Festive Stress

“‘Tis the season to be jolly…” And indeed, there is much jollification to be had during the Christmas season. However, sometimes the wonder of this time gets lost in all the hustle bustle, and it ends up being a time that causes stress, rather than relieving it, as the end of year break is supposed to do.

While there are many things over the festive season that can cause stress, I’m going to touch on 2 main ones today: Family and finances.

Christmas is synonymous with family. For most people, this day evokes images of Church attended together, opening gifts around the Christmas tree, roasts, swimming and maybe having a glass or two of champagne. The picture is an idyllic one, but often there are other factors at play too: Whose family do we spend Christmas with? How do we keep the other family from feeling bad? In the case of family relationships that are strained, how do we get on with each other? Some families travel from far to stay with their relatives. This can mean a house full of people to clean up after, prepare food for, and generally keep entertained. All in all, stressful times.

My advice? Plan time to be alone, without the extended family around. If you’re a couple without kids, make one of the Christmas meals a meal to be enjoyed alone – an easy one, that doesn’t take much time and effort to prepare, but that offers time to be alone together. If you have kids, the same applies. Maybe do your immediate family’s gift exchange alone in the morning, before the addition of all the extra family members. Sometimes this isn’t easy, especially if the extended family is staying with you, or you with them, but find a few moments in between the madness to spend quality time with those closest to you. Take a drive, steal a few moments outside while everyone else is in inside. Try not to get so caught up in all the activity that you forget to take a moment to breathe and enjoy the day for what it is.

The festive season posts a financial drain on most people. Not simply in terms of food and presents, but also because for many families with children, this extended holiday is the only time they can get away as a family. Being that this is the busiest season for this, prices are higher than normal, for both accommodation and groceries. Couple this with gifts and Christmas day expenses (as well as many other expenses that arise over the course of this time), and the fact that most people are paid early on in December, and it’s easy to understand why most people end up in a tizz at the end of December, with not much left to see them until payday.

My advice is simple: Don’t spend more than you can afford. Sit down before Christmastime and go through finances – plan how much to spend on food, pressies, etc, and then stick to this plan. Christmas has become very materialistic, but in fact, it’s the thought that counts. And it’s not worth getting yourself into financial trouble, when something homemade and thoughtful means just as much (if not more) to most people than expensive gifts do. Secret Santa is also a good idea to lessen financial pressure – names in a hat, each person draws one name and buys a gift of a predetermined value for the person whose name they drew. This takes that expectation of outrageously expensive gifts right off the table.

Take time for yourself, time to relax and take a load off. Read a book, watch a movie, have a glass of wine… After this holiday, work comes rushing back with a vengeance (as I’m sure you’ve already seen), so make the most of the time you have.

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