It’s okay to be a little blue amidst the red and gold sea of tinsel.
Christmas stress is already, well, stressful, but this year brings the added element of EXTREME FATIGUE
It’s the feeling that we’ve been running on adrenaline for several years and now that we can pause to catch our breath, there’s not much left in the tank.
People are already expected to be happy and thankful this time of year, but Christmas is often a source of great stress for many and there are a surprising number of elements that can, and do, lead to an increase in stress, be it geographical distance (to close or to far), estrangement or loss of family or friends. Add that to our extreme fatigue and it looks like we are ready for a fun Christmas with the family
Rather than the joy we see depicted on every social media and tv channel we are met with anxiety, depression and loneliness.
This time of year is hard on some people, and showing gentleness and compassion can go a long way, it’s free and it’ll make you feel good doing it.
If someone is quiet this time of year, reach out and tell them you are there.
If someone is grumpy at the checkout ahead of you, remember they are probably fighting a fight you know nothing about.
If someone is tearing up at a holiday party but doesn’t want to talk about it, don’t give up on them. Keep the light on instead.
We are all fighting our own battles. Kindness can go a long way to someone that truly needs it. Below is some of the things that are likely to cause struggles in people and you may be causing them without realising. Self reflection and potentially thinking of how you impact others may be all it takes to make the world of difference to someone this Christmas.
The traditional image of Christmas is, let’s be honest, incredibly optimistic. Nearly every portrayal shows a cosy, cheerful, Martha Stewart decorated home, surrounded by snow, and you peek in and see a happy family, a Father playing with his 2.5 children and his adoring wife gazing at him lovingly as they prepare to gather and share a large dinner cooked to picture-postcard perfection.
Sadly, life is just too complex and the mainstream portrayal of a perfect Christmas is not obtainable for many. And yet, we still expect it year in, year out.
The human tendency to expect the best is the result of a well-known optimism bias, coupled with the planning fallacy (a related phenomenon where we repeatedly underestimate how much time and effort tasks will take despite previous experiences) would lead people to expect pleasant, Christmas and instead they end up stressed and reaching for the ALDI special buys white wine.
And that’s just at a personal level, expectations (and the thwarting of them) can cause a lot of pressure, anxiety and stress. Then ontop of that, throw in social media so you can see how perfect your friend who you hated in high school’s Christmas efforts have resulted in her family being overjoyed on Insta and THERE YOU HAVE IT extra pressure to conform, and even do better to maintain your status in your group, because losing to her is something you couldnt handle and the you have another cause of stress.
So not only do people have to do all the extra work required to make Christmas happen, they also have to keep everyone updated as to the antics of their stupid “Elf on the Shelf” too. NO THANKS
MY FAV Flashing Lights & Loud Sounds
Christmas comes with a particular set of environmental features that when combined create a level of anxiety indescribable to most and to others it just creates an internal rage, even if we don’t realise it or want to admit it.
Now consider the typical Christmas decorations you encounter everywhere. Flashing lights, honking noises, tooting trains, Mariah Carey, it’s alot.
Christmas songs on repeat can often be perceived positively rather than negatively, but some argue this is only true up to a point, after which something becomes annoying and unpleasant. Given how few of them there are and how often they’re played every year, most Christmas songs undoubtedly passed the breaking point with most people a long ago.
Christmas is a time for families, if you’re lucky enough to still be part of one. However, while family support and involvement can often be an important facet of wellbeing, in the short-term your family can be a cause of stress.
Eat, Drink & be Worried
Given how stressful Christmas can be, it’s no wonder people quickly resort to hitting the vino and stealing there kids lollies when there not looking ‘tis the season, after all. It’s true that high-calorie foods reduce feelings of stress.
Ditto alcohol. But in both cases, it’s a very short-term fix.
Our bodies seem to actually store more fat when we’re stressed, and alcohol consumption can quickly cross the line from “pleasant” to “not pleasant”, leaving us bloated, hung-over, miserable and with a worse state of overall health than when we started.
All things that add up to more stress. THEN jump on INSTA and that old school friend is taking more pictures of her perfect day and her perfect family and she is looking so fit but your so stressed you cant tell that its actually filtered heavily.
While it’s nice to think of all the pleasant aspects of Christmas, they don’t just “happen”, or pop out of nowhere because you wished hard enough (despite many a Christmas movie suggesting otherwise). Someone must do the legwork to put it all together. Traditionally it’s mum, but whoever ends up bearing the brunt of it is bound to be at risk of greater stress.
The regular demands like housework, caring for children or family and maintaining your regular workload doesn't just go away and there is no Christmas Elf helping when no one is looking.
These somewhat normal demands that you take in your stride daily, paired with surprise visitors that just pop in to wish you a Merry Christmas, the shopping, the organising and trying to just keep up, all whilst your mother in law is criticising your cooking can increase your stress and make your day even harder.
It’s important to not lose sight of hope but also give yourself a break
If you’re not feeling as full of festive cheer as you’d like, give yourself a hall pass and let yourself feel whatever you are feeling, without guilt or judgment.
And whatever you doo don’t compare yourself to social media’s airbrushed highlights reel.
Everyone is carrying baggage you can’t see.
It’s important to recognise that Christmas can be a hard and stressful time for many and to try and lead with kindness this Christmas.
We are all exhausted and a simple smile could change someone's whole Christmas.