If you are feeling stressed out at Christmas you are not alone and we will cover some practical steps you can take to help reduce the stress and anxiety you are feeling.
For most people, Christmas is a time of celebration, getting together with friends and family, eating, drinking, and generally enjoying the festive holiday. However, for many people, it is also a stressful time especially for those who already struggle with their mental health.
Is stress at Christmas normal?
Firstly, stress at Christmas time is completely normal, in-fact a survey from YouGov found that 25% of respondents reported that Christmas makes their mental health worse.
The same research also shows that women struggle with stress more than men as 51% of women reported feeling stressed whereas a much lower 35% of men reported feeling stressed at Christmas.
Feeling stressed at Christmas also increases as you get older.
At this point is important to recognise that if you are struggling over the Christmas period that you are not alone, and there are practical tips to help you deal with stress that we will cover below.
What causes stress at Christmas?
We are all more likely to feel down during the winter months due to SAD (Seasonal affective disorder), when you add the financial strain that accompanies buying gifts, spending Christmas alone or social pressures, there can be a number of reasons that you may be experiencing stress over the Christmas holiday.
Typical reasons that people struggle with stress over the Christmas period are:
Missing people who have passed away
People or situations you want to avoid
Feeling isolated due to a lack of access to support
Being in hospital
Whatever your reasons are for feeling stressed, there are solutions (that we are about to cover) and remember you are not alone.
How you can manage stress at Christmas
Here are our top 7 tips to help you manage your Christmas stress:
Don’t worry about things beyond your control
Maybe you have family members or friends that don't get along that will be at your Christmas party this year. Just remember there is not a lot you can really do about it. You can’t control them, but what you can control is your own reaction to the situation.
Don’t expect perfection
Everyone wants things to go perfectly. We all want the food we cook to be perfect, the gifts we give to be genuinely be appreciated or that the whole holiday just goes to plan.
The problem is that if you expect perfection then anything other than perfection will feel like a letdown. Try to focus on what really matters and focus on all of the positives that you have.
Do ask for help
If you feel you need help, then make sure you ask for it and not only that make sure you tell people what you need help with.
If you are feeling overwhelmed planning on cooking a large Christmas meal then ask a family member or friend to help you cook.
More often than not people are more than happy to help, sometimes they don't offer as they don't want to appear interfering.
Do stick to a budget
The cost of Christmas can add up quickly, gifts, food, travel and time off work and this can make people feel out of control or stressed.
The best way to deal with this is to create a Christmas budget, work out what you can afford to spend and plan where that budget will go. Prioritise who and what is important to you and don't feel you need to buy everyone a gift or invite everyone over for a meal.
Remember loved ones
Christmas can be very hard as it may remind you of loved ones who are no longer around. Instead of just feeling down, do something to celebrate their memory.
You could volunteer for a charity that would have been close to your loved one's heart or do something with friends and family that your loved one would have appreciated, dedicating it to their memory.
Remember it is something that you can't control or change so doing something positive may help you cope with your feelings of loss.
Get some exercise
You may not have a great deal of time to exercise during the festive season, but you don't need to run a marathon or participate in endless gym sessions to feel the benefit.
Evidence time and time again suggests that exercise can help prevent anxiety and depression or help improve your mood.
As an example just going out for a short walk can help. Not only will you get your heart pumping but you will also get some fresh air, some daylight and you could bump into neighbours or members of your community for a chat.
Don't suffer in silence
If you are feeling stressed you need to speak to your close friends and family. A simple chat over a cup of tea or over the phone can sometimes be all that is needed to help you feel better.
If you would rather not speak to friends and family there are charities like the Samaritans where you can call up to speak to someone anonymously and in confidence.
Whatever you do, speak to someone, don't suffer on your own.
Need help managing stress at Christmas
For some, Christmas can trigger stress year after year and no matter what you do to try and deal with it yourself, it's always there.
Life coaching can help break the repetitive cycle of stress that occurs each year. It can provide you with a sense of space, reflection, clarity and most importantly a plan.
Coaching gets to the root cause of stress, rather than providing the quick fix offered by magazine articles and self-help guides. Self-help tips can help as we have listed some top tips, but they often don't get to the nub of the issue that causes you to feel stress.
Stress affects us all in different ways and is triggered by a host of different things - feeling under pressure, feeling out of control, significant change, an event or a series of events and included in the mix is Christmas when one or all of those triggers can come into play. Whether it is driven by family or relationship issues, a feeling of being overwhelmed or a feeling of frustration in the year that has gone by, coaching is a great solution for addressing stress in your life.
How coaching can help with stress
Coaching is generally offered in a series of one to one conversations during which a coach will ask questions to help you gain an understanding of what is really going on for you and also offer insights and reflections which will help move you forward and break the cycle of seasonal stress.
A coach will work with you to identify patterns of behaviour and help you come up with strategy and coping techniques to reduce your stress. They will support you in applying these strategies and be by your side throughout. In life we can’t control external events but we can control how we react to them. Working with a coach to develop new habits, thought patterns and strengthen our resilience is well worth the investment.
About the author
Helena Bailey is a fully qualified UK life coach who specialises in coaching women, empowering them to successfully navigate midlife and everything it throws at women such as menopause.
As a life coach for women Helena has made it her purpose to spread the word that the world needs women who have realised there is NO rule book or blueprint for loving, parenting, living or working.