Christmas stressNo sooner had the Halloween masks and fireworks disappeared from the shops, than storefront displays turned to Christmas.

Although the marketing is designed to reinforce the festive season’s fun, family-orientated side – how can anyone forget those lyrics “it’s the most won-der-ful time of the year” – all those expectations can lead to a highly stressful time.

The best way to control this anxiety is not to avoid Christmas but to prepare for it well, be realistic about what you want to achieve and enjoy, and then keep to some simple guidelines when the big day arrives.

1.     Plan early: Stress builds up over time – so get yourself settled on where you aim to be over the Christmas holidays. This means organising time off work, arranging for people to come over to your house or for you to visit others – but it also means buying presents and planning your shopping trips. There’s nothing worse than a single big financial hit after Christmas – especially when you could have spread it over a few months.

2.     Communicate: Don’t go it alone. Tell friends and family what you are doing and what you are planning to do. If you’re not keen on inviting everyone over for one event, tell people that you’d rather have a small gathering at one stage and then go and visit others later.

3.     Save yourself from stressful situations: Use online shopping to avoid having to drag yourself around busy malls or use social media and video calling to contact people rather than forcing yourself into a series of house-calls.

4.     Don’t plough the same furrow: If you dread Christmas because “it’s always the same”, then make a change. Work out what makes you happy and start new traditions.

5.     Create boundaries: Stress comes in many forms – financial, family, personal – but they’re all usually linked by coping with unrealistic expectations. Set your boundaries and limits and stick to them.

6.     Develop relaxation techniques: Core mindfulness skills will help you in the run-up to Christmas and whenever it gets hectic around the big day, but there are also plenty of ways to step out of the general hubbub and de-stress – watch a funny film or listen to some music. Take some time for yourself.

7.     Exercise: As well as being a season of good will, Christmas is always a time of good fill. Regular exercise has the double benefit of allowing you time out from the busy-ness of Christmas as well as stopping the endless consumption.

8.     Don’t overindulge: Not just alcohol (although that’s clearly a good idea too) – everything. Don’t buy into the hype of marketing and over-spend, over-eat and over-push yourself.

9.     Simplify: The best plan is a simple plan. And it’s always easier to explain to everyone else what you’re aiming to do at Christmas. Decide what Christmas means to you (peace and quiet, a busy family affair, giving to others… it doesn’t matter what) and then pursue that single goal.

10.  Reach out: Many people find themselves alone at Christmas – if you don’t want to spend the time on your own, reach out to a group, or, if you want to help others during the festive period, involve others who might be on their own, in your plans.

If you find the idea of Christmas stressful and want support dealing with your anxiety, contact Robert Street Clinic or call us on 09 973 5950.