Christmas can be an extremely stressful time that can result in heightened anxiety and depression. Individuals with limited social support networks can also find this holiday period quite difficult. There are many aspects of Christmas which can trigger or increase stress and anxiety such as managing money, cooking, completing shopping and handling interpersonal relationships and conflicts.
The holiday season evokes different feelings for all of us. I know personally that my expectations of Christmas do not always play out as I try to recapture that magical feeling I once had as a child. At family gatherings there is the need to ‘fit in’ with extended family and endure what seems like hours on end with a particular relative that I secretly cannot stand to be around. At the end of the year, I know some of us are simply exhausted from the day to day activities of the past eleven months and are in much need of relaxing holiday. Instead, I find myself searching for the perfect gift or trying to cook the perfect meal, however, these ideals are not realistic. In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter if the Christmas lunch is a little overcooked or those socks and golf tees are a disappointing gift?
It might also be useful to think about what Christmas really means to you. To me, Christmas involves winding down and relaxing, having fun and letting my hair down, treating myself, giving rather than receiving and also spending quality time with family and friends. Below, I have provided some tips that might help in relieving stress and anxiety during this period. I hope that you find them helpful.
There is so much to do over the holiday period and this is where time management and organisation skills come into play. It might be handy to work out exactly what needs to be done over the festive season. I find writing a to-do list, setting reminders on my phone and using post-it notes helps to stay on top of tasks and errands. It can be a good idea to look at each task at hand and work out exactly how much time and energy is required to complete that particular activity. If you need help, ask for it or delegate certain jobs to other family members.
Many people tend to overspend at Christmas and it is not pleasurable spending the following year worrying about the money that needs to be paid off. It may be worthwhile drawing up a budget and assessing exactly who you need to buy presents for, how much you will spend on the presents, decorations, any travel or accommodation that needs to be factored in, family outings and the cost involved in cooking Christmas meals.
There are ways to reduce costs at Christmas. In terms of presents, you could buy gifts just for the children, draw names out of a hat, make homemade gifts or pick up some treasures at markets or garage sales. It is important to remember that it is the thought that counts.
A great tip for reducing stress is to not leave everything to the last minute. Unfortunately, supermarkets and shopping centres are packed full of consumers picking up those last minute presents or groceries. It might be helpful to shop and wrap presents early if you are not a fan of crowds. Another option is to complete Christmas shopping online as many online stores offer free shipping over a certain amount and around Christmas.
Cook your lunch/dinner before the actual day
To save time and stress, hams and turkeys can be cooked, cooled and sliced ahead of time. Meats can then simply be reheated as required. There are also many other casseroles or side dishes that can be prepared earlier. Pre- chopping vegetables or measuring out spices and oils in advance is also guaranteed to save you time when it’s time to start cooking.
Set the Christmas table ahead of time
If you are busy in the kitchen cooking Christmas lunch or dinner, the last thing you need to be doing is running back and forward trying to lay out the table cloth and organise plates and cutlery. After breakfast, it might be a good idea to set the table, organise the centrepiece and leave out serving dishes. You can then concentrate on cooking or spending quality time with the family.
Cleaning/decorating the house
Cleaning, tidying and decorating the house from top to toe can be an overwhelming task. To alleviate exhaustion, I would suggest cleaning in 15 – 20 minute sessions with a short break in between. Decorating the house can also be done in stages and I find putting on some upbeat music helps to get the job done quicker.
Getting the guest bedrooms ready can be done prior with dusting, vacuuming, sheets and pillowcases organised. The door can simply be left shut and in near pristine condition for when the guests arrive.
There is a high probability that there is someone in your circle of friends or immediate family who makes you feel stressed. Whilst still being polite and good natured, I tend to avoid or try to limit the amount of contact I have with these certain people.
I also believe that Christmas is a time of forgiveness. Life is too short to hold grudges. Sometimes it is better to be the bigger person and make amends regardless of who was at fault. Conflicts, arguments and troubled relationships can cause stress and there is no better time to let bygones be bygones.
Taking care of yourself and other helpful hints
Some other things to consider during the Christmas period, which may help in alleviating anxiety and depression, include ensuring that you are getting an adequate amount of sleep. Most people find that 7 – 9 hours works best for them.
Prior to Christmas, work celebrations and catching up with friends can lead to overindulgence in beverages, snack foods and chocolates. I make the same New Year’s resolution every year; a promise to myself to get in shape with a healthy eating plan and exercise regime. Rather than having to make this resolution every year, I have decided that maybe this is the year that I will exert some willpower and resist that extra glass of wine or piece of cake.
Caffeine is known to heighten anxiety, so Christmas could be a good time to minimise consumption of coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks. Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated during the festive season has numerous paybacks. Research has shown that 2L, approximately 8 glasses worth of water, is highly beneficial and will assist in flushing out toxins.
How could I fail to mention exercise? Going for a brisk walk is a great way to help clear the mind. The feeling of endorphins kicking in is a wonderful experience. Taking time out for meditation can also be helpful. I personally find that even five minutes of sitting quietly can sometimes be all that it takes to restore and reinvigorate the mind, body and soul. Free meditation tracks can be found on the internet and these can be downloaded (also have a read of the article on meditation in this newsletter).
In addition, natural and alternative therapies, including the use of safe and effective herbs, have become increasingly popular over the last few decades.
We wish you all a very merry Christmas! Remember to be kind to yourself and treat yourself over this holiday season. Take time to reflect on the year that has been, remembering the positive experiences, pleasant outings, relationships that have blossomed, goals that have been achieved and steps you have taken on this year’s journey. May you fulfill your every dream and desire!