Coping with the stress of Christmas

As we enter the second week of Advent, it is important to acknowledge that the Christmas period for many families is filled with untold stresses and tensions.


Christmas can also be a time of isolation and great loneliness for some.


Not all families are united, and gatherings can be a strain as they deal with petty squabbles and fractured relationships. According to a study by Relationships Australia (2014), around one-third of male and females surveyed said their family relationships were “highly negatively affected at Christmas due to work-life balance factors” (men 36%, women 33%). 


But poor relationships can be caused by many factors. One‑third of people reported their family relationships were highly negatively affected due to financial worries at Christmas (men 33%, women 35%). The current cost of living pressures many Australians are facing today means these figures would probably be even greater.


Christmas can be a difficult time for blended and large families, estranged family members, those with faith and political differences, interfering in-laws and people dealing with the recent loss of a loved one. Arguments can also arise between couples and siblings over who should host Christmas and how much to spend on presents for the children.


So, while on one hand we prepare for Christ’s arrival and all that His birth represents, it is also a time to walk gently, be kind to yourself and be kind to others, especially those who have wronged you in some way.



However, there are things you can do to ease the stress. First, accept your emotions and feelings because it is fine to feel sad, anxious or angry at times. And as difficult as it may seem, consider the emotional needs of the family members you are quarrelling with and put yourself in their shoes.


Deep breathing or mindfulness can also help relieve anxiety and stress, even for 10 minutes each day while reading a book, enjoying a coffee with a friend, and watching a movie or playing board games with family can also help.


Limiting or avoiding alcohol altogether may be prudent. People sometimes drink a lot hoping it will make them able to get through the tension, but alcohol can actually exacerbate the situation.


In addition, most health experts recognise that at least 8 hours sleep a night will result in less stress, less sadness and people better placed to manage their anger. But if all else fails and you are feeling overwhelmed, seek assistance from a mental health professional.


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