Blog posts

18 Dec 2018

Avoid Stress and optimise the Joy of Christmas

December 18, 2018Therapy

It’s fairly common that, for those of us who celebrate Christmas, (and sometimes for those who don’t) a low level of internal stress or anxiety begins when we see the first-of-the-year TV adverts, cards, presents or trees in department stores and supermarkets, something which is coming progressively closer to the end of summer.

Some people tend to resent the advertisers ‘cashing in’ on Christmas, more often the older generation who grew up beginning their Christmas in December, when decorations would go up and the last minute rush to get presents and food would begin, with a real sense of fear that shops would sell out of their favourite vegetables, or shops would close half a day early. Early closing was a major factor in panic, especially if Christmas Eve fell on a Friday. The shops could quite easily close at midday on Christmas Eve, then remain closed for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, plus another one or two days due to the fact that shops never opened on a Sunday anyway, so an additional public holiday would have been applied.

Imagine being out of milk for four days, when tea formed part of our staple diet?!

Shops would often run out of food during public holidays prior to the 1980s. People would visit supermarkets to find the shelves empty of products like bread and eggs, certain meats and veg, as well as other common items. So you can probably imagine where years of last minute panic to face the riots and stampedes at local shops originates.

That fear and sense of panic still exists, but manifests in different ways, being caused by additional and often more modern dynamics, (although the horror of missing out on the box of Paxo you forgot at your last shopping trip seems to exist in your genetic memory!).

Then there is the anxiety caused by the children’s or spouse’s peer pressure for expensive presents, something that impacts a family’s savings or credit balances. It’s shocking how many people go into debt to buy their children the latest gadget costing hundreds of pounds – in times past, kids were lucky to get the latest Guinness Book of Records for a tenner, with a chocolate orange thrown in to keep them quiet!

Aside from provisions and money stress, what else affects us at this joyous time of year? Well, families, to be blunt. Most kids will be eating much more sugary foods than for the previous eleven and a half months, gorging on candy and chocolates like they’re going out of fashion. This increase has a direct effect on their behaviour. Researchers at UCLA in 2012 (2) concluded that an excessive intake of sugar directly effects mood stability in children.

That coupled with the general excitement that kids associate at Christmas provides a high level of challenges for most parents, sometimes causing inter-spousal arguments, which in turn detrimentally adds to the atmosphere at the home.

And there is the question over who goes out with their mates on Christmas Eve, especially where there are children at home. Inevitably there will be an excess of alcohol imbibed, causing disruption on arrival at home and the misery of the seasonal hangover on Christmas morning, affecting the days’ proceedings.

Work pressures may also have an effect on a pleasant time: many people will have to work over the holidays and others will only be able to take a limited amount of time off.
The post-Christmas fall-out can be traumatic. Licking wounds after the argument with relatives not seen for years, waiting in fear for the next credit card bill whilst being inundated with TV winter sales and summer holidays adverts, the feeling of emptiness once decorations have been taken down and the half-dead tree taken to the dump, all compounded by the results of over-indulging accompanied by an attack of the winter blues.

What about those with no families or with estranged families and friends? Christmas can be a very lonely time for those who live alone. Grief can be resurrected when thinking of loved ones who have passed on, or families who no longer bother to visit. Seeing images on the TV of happy families, parties, fun times generally, can be upsetting and in some cases depressing.

So, how do we mitigate such stress and anxiety during what should be one of the best weeks of the year? It begins with managing our thinking, controlling our decisions way in advance of Christmas.

Be sensible. Enjoy the season within your own, realistic limits. Do what is good for you and those around you and you will likely reduce stress to a minimum, allowing you to maximise your enjoyment of the festivities.