Christmas cheers can soon turn to tears

To say I love Christmas is an understatement. But when you look at it, it is no wonder the festive season has been found to be one of the six most stressful life events, along with divorce, moving house and changing jobs.

Let’s just take a moment to look at the to-do list: Present shopping for every cousin, nephew and long lost aunt, end of year school assemblies, dance concert rehearsals, organise kris-kringle for the workplace, decorate the house, delicately debate and decide which family member is hosting Christmas Day, joyously attend local carols night, get older kids through end of year exams, send out overseas Christmas cards in time …. Oh and your best friend just Instagramed the perfectly shaped Christmas cookies she has baked with her children.

And just to ensure it all goes smoothly most of us tend to add a decent dose of alcohol, late nights, excess sugar and overdrawn credit cards.

It’s just as well you have 11 months in between to recover – you’re going to need it.

So why do we put ourselves through this and what can we do when it just all seems too much?

For a period of time that Hallmark cards tell us is all about ‘Peace on Earth’, here are my top tips to reclaim your Christmas spirit:

1. Re-adjust expectations – It doesn’t have to be perfect or exactly the same as last year. As families grow and change, so will traditions. So choose a few to hang on to, but when things don’t work out as planned try to go with the flow and be open to new rituals. If lunch is late, c’est la vie!

2. Just say no – avoid putting pressure on yourself to attend every function, help out with every school event and catch up with everyone before Christmas. This will leave you feeling exhausted and resentful.

3. Set aside differences – Catching up with family can be stressful when grievances from the year rear their head. Try to set aside arguments until a later time and agree to disagree over the Christmas period. If that doesn’t work, take a deep breath and seek out some alone time for a break.

4. Keep things in moderation: Prioritise some early nights, minimise financial burden (perhaps a budget-conscious kris kringle for the adults?), and try to avoid an exclusive diet of mince pies and champagne.

Have a very Merry Christmas – take it easy, and remember to leave enough energy to muster up excitement for New Years!

  • Clare Rowe, Child & Family psychologist, clarerowe.com.au