Coping with stress at Christmas time
Christmas is the happiest time of the year, or is it?
There is a well-known song called It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’. And yes, Christmas is a time full of joy and happiness and families getting together to celebrate, for some people.
That’s the view of Christmas portrayed by the media and commercialism. But it isn’t the case for everyone. Without wishing to dwell on negatives too much, it is important to acknowledge that Christmas isn’t all magic, perfectly decorated Christmas trees and snow.
In Australia, there is certainly no snow, and we currently have huge bushfires destroying homes and livelihoods with firefighters working day and night to bring then under control.
According to research conducted by Relationships Australia, Christmas is considered as one of the six most stressful life events, along with divorce, moving house and changing jobs.
So, what are some of the reasons people find Christmas stressful?
Christmas comes with high expectations of perfect, happy families enjoying luxurious celebrations and gifts, but not all of us are able to live up to these ideals.
Expectations that are either self-imposed or the result of family tradition can result in financial pressures or increased family conflict that can make this a very stressful time of year.
Christmas can be the loneliest time of the year for those with no family, or with family in other countries; or for those who have recently lost a loved one.
The traditional image of Christmas in which a large, happy family gathers in a perfectly decorated home to enjoy a large dinner, is certainly not the reality for many people.
Whether you find yourself alone at Christmas by choice or circumstance, other people seem to feel sorry for you. There is somehow the suggestion that there is something wrong with you because you do not fit into the stereotypical box.
I have been in this situation many times and have dealt with it in different ways. Sometimes I travel to a place where Christmas is not celebrated, sometimes I have volunteered at charity Christmas events or organized my own “Orphans Christmas’ for others in a similar situation.
Some stress can be useful, it keeps us motivated, so we get done what we have to do. But too much stress can have the opposite effect, causing overwhelm – which can result in nothing getting done.
So, what can you do to minimize your stress?
· Plan ahead – don’t leave your shopping to the last minute when the shops are crowded, and it is impossible to find a parking space at the shopping centre.
· If you are the person doing the entertaining, ask your guests to each bring a dish, and cut down on your time spent in the kitchen (and at the shops).
· Learn to say ‘NO’.
· If your family has a history of conflict, avoid known triggers.
· If you are on your own, plan to do something special - cook a special meal, watch a movie or go to Church, if you are religious.
· And if Christmas has no special significance for you, just remember it is just another day, soon it will be ‘tomorrow’, and everything will be back to normal.
· Change your mindset around Christmas – adopt a minimalist approach and cut back on the commercial trappings and have a ‘simple’ Christmas. Be in the moment and enjoy the small things. You will save both money and time.
· Take care of yourself, find time to relax and practice some mindfulness.