Kathryn Smith, Clinical Psychologist
Let’s talk about Christmas stress. Stress is a serious matter and a major cause of physical and mental health issues in our country. According to the Australian Psychological Society’s ‘stress and wellbeing survey’ (2014); financial issues and family issues remain the leading causes of stress amongst Australians. So, the precarious combination of Christmas and family can for some people, open the flood-gates, with a stress-nami of financial and emotional stressors, getting in the way of what should be a fun-filled, happy time of year. Now if someone can please tell Ebenezer Scrooge to leave the room, while we put a more positive spin on Christmas and how to stress less about it.
Christmas brings with it a lot of expectation. As a child, we eagerly anticipate Father Christmas’ arrival and go to bed dreaming of what the big day might bring. Fast forward however many years and many of us still have fanciful ideas and expectations of Christmas day and whether you are playing host or guest, there can be a lot at stake. If you break it all down, they are by-large first world issues based on material things, that at the end of the day, don’t really matter. “Will the turkey be perfectly browned; will Grandma comment on the miss-matched Bon Bons; have I bought enough beverages; and will there be an encore to last year’s family political dispute”; can all amount to a large serving of unnecessary stress.
Getting back to basics by thinking about what really matters means leaving stress boxed up somewhere next to the infuriatingly tangled fairy lights. And if it’s not you that stresses, but perhaps a particular family member (no names mentioned), passing on this helpful advice may lead to a more relaxed time for all.
- Make a list and check it twice. (Sorry, couldn’t go past it) Planning takes the stress out of most events, Christmas is no exception.
- Make a budget and don’t exceed it to avoid financial stress.
- Exercise! Consistently shown to be a proven stress reliever.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Remembering that no-one is going to starve to death or be horribly disappointed if the napkins don’t match may help you keep things in perspective.
- Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep can lead to stress, especially when there is more pressure.
- Crank up the tunes. Another great way to reduce stress is to play music that makes you feel relaxed…and that may not be ‘Santa Claus is coming to town’
Of course, some people experience stress at Christmas that is warranted due to more serious issues, like financial hardship or illness and during this time, may benefit from an extended network of support and professional help.