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Christmas is a magical time of year, with festivities, friends, family and more often than not, several fabulous feasts.

Navigating the busyness of the season – family squabbles over backyard cricket, landing the perfect gift for your long-lost cousin, and cooking a feast for 20 – can bring with it stress and worry, alongside the joy and magic of the season. 

If Christmas tends to leave you feeling frazzled, take a deep breath and read on.

What is holiday stress?

Holiday stress, like any other kind of stress, is our mind and body’s natural response to the pressures of responsibility and demand upon our lives. 

When we experience a threat, be that holiday traffic, a family feud or a less than perfect Christmas dinner, our bodies flood with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Our bodies then fling into action, our heart rates spike, pupils dilate, and our muscles tighten. 

It’s important to remember that stress is entirely normal and, in the short term, can be helpful. It keeps us focused and alert. But living in an ongoing state of stress, can have a significant impact upon our mental and physical health. 

Despite the wonder of Christmas, the reality is that sometimes the stress of the season is unavoidable. Whether it’s family disagreements or the pressures of Christmas shopping, here’s our simple, no fuss guide to navigating the festive season.

Holiday stress, like any other kind, is our body’s natural response to the navigating an overload of activity and demands at a busy time of year #christmas #health #MentalHealth Click To Tweet

Maintain healthy habits

‘Tis the season to use hand sanitiser! With borders reopening, restrictions lifting, and group get togethers increasing in size, keeping yourself and your loved ones in good health not only ensures a less stressful Christmas, but a healthy and more enjoyable one too. 

Alongside a year’s worth of good hand hygiene, if you’ve managed to keep up a healthy diet and exercise routine during the year, there’s a chance that could all go out the window when the busy Christmas schedule of parties, family commitments and work deadlines roll around. 

Keep up your exercise routines, even if it’s a quick walk around the block. Physical activity is important to your mental health and wellbeing, which is essential for navigating a notoriously stressful period. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep either. A routine of early nights will help no end to your Christmas stress levels.

Eat well – but not too much

The festivities of Christmas bring with it constant opportunities to eat, and when food’s in front of us – especially Christmas pudding – it’s hard not to eat until the notch on the belt starts to feel a little uncomfortable. 

Instead, be mindful of when, what and how much you’re eating. Dietitians Australia suggests including healthy salads and roast vegetables for Christmas lunch or dinner and serving desserts full of fresh seasonal fruit. 

Looking for healthy Christmas menu ideas? Try including healthy salads and roast vegetables for Christmas lunch and serving desserts of fresh seasonal fruit. #healthyChristmas #ChristmasFoodIdeas Click To Tweet

And if alcohol is on the menu, then remember to stay well hydrated and limit your intake to the recommended guidelines of one standard drink per hour. You’ll feel all the better for it.

Eat well over christmas but not too much

Manage your mental health

Christmas is a notoriously busy time of year, so it’s more important than ever to take time out for yourself to relax.

Just like you take time each day to brush your teeth or make the morning coffee, put aside time each day to enjoy a quiet ten-minute mental break. Put down the smartphone, step away from social media, and simply take time to look after yourself. 

If your mind feels cluttered with noise, check out Headspace’s great range of guided meditations to help you unwind in those precious minutes, and get yourself back on track for a productive and stress-free day.

Navigate family tension

When you get together with extended family, it’s often a time when conflict or personality clashes surface. Even the closest families can suffer the odd “awkward moment”, and that’s OK.

With such a busy year of politics, pandemic and the economy, everyone’s guaranteed to have a different point of view, so instead of sitting around the table where conflict can brew, opt for activities together such as playing board games or having a game of backyard cricket to diffuse any tension and lighten the mood. Did someone say charades?!

Plan your budget

Spending on gifts, food and travel can easily add up. If your budget is limited, or you get to the end of Christmas and realise you’ve spent more than you expected, it will only add to your stress levels in the New Year. 

If this year is feeling a little tight and you can’t manage the expense of buying presents, think outside the box: a secret Santa, handmade gifts, or suggesting everyone contribute to the Christmas feast are easy options for reducing the overall cost and stress of Christmas.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

We all need a little extra help from time to time, but for some reason, asking for it doesn’t seem to come easy. If stress seems to be getting the better of you, and you’re not feeling like yourself, it can help to chat to your GP about putting in place some support for your mental wellbeing. 

Beyond Blue also has trained counsellors available 24/7 on 1300 22 4636. Counsellors can provide support and advice if you need it, and all calls are completely confidential.

If you’re overwhelmed with stress, anxiety or sadness these holidays, there’s support available through Beyond Blue #MentalHealth #BeyondBlue Click To Tweet

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