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Xmas can be stressful!

With Christmas right around the corner, this time is meant to be a happy and joyful time, but this isn't how everyone feels at this time of the year. Christmas can be stressful, even a depressing time for countless people. Some find that the Christmas spirit can be diluted by various things:

Financial and time pressures, isolation, family tensions, separation and divorce, bereavement, becoming a step-family, reflecting on another year gone by or financial and time pressures.

The cost of gifts and food

The pressure of shopping and the expectations of the season can make Christmas an extremely tough time.  Some general tips that can help you include:

  • Make a budget for Christmas, so that you don't overspend. This could mean putting money away each week throughout the year to help.
  • Start your Christmas shopping early, perhaps as early as November.
  • Shop online to avoid the crowds at shopping malls.
  • Consider a “pot luck” version of Christmas this year, such as a buffet where everyone brings a plate.
  • Seek help from a financial counsellor if you are experiencing severe money troubles.

Being alone

If you find that you’ll be alone at Christmas time, this could be a tough time of the year.   The emphasis on family, friends and shared good times during the “holiday season” can make you feel depressed and unloved. Here are a few suggestions you may find helpful:

  • If separated by distance, keep in regular touch by phone, mail and email.
  • Christmas shopping for loved ones can help you feel connected, even though you may be half a world away. Make sure you Purolator your gifts in early December to avoid the Christmas mail rush.
  • Make plans for Christmas Day. If you have no one to share the day with, consider volunteering for charity work -- for example, you could help organisations such as The Salvation Army give Christmas lunch to people in need.
  • Use the strength of your feelings to change your situation. If you are estranged from loved ones, maybe you could attempt to reconcile with relatives and old friends (if possible), or else take steps to widen your social network.

Family tensions

All families experience tension to some level. Part of the reason why Christmas time can be so stressful is the unrealistic expectation of coming together as a happy family on this one day of the year.

Ways to deal with this could include:

  • Keep realistic expectations. If your relatives tend to fight throughout the year, they will fight on Christmas Day as well. -- be prepared for this to happen.
  • Appreciate that everyone is under stress to a certain degree. For example, one relative may have worked overtime to get everything done before their office closed for Christmas and may be feeling exhausted and bothered. Another may be anxious because they overspent on their credit cards. Try to be understanding of people's situations.
  • Consider breaking up the celebrations to keep certain members of the family apart. For example, you could see one group on Christmas Eve and another on Christmas Day.
  • Get family members involved in some form of activity (such as playing the Wii or s card game) are less likely to start arguments. Plan for something to do as a group after dinner.
  • Use relaxation techniques, distraction and group activities to help steer around stressful situations.
  • Avoid overindulging in alcohol -- the reduced self-consciousness could contribute to (or cause) a pointless argument.

Separation or divorce

It can be hard for you to celebrate Christmas, if your parents are recently “broken-up”. Perhaps your parents have separated or divorced, or a family member is overseas and unable to attend the traditional celebrations. Here are a few ways to help:

  • Allow yourself to feel your emotions. If you prefer to put on a brave face for others, give yourself enough time alone to help deal with your feelings.
  • Talk about it as a family. Sharing your thoughts and feelings (and tears) can help you feel closer.
  • Arrange, if necessary, to stagger the Christmas celebrations so that you can spend (for example) Christmas Day with one parent and Boxing Day with the other. To keep it fair, you can swap arrangements the year after.
  • Avoid the Christmas rush and send presents, cards or letters to loved ones overseas at the start of December. Appreciate that phone calls may be difficult to make at Christmas because of high demand.


Now-a-days many families are step-families or blended families -- partners who each have children from prior relationships. In some cases, Christmas, if you come from this type of family can be extremely difficult. Here are a few suggestions to think about:

  • Get together as a family and decide (early, so there's plenty of time) what you would all like to do for Christmas. Make sure you have a say in what you would want.
  • Stagger the celebrations so that all of you get to spend time with your natural parents and your step-parents.
  • Try not to take any arrangements too personally. For example, if your parent says they can only see you for a brief breakfast on Boxing Day, that doesn't necessarily mean they don't care. Instead of getting angry, organise a more substantial get-together with your one parent next Christmas.
  • Appreciate that now is not the time to sort out long-standing problems. Christmas is stressful enough as it is -- wait until things have settled down in the New Year, if you can.
  • Talk to friends or a counsellor if you need help to sort through your feelings.


Significant occasions, such as Christmas, are always difficult if you’ve recently lost someone close. Here are a few suggestions to help if this is you:

  • Deciding to ignore Christmas altogether could exacerbate your grief. However, depending on your family's needs, you may wish to try something different this year -- for example, if you've always had dinner at home, perhaps have it at a restaurant instead. Alternatively, sticking to your family's traditions may be more helpful. The important thing is to discuss your preferences as a family.
  • Expect and appreciate that people show their grief in different ways. One person may want to reminisce, while another could prefer to remain tight-lipped.
  • If you feel you can, talk together about your loved one. Sharing memories and tears can help you come to terms with Christmas without them.
  • You may like to spend some time alone so you can think about your loved one. Talking out loud to them or writing them a letter can be helpful.
  • Don't feel guilty if you find yourself having a good time -- sharing a few laughs with family or friends doesn't mean you don't love or miss that special person.
  • Ask friends for their support. If they don't know how to help you, tell them.
  • It might be beneficial to talk to someone neutral, such as a bereavement counsellor.

Looking Back Without Joy

The end of another year often prompts people to reflect on their achievements -- or disappointments -- over the previous 12 months. Some people mourn the loss of another year of their lives. If you feel this way maybe try out these suggestions:

  • Make a conscious effort to list all the positive things you did or experienced during the year.
  • If possible, mend fences. Contact those people you miss and make steps towards reconciliation (use caution!).
  • Appreciate that your feelings may be due to a combination of Christmas-related factors, including money worries, the pressure of last minute shopping and unrealistic expectations of festive cheer. Remind yourself that many of these negative feelings will pass once the New Year is underway.
  • Remember that most New Year's Eve resolutions are unrealistic, made during times of sad reflection. This year, try to come up with positive and achievable goals for the upcoming 12 months.

Ease Christmas stress by drawing up a budget, shopping early and taking steps to avoid overspending.

Don't expect a hassle-free Christmas -- realistic expectations can prevent disappointment.

Discuss your Christmas plans as a family, and appreciate that doing things a little differently this year could help everyone deal with loss, divorce or new family arrangements.

Hope this helps anyone who may be feeling stressed out this time of the year!