How do you keep Christmas stress-free? | Mental Health First Aid

Christmas and New Year’s mean different things to different people.
For some, Christmas is a religious holiday. For others it’s the social season. For a lot of us, it’s a time for getting together with family or friends and celebrating, and this can often be difficult for many reasons including existing relationship, financial or work hardships. For those with a mental health problem it can be even harder. However, there are ways you can try to reduce the stress of the festive season.

Keeping your own celebrations stress-free
There is enormous pressure to make Christmas ‘perfect’. Advertising in shopping centres and on television tells us we need a table overburdened with a variety of gourmet foods, a tree groaning with decorations and a huge pile of gifts.

Trying to achieve the perfect day can increase stress, and the financial burden of the Christmas period can cause issues well into the New Year. If you’re not able to be with the people you want to be with, then you can feel isolated and alone.

This year, why not try focussing on different things?

  • Keep the food simple like having a BBQ, or if the budget will stretch, eat at a restaurant that will be open Christmas Day so you save time on the cooking and cleaning up.
  • Agree on a small set amount to spend on gifts. If your family, or the people you are celebrating with are all adults, consider donating to a cause you all support and agree that this will be your gift to each other.
  • Let Christmas be a day where you are kind to yourselves and each other. Try not to place unreasonable demands on yourself or the people you are celebrating with to make the day ‘perfect’.
  • Ask yourself what is significant about Christmas for you and the people you are celebrating with, and focus on enjoying that aspect of the day.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol as this increases the chances for arguments to break out, which can lead to feeling ashamed or embarrassed later.
  • If you’ve had a hard year yourself, this is especially important. If you’ve experienced bereavement, the first Christmas without someone you care about can be very difficult. Reach out and ask for support from those around you, or contact a phone counselling service.

Christmas can also stir resentments and people may find themselves quick to anger or argue with others. If possible, try to take time away from people during the day to give yourself respite for a moment.

If you are in crisis or need to talk to someone, remember that Lifeline and beyondblue are available. There is always someone to talk to, and help available if you need it.