Christmas and the holiday season has the potential to be a happy or peaceful time. It may give us a break from work/school, can be a time to see friends/family that we want to see, and can be a time when we focus on better things like hoping for peace, love, and a better upcoming year.
However, Christmas can be very stressful for many people. Suicide rates peak in December in January, and the Good Samaritans report that they receive one distress call every 6 seconds over Christmas and New Years!
Christmas and the holidays can be stress for many reasons, including: family stress and tension, bereavement (many people die around Christmas, and thus it can become a painful reminder of loss), separation/divorce/stepfamilies, money worries and debt, trying to do too much, and comparing ourselves to others (thinking that everyone else is having a better Christmas or a happier family).
But there are a number of things we can do to take care of ourselves and reduce stress at Christmas, including:
Trying to remain realistic about our families – is there is tension through the year it will definitely be there (or worse) on Dec 25th! Therefore, it’s okay to keep family visits short and/or leave early – or keep the focus on small talk. It’s also okay to not visit at all, if you know that’s what’s best for you. Or visit every other year.
Appreciate that everyone is under a lot of stress at Christmas, and try to cut family members a little slack. It can also help to keep ‘warring factions’ apart, and separate (e..g, someone on Christmas eve, someone on Christmas day).
Remember you can’t keep everyone happy.
Remember there is no perfect family, and every family has challenges.
Try to avoid or limit alcohol despite the temptation. It often only makes things worse.
Try not to buy into the belief that you have to be “merry” at Christmas. It’s okay to feel sad or lonely, as many people do. Feel your feelings, and ignore what society or commercials tell us about how we should feel.
If someone has died over the holidays, talk about the loved one, and don’t feel guilty if you need to feel sad or cry.
Budget carefully, and try not to overspend. Draw names within families, so you don’t have to buy for everyone. “Love cards” can be a wonderful gift (e.g., a card giving someone a free massage, a card that offers to shovel their walks, etc.) and don’t cost anything, but are very appreciated.
Try not to do too much. Cut back. Slow down. Say no.
Avoid new year’s resolutions. Nothing magical happens Jan 1st. Instead, trust that you’ll change when you’re ready. If you need to make a resolution, how about promising to forgive someone, or to forgive yourself!
Finally, it’s okay to ask for help at this time of year. Talk to someone! Call up a friend, clergy, counsellor/psychologist, help line, etc. If friends or family don’t know how to help you, simply tell them or just ask them to listen.