Dr Martine Prunty
Managing Stress at Christmas
Christmas isn’t always a time of joy, fun, presents and big full bellies. For some it can bring about stress as some families have to navigate custody arrangements so that separated parents can both have time with their kids; some families may have recently lost a loved one; some may be dealing with illness or financial hardship; and some may feel an overwhelming sense of pressure to appear festive when they are dealing with their own challenges. Christmas can also bring tension between family members with travelling (which let’s face it, with kids is not always relaxing), alcohol, and just generally being more busy than usual.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
1. Be realistic
The cultural influence of Christmas being “family time” can put unnecessary pressure on you and cause further strain on vulnerable relationships. Think about what is a realistic expectation for your family and work towards that rather than an ideal of how you think things should be or how you think people should behave.
2. Do a good deed for someone else
You may not feel motivated to attend social gatherings or to treat yourself, particularly for those who feel isolated at Christmas. Helping others can help to build connections, instils a sense of hope and can bring about a general good feeling of contributing. Volunteering at Christmas time is one way you may be able to help someone else in need. Encouraging your children to donate gifts to those less fortunate is also a good way to teach them about values that are important, such as empathy, generosity and compassion.
3. Have a rest
Parents are generally good at taking care of their kids, and not so good at taking care of themselves. It goes without saying that we put our kids first. This can sometimes get out of hand and leave parents feeling strung out, overwhelmed and exhausted which leads to irritability and ultimately gets in the way of being good parents! Make sure you are getting adequate sleep, exercise and are eating well. Learn to accept offers of help from others so that you can rest and recharge. Practice your assertiveness skills by saying no to a few things over the holiday period to lessen the endless feeling of chasing your tail.
4. Be aware of how you are coping
It is easy to overeat or drink more alcohol than you usually would in order to hide difficult emotions or cope with stress. Try to utilise more helpful ways of coping like getting outside, exercising or even yoga/meditation as these will not leave you feeling guilty, unwell or ashamed due to any embarrassing behaviour.
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