Coping with the stress of Christmas

Christmas is meant to be a time of celebration, but the ‘season of goodwill’ can easily slip into ill-will and a tonne of stress. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and on edge, or if you’re spending Christmas away from home, there are things you can do to make dealing with the holiday season easier.

This can help if:

  • you’re worried about the Christmas holiday

  • you aren’t spending Christmas with family

  • your parents have recently split up.

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Why people get stressed at Christmas

Christmas and the holidays can be a massively busy time. Some of the reasons people get super-stressed, tired or argumentative with family at this time include:

  • working long hours to get things finished before the holidays

  • worrying about the financial cost of buying Christmas presents

  • getting all the Christmas shopping done in time

  • overdoing it with too many family, work or social events

  • feeling isolated when everyone else around them seems to be having a great time with their families

  • feeling pressure to celebrate, especially for those who don't celebrate Christmas or want to enjoy some downtime alone.

Get some space

Because Christmas is usually jam-packed with family visits and activities, it’s worthwhile making sure you have time out just to relax and be in your own space. You might be excited to see someone you haven't in a while, but not looking forward to spending each waking minute with people. Try a few of these tips as a way to dodge family conflicts:

  • go for a walk alone to get away

  • have a chat with a trusted friend

  • find a quiet space to relax.

You can also create some boundaries for yourself, for example, making sure you have at least 2-3 days in the festive period to yourself to do things you want to do. Get some more info on setting boundaries when you have mixed feelings about a situation.

Talk out the tension

If you find that things are getting on top of you, talk to someone you trust about how you feel. You might even talk to the person or people causing you stress to see if you can work something out together. Some things to consider:

Spending Christmas away from the family

Celebrating Christmas away from the people you love can be lonely. If you’re spending it overseas or with people other than your family, plan for some fun activities:

  • spend the day with friends who are also away from home

  • plan a special Christmas menu with your favourite food

  • line up some festive films to watch

  • take a scenic walk, or play a fun game.

Volunteer to help with a charity Christmas lunch

Helping others is a great way to feel the joy of Christmas. Look online for charity Christmas lunches happening nearby. Church groups or organisations like the Salvation Army or The Smith Family often put on Christmas lunches and are usually looking for volunteers.

What if you don't want to spend Christmas with family?

If you don't have the best relationship with your family, you could be looking at other options for how to spend your Christmas. It's okay to take ownership of how you want to spend your time. You can decide for yourself what's best for you. Read about how you can organise 'Friendmas' with your chosen family.

Dealing with a split family

If you have to divide your time between your parents' places, these suggestions might help.

Work out a Christmas plan

Talk to your parents about how you’re going to split your time at Christmas. If they live close to each other, you might do lunch at one place and dinner at the other (swapping each year). If they live further apart, then you can swap who you spend Christmas with each year.

Take time out

Spending a lot of time with someone you don’t often see can be tough. Taking some time out from them might help you to have more fun when you’re together. Maybe chill out by listening to some music, going for a walk or chatting with a friend.

Need someone to talk to?

If you’re finding it hard to cope, you might like to talk to someone who’s not so close to the situation. Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline 13 11 14 both have counsellors who are available 24 hours a day, so feel free to call them if you feel overwhelmed.