Although a lot of us are lucky enough to think fondly of the holiday season as a time full of joy, peace, laughter, get-togethers, and happiness, for many that is not the case. From financial strain to relationship issues and strained families – it’s not surprising that for those of us with existing struggles, this time away from routine and busyness can bring feelings of sadness, hopelessness, stress and frustration.

Stress

It all begins in late November and early December where we start feeling the pressure to “tie up loose ends”, cementing a “clean slate” for the new year. While it would be fabulous to think of this as a possibility, it’s also important to be realistic about your own expectations. If you’re getting caught up in the holiday stress this early on in the game, take a step back, reassess, and set some practical and sensible goals so you don’t enter the new year feeling disappointed.

Stress caused by stretched finances and overwhelming credit card bills can also be a big issue over the holiday period – our financial situations are truly put to the test. Between work parties, gift giving, holiday making and celebrating, it can quickly feel like we are drowning under the burden of costs that are spiraling out of control. Remember that it’s OK to say no to events, gifts, and extravagances that you don’t feel you need, and it’s also OK to allow yourself some extra indulgences within reason.

Combat personal and financial stress by…

  • Ensuring you’re still exercising. While it’s tempting to totally adopt the holiday carefree attitude, exercise is something worth leaving in your routine. You don’t have to spend hours working out, just allocate a minimum of 15-30 minutes three days a week of walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, going to the gym, or putting your favourite music on and dancing like nobody’s watching!
  • Taking time out. The holiday period can quickly get emotionally exhausting. Make sure you are still taking time out each day to do something that is just for you.
  • Write a plan and budget – make note of how much you would like to allocate to different things (for example gifts) and consider where you can save.
  • Remember what’s important. It’s no secret that commercialism is the undertone of the Christmas period. Scale back on material things and consider what you really need.

Relationships

It can be all too easy to fall into negative thought patterns over this period of time, and it’s not hard to see why. Where we may usually spend most of our time at work, out of our homes caught up in day-to-day busyness, holidays present a stretch of time filled with possibilities that for some feels way too long. With most of our days spent with our families, friends, or partners, it can be tempting to torture yourself by ruminating on the downfalls and wrongs of these relationships. On the flip side, in the case of divorced or separated parents who may share the kids over the holiday period, this time can feel very isolating and lonely and can cause or heighten tension.

Here are some tools to help you manage toxic or unsatisfying relationships during this time:

  • This too will pass. Try to keep things in perspective, just as the holiday period will end so too will time spent close to your family, friends, or partner. Remind yourself that you can change unhealthy partnerships through effective communication, defining your boundaries, or even leaving the relationship altogether.
  • Avoid confrontation where you can. Tensions run high during the holiday period, and confrontation can make a bad situation even worse. While it may seem appealing to let someone know how you feel via emotional explosion, doing so will be more of a hindrance than a help in the long run.
  • Find peace – even if it’s not in your relationships. This period of time can be taken for yourself, too.

So as we head to the end of 2020 (something we are all surely feeling relieved to do), remember to surround yourself with things that serve you – whether that be space or supportive friends and family. Turn negative self talk into self-reflection where you can, and finally, remember that if it all gets too much, there is extra support if you need it.

Book in with us in the new year or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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