Christmas may be a time of joy, cheer and celebration, but the festivities can also bring busy social schedules, presents to buy, cards to send, houses to clean, trees to decorate and dinners to cook. What’s more, the pressure of the ‘perfect Christmas’ can trigger financial worries and put tension on family relationships.
This extra pressure can start to quickly mount up and when we exceed our stress levels, or we get stretched just a little too much, there’s often a mental, emotional and physiological reaction. Excessive stress can affect our mood, energy levels and relationships with others. Anxiety levels can start to rise, exhaustion might loom and self-confidence can plummet.
Perhaps the festive season brings with it some tricky triggers, but with a little awareness, some simple coping mechanisms and a sprinkle of acceptance – we can let go and start to savour the good in those special Christmas moments.
This guide provides some practical tips to help you manage some of the issues you might face in the coming months.
December is one of the most expensive times of year. Outgoings on gifts, social events and decorations can soon add up. If finances are already tight, these extra costs can weigh heavy on your mind. A worried mind can be more prone to intrusive thoughts, catastrophising and self-criticism over spending habits. Life can become more difficult to navigate when the mind gets clouded in this way. These unhelpful thinking habits can seem impossible to escape from at times.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) teaches ways we can challenge and overcome unhelpful thinking habits. If you’re struggling to take your mind off financial stress, try the coping mechanisms below:
- Recognise intrusive thoughts when they occur
- Remember that your thoughts aren’t always logical or rational
- Try to be accepting of your thoughts when they arise
- Try not to resist or run away from negative thoughts, this often fuels them further
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Finding the space to sit down and budget can seem like an impossible task but by carving out a quick half an hour or so to focus, you’ll have a clearer understanding of your finances. Planning ahead of time often helps to put the mind at ease and break down overwhelming prospects. You’ll also be more likely to stay within your budget and avoid overspending.
Dealing with family conflict
Christmas can be a great time to bring family and friends together and, for the most part, it’s one of the things that makes this time of year so precious. That said, all this extra time together could trigger unresolved conflicts between family members and the added pressure for Christmas to be a peaceful, happy time can exaggerate painful issues further.
If you’re worried about potential family conflict, give these coping mechanisms a try:
- Agree to disagree. It’s the simplest of all problem diffusers
- Try to be understanding of others
- Know your limits. If things get too much, take a quick breather
- Opinions sometimes clash, but that’s okay
- Deep breaths. An inhale and an exhale. Sometimes, it’s all you need to reset
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If you know family tensions are likely to heat up at some point over the festive period, put an action plan in place for how you’ll deal with it. You could write it down or simply take a mental note. It means you’ll be less likely to add fuel to the fire or say something you’ll later regret. When tensions start to rise, or things get a little heated, take a second to stop, breathe and relax. Taking a step back can diffuse the situation in an instant and prevent family conflicts from worsening.
We often associate Christmas with family, friends and connecting with those closest to us. So it’s understandable that this time of year can trigger difficult emotions for those who have lost loved ones. Grief is a painful, all-consuming emotion that can take a tight hold over someone’s entire world. Christmas songs, sentimental TV ads and the focus on festive fun can be emotionally draining for people who’ve been through a bereavement.
These coping mechanisms could help you (or someone you’re close to) find breathing space if things get tough:
- Talk to people you trust if you’re having a hard time
- Take a breather from Christmas TV and radio
- Remember your loved one in a way that feels right to you
- Be kind to yourself. Grieving is an ongoing process
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The festive season can wreak havoc with routines and eating habits. Make sure you take care to look after yourself (or those struggling around you). Alcohol is typically involved in many Christmas celebrations but try not to go overboard. If you can maintain some form of routine, this can be helpful too. When we take care of our physical and mental health, we’re more equipped to cope with the rest of life’s challenges.
Support is here over the Christmas period, should you ever need it
The Christmas season can be a struggle for many reasons, but you don’t have to go through these struggles alone.
Sovereign Health Care’s Good All Round cash plan includes a 24/7 helpline that’s available 365 days a year and lets you talk to an expert on everything from managing money and staying healthy to a family crisis and buying a new home. There’s online support with a whole host of information and resources designed to assist with the challenges of daily life. It’s also worth checking to see if you have access to an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) through your employer. Tough times don’t have to be walked alone.
If you feel unable to cope or keep yourself safe, it’s important to get help. SAMARITANS offer 24-hour support by phone, text or email for anybody that needs somebody to talk to: samaritans.org.