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It’s Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Christmas Stress

Christmas is an opportunity to demonstrate true love and compassion to ourselves, our families, friends, and community but in truth why do we end up feeling so stressed?

Christmas for many of us can be a magical time of the year. We connect with our precious loved ones and share family traditions. It is a time to reflect and remember the good times and the hard times. Unfortunately, the reality is that Christmas can be a very stressful time.

I remember when the children were infants, I was so excited and determined to create what I thought was the ‘perfect’ Christmas. The entire extended family was invited for Christmas lunch. I had it all planed. My partner at the time oversaw the purchase of the Christmas tree.  As soon as I saw it, I was so disappointed and started to stress because it didn’t reach the height of the ceiling.  To this day, 27 years later, I still cannot believe my reaction! 

Upon reflection, it is amazing how something so trivial managed to stress me and the rest of the family.  We still purchase a huge tree and I still find myself heightened around Christmas. However, these days I am more aware that this reaction and under my breath I find myself saying, ‘this day too shall pass’!

There are many studies that indicate that Christmas seems to decrease our emotional well-being because of the pressure society places on individuals to strive for the ‘perfect Christmas day’. How many of us get caught up with the preparations and find that the list gets longer, we run out of time and money and the pressures start? We begin to panic. Remember, the ‘perfect Christmas’ is a myth. 

Unfortunately, humans seem to be wired in a way that we forget the stress and exhaustion we went through last Christmas and we expect that this Christmas will be better! We underestimate (or forget) how much time and effort it takes, and why we find ourselves physically, emotionally, and financially exhausted on the day. If we take a moment, we can choose to use the occasion to practice living in the moment and become aware of how we manage our expectations. 

Covid has also heightened our Christmas stress levels. This year we can add the travails of the past two years to the list. The threat of the Omicron variant does not help, and we may find some people we see during this festive period to have been quite impacted by the past two years. Loss, grief, separation, loneliness, isolation, toxic family members, financial stress are contributing variables that heighten our stress. 

There is no doubt that we have all been in challenging times and stress is unavoidable. Below are simple actions we may choose to spread some Christmas magic:

– How can all family members contribute to Christmas preparations? 

– If the idea of gift giving is too stressful then communicate with all family members and work out the best strategy for your family.

– If you are starting to feel overwhelmed, take a moment and ask yourself the question ‘what am I doing and am I okay doing it’.

– How can I foster compassion (when we wish the very best for someone) and love amongst our loved ones this Christmas and beyond?

– How can I show grace, gratitude, and kindness to my family members?

– How can I choose to improve someone’s situation and bring them joy?

Think of simple little things you can do to gift yourself and your families the magical spark of Christmas and reduce the stress. 

Happy happy Christmas to all… 

Mutz, M. (2015) Christmas and Subjective Well-Being: A Research Note. Applied Research Quality Life 11, 1341-1356. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11482-015-9441-8

Put Christmas Anxiety in its Place. (2017, December 14). Guidelight Psychology. https://www.guidelight.com.au/the-guidelight-psychology-blog/christmas-anxiety. 

Social Isolation at Christmas Time. (2019, Jan 24). Relationships Australia. https://relationships.org.au/document/december-2018-social-isolation-at-christmas-time/.