the beauty of nature and just unwind a little. It’s also good if the family is doing your head in, and will give you a welcome distraction from the chaos of Christmas.
Section 3: Anxiety at Christmas
It can be hard to admit to feeling anxious or down at Christmas due to the overall feeling of cheer and joy – no one wants to be that person. However, talking about your anxiety can be a huge help. If you are feeling anxious then simply letting it out can actually relieve the anxiety and calm you down a little, so it’s well worth a try; it would be a shame to feel down during the Christmas period as it is a great time of the year.
There are also aspects of Christmas that can cause anxiety in some people – even little details like present giving. I find myself worrying about the sum of money people spend on me, as well as trying to find gifts that people will really love and cherish without breaking the bank. This year I’ve also become much more aware of the ethics of certain gifts and am trying to get presents that won’t impact the environment too much; smaller brands and companies with good ethics and promises, and who don’t exploit cheap manual labour in other parts of the world. I found myself actively worrying about the origins of where gifts came from and then trying to buy ethical gifts for others away.
The good news is, you can alleviate anxiety related to Christmas quite easily. Here are a few things I have done recently to improve my mood and prevent negative thought processes spoiling the fun.
I have bought a number of my gifts for others from charity shops this year – and not because I was broke. I simply felt as if buying goods from a charity shop would benefit more people than buying from a huge retailer, and I know that my money will be donated in some way to cancer research. It got me around 5 gifts for a smaller amount than if I had purchased the same at a bigger shop, and the money will be used in a good way; you can do this with very little effort, and it’s great if your budget is a little low anyway.
Although it may not be your cup of tea, I plan to also donate some food to Tesco’s food bank this year, as well as donating unused and unwanted gifts or toys to Kids Out. These activities require very little effort; simply head over to your nearest shop that has a food bank and give up one or two long-lasting items for someone who needs it. Kids Out is a charity that will wrap up the gifts you donate to them and then distribute them to less fortunate people at Christmas. The idea appeals to me as every child deserves a gift at Christmas, and as I am very fortunate I think that others should benefit from things I do not need; plus, it doesn’t cost you anything and it puts a smile on someone else’s face.
You can also volunteer at a local old people’s home, donate some spare change to homeless people in your area, take part in a sponsored fun run or race, or donate some cash to a charity. They’ll all benefit both you and someone less fortunate, and you’ll really get an understanding of the true Christmas spirit. I contacted a vet surgery around fifteen minutes from where I live and also a nearby care home about volunteering before Christmas and also in the New Year, and that really boosted my mood.
Listen To Music
Music is one of the best therapies; pop in your headphones and zone out for half an hour, or play some music in the car, when shopping, when cooking or when preparing gifts. It can easily boost your mood and if you listen to festive music it can also get you in the Christmassy mood; plus, it doesn’t do any wrong. I find this can often distract me and definitely contributes to my festivity!
Practice Self Care
This is a hugely important thing; self care can really improve your mood and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Even if you don’t have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, self care is vital. Take a walk, have a bubble bath, enjoy a snack, have an early night, treat yourself to something you might not usually. It can be great at the end of a long week, and taking even an hour to just unwind and relax can do wonders for your mental health.