By Juliet Rogers
You got up at 5am to put the bird in the oven, peel the veg and decorate the table. You’re knackered having only gotten to bed at 1am after wrapping the trillion presents for the kid’s stockings (which in itself was stressful as you had to hunt for different paper from the rest of the presents under the tree as you still cling to the hope your eldest still believes) and yet you’re sure you’ve missed a gift or two.
You know you’ve got about 30 minutes of breathing space before the kids descend upon the lounge room and want to tear the beautifully chosen paper off the boxes of gaudy plastic that will, hopefully, keep them entertained for more than the 5 seconds last year’s, now redundant, toy did.
You sit on the sofa with a cuppa, close your eyes…..and instead of relaxing, you start imagining the rest of the day;
- the kids screaming and fighting over who got more or the biggest present;
- the present disappointment from your youngest that you couldn’t afford to buy them that latest edition whatever it was they wanted;
- the realisation that your other half has indeed only bought you yet another household appliance as a gift;
- the mother in law’s disapproving look, touch and tut about something you’ve tirelessly spent hours trying to get right – you’re not sure what it is this year, but there WILL be something!;
- the sad Skype call with your Mum and Dad who you can’t see this year as you can’t afford the flight to them and they’re not well enough to visit you;
- the mad rush from home to Granny Violet’s who’ll insist on feeding you up on something odd she’s baked up whilst you worry over what precious ornaments the kids are playing with;
- you wonder how early it’ll be before Uncle Fred gets drunk and falls asleep in the armchair, set to snore and fart through the rest of the day;
- you contemplate how much wine you’ll have to get through just to ‘steady your nerves’;
- with a faint optimism you hear the “thank you”s and words of appreciation from the family…..
As you hear the stomp of kids feet down the hall you notice your tea is cold and there’s a faint smell of burning…..
Many of us will probably have a little knowing smile when reading the above, perhaps recognising one of two of the thoughts as familiar usual occurrences during the holiday period. Of course, this is a very light-hearted image; there are others around us who also find this time of year very stressful, for a variety of reasons.
It may be the first Christmas without a loved one; money worries may prevent buying even the smallest present or even putting a decent spread on the table; separation or divorce may be creating arguments over who ‘has the kids’; the threat of violence for getting something wrong may loom over you, or illness may have put a stop to any feeling of celebration.
Whatever the reason, here are some really useful tips from www.mindhealthconnect.org.au for looking after yourself this holiday 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.
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.
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 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.
- Lifeline 13 11 14 – 24hr telephone crisis support