We’re told that it’s supposed to be the happiest, most joyous time of the year – so it can be hard if we actually find Christmas stressful or unenjoyable. We’ve put together a guide to understanding why Christmas can be tough for so many of us, and some tips on what you can to make it a little easier.
From all the chores involved in putting together a family get-together, to financial pressures, to relationship issues and loneliness – Christmas can be stressful and difficult for many different reasons. Here are five of the most common issues we can face over the Christmas period, and some of our suggestions on how to deal with them.
You’re run off your feet trying to get everything done
Ever felt like your festive to-do list is longer than a back-to-back Christmas movie marathon? From Christmas shopping, to the chores required for pulling together Christmas Day, there’s often a lot that needs doing. When this is combined with regular work, parenting duties, social commitments and other stressors, it can start to feel like it’s all too much.
Solution: Ask loved ones for practical help
If you’re in charge of pulling Christmas Day together, ask your loved ones for more support this year. Delegate chores and if you are having guests, ask them to bring a plate of food. Surprisingly, most people like to feel involved, so don’t be afraid to ask your loved ones to roll up their sleeves and contribute.
You think everyone else is having ‘the perfect holiday’
Social media can make it seem as though everyone else is having an incredible time with their families, all getting along swimmingly and having a brilliant time. If your marriage or relationship has recently ended, or your family is not so cohesive, seeing other peoples’ posts may be especially hard to handle.
Solution: Take social media with a grain of salt
Remember that we can never know the reality behind all those photos and Instagram stories. Either limit your time on social media, or remind yourself that our feeds only show a very small portion of our lives. Think of social media as a ‘highlight reel’ rather than the full picture.
You are dealing with financial hardship
The pressure to spend excessively at this time of year can be overwhelming. According to research by Roy Morgan, Australians are set to spend over $11 billion on Christmas presents this year. But many people often max out their credit cards over Christmas, thinking they can deal with the debt later when their finances improve. Too often though, that moment never comes, and the interest payments keep mounting, adding to relationship stress.
Solution: Decide on a budget and stick to it
To reduce financial concerns, decide on a budget for the festive season. There are many low-cost gifts out there, or you could try a ‘Secret Santa’, rather than buying a gift for everyone. You can also get creative with Christmas lunch, or stick to lower-cost dishes using back-to-basics ingredients. If you’re in a relationship, agree on a budget with your partner and help each other stick to it.
You’re dealing with grief, loss or separation
Christmas can be an emotional time if you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one. Similarly, if you’re recently separated or divorced, the holiday season can be very challenging, including for the children.
Solution: Get professional support
Seeing a counsellor or mental health professional can help you process feelings of grief, sadness, anxiety and anger. A professional can also help you navigate any particularly tricky relationship dynamics at this time, including with your wider family, children or ex-partner. You could try Lifeline (13 11 14), Parent Line (1300 1300 52) or Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800) for extra support over this period.
You’re feeling lonely
The expectation is that everyone will be with their family or close friends at Christmas time. But many Australians experience loneliness and emotional isolation on a regular basis – and especially at this time of year. A Red Cross survey found that about one in three Australians had experienced loneliness at Christmas in the last holiday period. It can be stressful to try and think about how to handle the festive season on your own.
Solution: Volunteer or plan a nice day for yourself
One way to tackle loneliness is to help those less fortunate than yourself. Put your name down to volunteer at a charity event such as a Christmas lunch, and charities such as the Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels and Starlight Children’s Foundation all offer volunteering opportunities.
If volunteering isn’t for you this year, practise some self-care and plan for the day with a set list of activities you really enjoy. They could include visiting a favourite spot, going to the movies, going on a day trip, or even starting a gratitude journal.
With all these stresses, it’s important that you feel okay about sharing your feelings with a trusted person. A qualified counsellor can offer guidance and support during difficult times.
If you need support during the Christmas period, or any time of the year, Relationships Australia NSW can help – we offer a range of counselling services for people throughout NSW, which can be delivered in-person at one of our centres, via phone, or online.