Common Christmas Stressors And How To Handle Them: An Unofficial Guide

by Catherine Nicholls

Okay, we all know how it goes. You’ve been excited for Christmas for basically the entire year, and now you’re here, you don’t know exactly what it is that you expected. Yes, the Christmas tree is beautiful and the twinkly lights are stunning. And of course, it’s always great to spend time with family. But what if that family is on the brink of breaking out into World War Three at any minute? What if the pressure of baking the perfect dinner gets too much? Christmas, in all of its magical, romanticised glory, can also come with a handful of stressors. Here’s how to deal with a couple, so that you can return to celebrating what’s really important – mince pies and Yule logs, obviously.

Stressor #1 – Difficult Family Members

Ah, the age-old problem of the black sheep, or the drunken uncle, or the close-minded sister-in-law, of the family. Stressors? Definitely. Christmas is a time for all of the family to gather, which is usually lovely. The loveliness can quickly be spoilt by a misguided comment or, two, however. It would be easy to tell you to hash out all of your problems then and there so that everybody can be one big, happy family. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as that.

We’d give you the advice to steer clear of any no-go topics, avoid people you know might cause conflict, and distract!! This is where board games and cheesy movies are your biggest allies. Put something on that will get people invested, and watch the tension fade away. Or at least cool down a degree or two.

Stressor #2 – High expectations

It’s easy to hype Christmas up into one perfect, magical day. The pressure of living up to this can be one of the many stressors that can, in fact, make the day even more stressful than if it weren’t there. Realistically, Christmas is just one day out of 365. Things are going to go wrong. That’s totally okay.

Christmas at its core is about spending time with people you care about, and celebrating the things that really matter in life. Everything else is an added bonus. Enjoy the simple things, take a breather, and remember that it’s just a day. It’ll be over in no time, so enjoy it while it lasts.

Stressor #3 – Cooking

If you’re the unlucky soul responsible for cooking the Christmas dinner, you’ll probably be feeling quite a lot of pressure on getting it done perfectly. And hey – we won’t lie to you, Christmas food is one of our favourite parts of the season. That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to work tirelessly for hours on end to get things to where they need to be.

Recruit a couple of people to help you out with the workload, or divvy up the dishes so that everyone is in charge of one specific thing. On top of that – there’s no harm in getting a hand from our friend that is the supermarket freezer section. Preprepared ingredients and dishes make prep time disappear. The likelihood that your guests will be able to tell the difference? Minimal.

Stressor #4 – Feeling overwhelmed

Stressors at Christmastime seem amplified when combined with everything else going on. Bright lights, loud music and no time to yourself means that things can get to you just that extra bit easily. If you’re at university, end-of-term deadlines mean that it’s difficult to strike the balance between workload and celebration. If you work, you may feel like you have to go to your office’s fifteenth obligatory Christmas celebration in a row. It can all leave you feeling like there’s just too much going on.

Take one thing at a time. Write a checklist, and tick things off one by one. Don’t let these things take over your whole life, but don’t let the fact that it’s Christmas let you feel guilty about getting work done, either. Give yourself an allocated time period to finish everything off before you allow yourself to relax and take some time off – you deserve to do this guilt-free, without anything simmering at the back of your mind.

Stressor #5 – Feeling unproductive

Following on from our former point, even when you do manage to give yourself a time out, sometimes it’s hard to allow yourself to relax without feeling guilty about it. Know that you are not a working machine, and you really do deserve to take a break every now and then!

Still feeling the urge to get things done at the back of your mind? Write yourself a list of everything you’ll need to do once your break is over. Make sure that you know that this is the time for you to stop working. You can get back to everything once you’re back in the real world. Enjoy the break.

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