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Holiday Stress #2 – The Zen of Managing Christmas

holiday stressHoliday stress is real, whether we are navigating in-laws or having to cook the turkey this year.

Holiday stress – causes and solutions that work

This article is the second in our holiday stress series, offering you therapy-led tips to navigate the holidays

Issue #1 – “Have you seen my routine anywhere?!”

Christmas is a time when we can give our  family unit all our focus and energy, seeing our typical daily structure radically shifted. This can feel good at first, like ‘Christmas spirit’. But we soon feel lost without our routine, as can our kids and partner. Soon we are faced with a household awash with holiday stress and disagreements.

SOLUTION: Plan some ‘me time’ into your diary to do the routine things that you know keep your wellbeing intact, such as your dance class or meditation time. And talk to the family about what routines need to be kept up except for Christmas itself, such as bedtimes and not too much screen time

Issue #2 – Old Roles Again. Feeling put back in the box?

Christmas stressTell yourself every year you won’t have a temper tantrum when your now elderly mother picks on you like usual? And yet there you are, going off as usual?

Another big cause of holiday stress is that we get put back into the ‘box’ of our old family roles.  All of our growth and maturity is overlooked as old patterns of behaviour are expected or thrust upon us.

SOLUTION: First of all, cut yourself some slack. It’s normal to revert to old roles when around family. It doesn’t make you a bad adult or person.

If there’s still time, consider a change of landscape this year. If you are always all going back to the family home, it might be interesting to try renting a cottage this year, with a new environment shifting old roles. And come prepared this year, read our tips for communicating under stress and dealing with conflict

Am I stressed or depressed online quiz

Issue # 3 – Can’t get off memory lane?

As we grow older, Christmas can increasingly becomes a season of nostalgia. This can leave us spiralling into poignant memories, especially memories of absence and separation and ‘what ifs’. Which can leave the present looking not so savoury.

SOLUTION: Mindfulness can do wonders because it’s focus is to bring us into the present. Try a two-minute mindfulness break whenever you find yourself wondering off.

And do consider a gratitude practice, if not least as being grateful works wonders on our moods. Remember to do it by attaching it to a non-negotiable habit like teeth brushing, thinking of five things you are grateful for here and now as you brush.

Stress and anxietyIssue #4 – Loss and holiday stress.

For some, the holidays can be a time of acute loss if we’ve suffered a bereavement. Granting yourself permission to mourn or “re-mourn” (for grief ebbs and flows rather than arriving in numbered stages) may be an unhappy, but essential, element of Christmas.

SOLUTION: Try not to choose to be always alone, even if you are convinced this suits you better. Sometimes being around others who might need our help in the here and now shifts us out of our sadness, even if just for a few hours.

Issue # 5 – Loneliness, oh loneliness…

Not everyone has a family to be with or a partner to share the season with. And even if we do we can find ourselves feeling misunderstood and disconnected this time of year.

SOLUTION: Keep busy. Although usually avoidance is a negative coping mechanism, the festive season can be a rare exception. Consider volunteering, one of the best ways to meet people who share positive values with you that is shown to raise our moods.  www.crisis.org.uk and www.caringatchristmas.org.uk are just two of the organisations that seek volunteers.

Also be a little selfish. When we are mired in loneliness it is not the time to put others needs before our own.  If you are asked round to someone’s for Christmas dinner and you think being around their happy family will make you feel worse, then don’t feel you have to say yes. 

Christmas Stress If pets really make you feel better, consider a holiday housesit, it’s a time of year when many people are desperate for a pet nanny.

Issue # 6 – Money, honey.

Not only can we overspend then feel panicky, spiralling into depression about debt? We can feel upset and ashamed if others in our family have more to spend then we do, or guilty if we can’t get our children as much as they want.

SOLUTION: For starters, communicate. Sometimes if one person is brave enough to suggest that everyone put a limit on gifts it can be met with great relief. 

Then make a plan and stick to it. Plan what you are going to buy, where you might pick it up, and exactly how much you will spend, saving you from impulse shopping. 

Christmas stress too much this year? Our top therapists in central London can help, working out of three central Locations and offering online therapy. Or use our sister site to find affordable registered therapists across the UK. 

(Images credits: Joriel “Joz” Jimenez, sⓘndy° , Doxieone, Brian, Martin Fisch, ussiegall)

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Blog Topics: Anxiety & Stress

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