Dr Mel: Christmas stress
Whether we enjoy it or dread it, the festive season can push us to our mental limits
It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year – but, for some of us, Christmas goodwill can sometimes seem hard to
find among the extra work, cost, travel, over-indulgence and need to please everyone.
Perhaps we hate the enforced jollity; maybe we’ll be alone, wishing we had loved ones to share it with. We may be struggling with mental-health problems or bereavement – three-quarters of people in a recent survey said they’ve experienced stress in the past year.
How stress affects us Whether we’re feeling under pressure ourselves or are aware others are, we need to get through it, but it’s useful to know the effects of stress.
We may worry excessively and struggle to concentrate or sleep. Extra adrenaline may trigger heart pounding, shaking, sweating, nausea and feelings that we can’t breathe or that we need to run away. Outwardly, we may appear over-talkative, withdrawn or irritable. We may try to compensate or relax by drinking too much alcohol, which can trigger outbursts or arguments. plan ahead
If finding the perfect gifts is stressful or costs too much, consider suggesting cash or vouchers, buying presents for children only, or a family Secret Santa – and do wrap a standby present, such as luxury biscuits, in case you receive an unexpected gift.
Getting to see everyone can be difficult, especially for large or ‘blended’ families and those who have young children, work commitments or live far away. And spending
more than a day with other people – even those you love to see – can still be stressful, so don’t over-commit or feel you’re spoiling the fun. Give people advance notice if you can only manage so much. Make it easier for all Suggest sharing out the work, buying ready-made food, taking turns each year to host, getting together on a separate occasion, or even having a ‘quiet Christmas’.
If some people don’t get on, arrange separate or shorter meet-ups, and plan ways to defuse arguments.
Don’t run out of vital medication, and do practise relaxation or mindfulness – and polite excuses, in case they’re needed.