Christmas Stress

Unwrapping Christmas stress – tips for a relaxed Christmas

3 November 2023

The signs are all here – there’s mince pies in the supermarket, the nights are drawing in and Channel 5 are showing Christmas films. Winter is well and truly underway and the countdown to Christmas is underway. You may love it or loathe it, but Christmas places additional demands on your time, money and attention – all of which may already been feeling the pinch. While the run up to Christmas can be magical – it can also be a time of year when wintry weather, less daylight and the prospect of another Christmas can all challenge your well-being.  As that to do list gets longer and longer and even more difficult to achieve, it can be easy to lose sight of the fun at this time of year.

Christmas stress?

It’s been a year when we have all had to cope with a lot of change and uncertainty. We’ve had a cost of living crisis, climate change, war in Ukraine and now in Gaza. Living with uncertainty over a long period can feel stressful and tiring. Many of us may also be worrying about what next year will bring. 

Christmas may feel like a welcome relief as you count down with excitement to the big day.  Or, it can leave you with feelings of dread, as you see images of seemingly perfect family Christmases that most of us can’t hope to achieve. Trying to live up to this unrealistic image can leave you with extra commitments, expectations and expense that all cause Christmas stress. 

christmas stress

Christmas gives time to relax and reflect

As the days get shorter and the nights longer and darker, Christmas and New Year is usually when we take a break from our busy lives. It’s an opportunity to take time off and be at home more. It usually gives us a chance to pause and reflect on the year while we’re with those we care about. Many of us now spend a lot of time working at home and we’re having less connection with others. Now, the thought of more time at home may be the last thing we want.

The comfort of the familiar

Many of us take comfort in the familiarity of traditions. We enjoy planning the celebrations we are going to have with out friends and families. But it can also be a difficult time for those who can no longer enjoy their familiar traditions for whatever reason.

christmas can remind us of loss

Images of the perfect Christmas

For weeks, we are bombarded with images of perfect families having perfect Christmases. While this is often far from the reality for most of us, we still feel under pressure to create the perfect Christmas. We try to buy the best presents, create the most inviting meals and make it a day to remember; all the while imagining the perfect Instagram picture.

Christmas isn’t always easy

People dealing with bereavement, divorce or job losses at Christmas can feel more isolated and alone by the pressure to be happy at this time of year. For those who have suffered a loss this year, the celebrations can act as a painful reminder.

It could be the loss of loved ones. Or, the loss of a business or job or way of life.

christmas with covid can be hard

Financial worries

For many of us, money may also feel tighter than usual this year. It could be because of redundancy or the cost of living crisis. We may also feel pressure to spend more as prices have risen. Or we may see spending more as a way to make our loved ones feel better about the things they’ve have missed this year.  

For more help with coping with worries, check out

Christmas increases stress

A survey commissioned by the National Accident Helpline in December 2015 found 27% of us feel more stressed during the festive period, rising to 32% amongst women.

For more on coping with stress, have a look at Fight or Flight – how your body respond’s to stress.

There are ways to make Christmas less stressful. When I work with clients struggling with Christmas stress, we look at practical ways to avoid being overwhelmed.

Here are my seven simple and practical ways to take the stress out of Christmas and enjoy this time of year.

Christmas increases financial pressure

1. Try mindful breathing

Mindful breathing can help if you are feeling overloaded with Christmas stress. Put aside ten minutes a day to focus on your breathing. Find somewhere comfortable to sit and concentrate on breathing in and breathing out. Try and think only about the present moment. Notice what is happening in each instant. If your mind wanders to the past or future, just allow your thoughts to come and go without getting caught up in them. Keep bringing your attention back to your breathing.

2. Think about the Christmas you want

Trying to achieve the unachievable can leave you feeling guilty, frustrated and disheartened. Allowing your Christmas to be less than perfect, can immediately make it more enjoyable. Think about what you value about Christmas and focus on that. Use your values as the basis for your Christmas rather than other people’s idea of how it should be.

3. Go outside, get walking

Try and get outside. It helps to air your rooms and gives you a an energy boost.

Being active helps the brain to release chemicals to help you feel better. Norepinephrine helps to activate attention and motivation; serotonin improves your mood and dopamine to enhance your sense of contentment and reward. Exercise has also been found to increase resilience to stress. When muscles are used they release hormones into the blood stream that make you braver and lift your spirits.

exercising in nature is a double benefit for mental health

4. Change your routine

Avoid doing the same as you do every year. You could change what you eat on Christmas day, spend the day with friends or go on holiday. This will help you to distance from unhappy memories and give you a chance to establish new traditions.

5. Have a plan

A little bit of planning can help to avoid a stressful last-minute rush.  Give yourself a time budget for shopping, decorations and other preparations. Make sure you stick to it so you have time for other activities. Have a financial budget too, so you’re not facing money worries in January.

6. Have an escape route

Remember if it all gets too much, you can give yourself a break. Prepare some excuses so you can escape for a while if the need arises. You could phone a friend, a walk or escape to the bathroom for five minutes of deep breathing. Knowing you can escape from the situation, can immediately make it feel easier. Being able to leave, even if it is for five or ten minutes, can help you to let go, clear your mind and feel more relaxed.  For more on what to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed have a look at this

7. Think about yourself too

Enjoy yourself. It is your Christmas too so try and enjoy it.

For more on how I can help with stress click here.

If you need help and support on Christmas day contact the Samaritans

Would you like to make living life easier, right now? Get your free Live Life on Your Terms recording here and begin to live your life with confidence.

Back to blog listing

Interested in making an appointment or more information?

You can use the link below to book your free telephone consultation, for any other enquiries feel free to leave me a message

Follow me on: