cs-picChristmas;Tis the season to be jolly, or is it?      

As I’m writing this, it’s a month until Christmas. Yes, it’s that time of year again. Whether you have faith or not, whether you even like Christmas or not, Christmas stress is a unique, acute and focussed form of stress that comes along every year and although we all declare that we’re not going to succumb, it never fails to nudge its way into our lives and make its presence known.

Christmas stress is largely based around expectation. We are surrounded by the suggestion that to make Christmas complete, we must all get together, possibly with people we don’t really like and spend most of the rest of the year avoiding, spend an inordinate amount of money on presents that may or may not be appreciated, buy a mountain of food that won’t all be eaten and add to the temptation of overindulging and unless you make it as perfect as possible, you’ll be added to some ‘Christmas failure’ list that hangs in the dungeon of the magical fairy-tale castle you’re aspiring to create.

The Perfect Christmas you’re trying to emulate belongs in fairy-tales and Christmas cards. Why do we try to copy what we’re told is required to make Christmas perfect when we’re all different? What’s perfect for me (we have our own family traditions as well as the next person) won’t suit everyone. Equally we wouldn’t choose to do the stuff that others really appreciate at Christmas.

Some of the problems lie in being surrounded by messages. The media, adverts, social media and your own unrealistic expectations all add to the stress. Why do you have to work yourself into the ground to make it fabulous for everyone else? What if, just for a change, you all work together, creating your collective ideas and enjoying time together? What if, just for once, you spend time with friends instead of family this Christmas? What if, just this once, you go on holiday and leave the fuss behind? What if, just this once, you choose not to spend a month’s wages on a mass of food that won’t get eaten and instead book your family into a favourite restaurant and not have the stress of doing the cooking or the washing up? What if, just this once, you volunteer to help others around Christmas instead of worrying about whether you’ve remembered everything for the only day of the year when the shops are closed? What if, just this once, you just do what you want instead of some unrealistic expectation to do something that you perhaps don’t enjoy so much, just because you thought you needed to?

So here’s a thing. Why don’t you sit down with the people who really matter to you, and talk about what you ACTUALLY want to do for Christmas. Perhaps try something new. Perhaps do the thing that you’ve wanted to try for ages but you’ve always gone with the flow.

Whether you have faith or not, look at what the true meaning of Christmas really is. The true meaning will be many different things to many different people, there’s no right or wrong but the point is, it’s not and never should be a time of increased stress, pressure, sadness and slog. Sometimes the sadness is out of our control. Sometimes though, it’s created by an unrealistic expectation of ourselves and others. Create your own rules, be true to yourself and consider others. Being kind to a complete stranger is as much a gift as your Secret Santa at work. Taking time for yourself is as important as giving time to others. The perfect Christmas can’t be bought. It is created by you and those you care about. Talk to each other and plan together. Once the plans are in place, work on them together.

Remember, you’re allowed to be busy at Christmas, you’re allowed to want to make it lovely, you’re allowed to enjoy your Christmas treats but consider if the Christmas stress is taking over and if it is, stop, take a breath, ask yourself what’s causing your stress and why and don’t ignore it, do something about it. If you’re over promising, learn to say no. If you’re over spending, do you really need to or are you just getting carried away? If you’re dreading being around certain people over Christmas then ask yourself why you’re spending time with them and what do you need to do about it?

Don’t ignore your Christmas stress. Question its cause and do something about it.


If you’re struggling with stress and anxiety around this time of year, there are a number of ways that I can help. Why not drop me an email at catherine@berkshiretherapist.co.uk today.