Beating Christmas stress and anxiety

The Christmas season is meant to be a time of joy, but for many people it can be a time of disappointment, stress, anxiety, or loneliness.

Christmas comes with high expectations of perfect, happy families enjoying luxurious celebrations and gifts, but not all of us are able to live up to these ideals.

For those who have recently lost a loved one, Christmas can intensify feelings of grief and sadness.

Some people experience feelings of isolation, financial pressures, or increased family conflict that can make this a very stressful time of year.

If you find that you are experiencing any of these feelings, there are steps you can take to help manage your stress and anxiety during the festive period.

Taking care of money worries

Is the festive season a burden on your wallet? Here are some tips for managing your Christmas finances and reducing your financial stress during the silly season.

Identify what’s causing you financial stress. Buying gifts and attending social get-togethers can be expensive. Plan ways to reduce spending. For example, you could suggest to your family and friends that you only buy gifts for the kids, or organise a ‘Secret Santa’ among the adults. Set a budget and stick to it.

Find low cost ways to have fun. Don’t let money cut you off from your family and friends. If you can’t afford expensive restaurant meals or cocktail catch-ups, organise a BBQ in the park or a party at home where everyone brings a plate of food.

Visit the Head to Health website for more tips on coping in difficult financial times and visit the ASIC website to read about the 12 money tips for Christmas.

Dealing with family tension

Just because you’re related doesn’t mean your family members will all get along. Split families and unresolved conflicts may contribute to Christmas anxiety. Family and relationship problems can be a trigger for anxiety.

Here are some ideas for getting through:

Set realistic expectations. Christmas might not be the fabulous family reunion you hoped for. Plan how you will manage any feelings of anxiety or depression that may arise.

Put the kids first. If you have children, consider putting aside ongoing adult conflicts in their interest. Think about Christmas as a day for the kids and focus on enabling their happiness.

Drink in moderation. It may be tempting to drink too much during the festive period, but alcohol can contribute to stress, anxiety and depression. Alcohol may be a problem if you’re drinking to cope.

Avoid known triggers. If your family has a history of arguing over a certain topic, don’t bring it up.

Managing loneliness

There are ways to overcome loneliness if you find yourself isolated or grieving a loved one over the Christmas period.

Connect with friends and family. Even if you’re separated by distance, you can stay in touch with loved ones online or by phone.

Volunteer. Why not lend a hand to a local shelter over Christmas? There are lots of charities who need help. You’ll connect with people and feel good about making a positive contribution.

Attend community events. Find out what’s on locally and get involved. Whether it’s Christmas carols or local markets, getting out and about can help relieve loneliness.

Make plans for Christmas Day. Develop a plan in advance to avoid feeling depressed or stressed on the day. Perhaps make yourself a special breakfast, buy yourself a gift in advance so that you can enjoy it on the day, attend a local church service, or take a stroll through the local park where you can watch families enjoying their Christmas presents.

Stay healthy to avoid Christmas anxiety

Recognising and changing behaviours that contribute to your stress will help you get through the Christmas period. Remember to stay healthy – eating well, exercising, and getting enough sleep can help you cope with Christmas stress.

Seek support

More information on how to manage stress, grief, and many other issues can be found on the Head to Health website. However, if you’re finding it difficult to manage your stress you might find it helpful to talk to someone you trust such as a friend, family member, your GP, or a counsellor.

24-hour crisis support services

Acute Care Team (health advice on who to contact) – 1300 MH CALL (64 2255)

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

Child Protection Helpline (Qld only) – 1800 811 810

Emergency mobile contact – 112

Kids Helpline (5-25 years) – 1800 55 1800

Lifeline – 13 11 14

MensLine Australia – 1800 600 636

Poisons Information Centre – 13 11 26

Police and Ambulance Emergency – 000

Sexual Assault Line – 1800 010 120

Sexual Assault, Domestic Violence & Family Violence Support (1800 RESPECT) – 1800 737 732

WomensLine – 1800 811 811

Counselling and support services

eheadspace – 1800 650 890

NQ Connect – 1300 059 625

Red Dust Healing – 0419 489 275

Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467

Veterans services

Veterans and Veterans Families – 1800 011 046

Community services organisations

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service – 1800 012 255

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Legal Service – 1800 082 600

Defence Community Organisation – 1800 624 608

Homeless Hotline – 1800 474 753

Information primarily sourced from Head to Health – headtohealth.gov.au