Christmas stress can often feel like an inevitable, unavoidable part of the festive season. A time to just batten down the hatches and power through. But it does not have to be like that!

25 ways to deal with Christmas stress

We have put together an advent calendar of tips for a festive de-stress. Simple ways to help you enjoy Christmas from start to finish. Throughout December we will be adding a new tip every day that can help make for a less stressful and happier festive season.


Christmas stress - set a budgetDay 1: Set a Christmas budget and stick to it

We are encouraged by retailers to spend our way to happiness at Christmas, often leading to debt and relationship problems as a result.

Agree a budget with your partner/family for gifts and entertaining and stick to it.

Check out our blog on Christmas finance tips for more advice.


Day 2: Plan ahead

No matter how much we might wish to put it off, Christmas is coming. In the midst of busy modern life it might feel like too much to think about.

However planning out what you want to do, who you (really) want to buy gifts for and sort who is hosting who on Christmas Day will make things a lot less stressful.

So grab that Christmas tress by the branches and get planning!

christmas-presents-giftsDay 3: Do a bit at a time

Instead of having to blitz your Christmas gift shopping in one weekend, do a little bit at a time.

Similarly, if you are hosting family and friends during the festive season start stocking up gradually with what you need to avoid that nightmare supermarket mega-shop on 23rd December.

Day 4: The Christmas to do list

To do lists can be very helpful, especially at Christmas. They can also be a cause of stress if we aren’t realistic about those lists.

Before you start one think for a moment about what you will realistically be able to achieve in the time you have available. Separate out the ‘must dos’ and the ‘would be nice to dos’. You’ll quickly see that your real to do list is much shorter, meaning you have time and more enthusiasm for the nice to dos.

christmas-angelDay 5: Perfect Christmas or good enough?

The odds on a ‘perfect Christmas’ for any individual, couple or family is probably as good as snow on Christmas Day in Dubai. So embrace the imperfection of the season and stop looking for ‘perfection’ in every meal, gift and decoration.

For couples with children the same applies to parenting – look for good enough, not perfection from yourself and your kids.

Day 6: Dear Santa…

Help with the Christmas stress of gift giving by dropping some hints or pointing out the things you like.

Encourage friends and family to do the same for you. And for grown-ups, why not write your own letter to Santa? It might sound cheesy but it’s really helpful (and fun!).

hug-cuddle-winterDay 7: Remember what Christmas is about

Christmas is a time for family, for friendship and spending time together.

When the Christmas stress levels start to rise thinking about what present to get Aunty Mary, remember what it’s all about.

Christmas stress

Day 8: Ignore the Christmas TV adverts

Whether it is the John Lewis advert making us cry or the ‘perfect’ Christmas presented by every shop in the country, TV adverts can be a source of Christmas stress.

Make a cup of tea during the ad break or mute the sound and free yourself from the ads that often leave us feeling like our Christmas will never be good enough.


christmas stress listen to musicDay 9: Enjoy simple things

December will be a busy month for pretty much everyone.

Give yourself a break and enjoy something simple like a hot cup of cocoa or tea, listen to some of your favourite music and chill out for 15 minutes.

Feeling recharged you’ll be more effective at ticking off that to-do list.

Christmas stress Day 10: Get some Christmas helpers

Encourage the whole family to get involved in preparations.

Decorating, coming up with gift ideas, tidying the house for Christmas visitors.

Not only will it ease the burden for the person who usually does it all, it will help make everyone feel included and part of the Christmas build-up.

winter-walk christmas stressDay 11: Enjoy the build-up to Christmas

We focus so much on Christmas Day itself that the rest of the festive season passes in a blur.

Instead, enjoy the moments before Christmas Day: a walk in the crisp winter air; the pleasure of getting a gift for someone you love; the Christmas lights.

christmas stressDay 12: The ghost of Christmas past

For a lot of people Christmas is a difficult time because of past experiences, bereavement or major life events. There is pressure to be happy at Christmas which can make you feel a lot worse.

Consider talking about these issues with a professional counsellor or a loved one about how to manage those difficult emotions.

walk-nature-winter-christmas-stressDay 13: Take a long winter walk

Walking is a great way to de-stress.

Get out and enjoy some time away from the TV, present wrapping, Christmas card writing and games consoles. Consider leaving mobile phones on silent and enjoy the natural world around you.

With a rosy glow in your cheeks, head home and indulge in number 9 of our earlier tips.

painting-drawing-christmas-stressDay 14: Indoor hobbies

The weather during December (and January, February and probably March) is not always great. Dark mornings and nights cut down on opportunities for outdoor time.

So consider trying something indoor instead: creative paper crafts (helpful for DIY Christmas cards); knitting (bizarrely still very cool); reading a good book or picking up that musical instrument that is gathering dust in the corner.

christmas-stressDay 15: Spend time with people

If you live on your own the festive season can bring about feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Try to take an active approach to avoiding this. Accept invitations to parties and get togethers. Why not organise something for other people you know who are in the same boat. Ultimately just try and be sociable.


candles-christmas-stressDay 16: Christmas candles

As the nights draw in candles can be a nice way to brighten up your home and provide a relaxing atmosphere at home.

Remember however to always extinguish candles and never leave them unattended.

Check out Scottish Fire and Rescue’s Festive safety guide for candles.

volunteerDay 17: Consider helping others at Christmas

It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘I want’ mind-set of Christmas. After all, it’s what shops want us to do! But it takes away from the themes of love, peace and goodwill at Christmas.

Get a little perspective by helping out a charity at Christmas. You’ll be helping people who need it most and will get a more grounded perspective on the whole festive season.

board-game-2Day 18: Play more games than just Charades

Charades is a Christmas party staple but think outside of the box this year. There are literally hundreds of (free) games from around the world that are great to play at Christmas.

From the delightfully bonkers Danish game Pakkeleg (Google it!) to The Drunken Artist (a twist on Pictionary) there is plenty of fun to be had!


christmas-baking-stressDay 19: Favourite Christmas memories

Think about the things that have made Christmas special in the past for you individually, as a couple or a family.

Chances are when you really think about it you’ll rediscover things you haven’t done for years which will make for a great festive season.


christmas stressDay 20: Say please and thank you

For a time of year that is supposed to be about goodwill to all, Christmas stress seems to up people’s rudeness levels.

In the busyness of the season we often forget our manners and, without intending it, are rude to family, friends and strangers.

So this festive season commit to always saying please and thank you.


christmas stressDay 21: It’s ok not to be ok

We often feel like we have to be happy at Christmas. That is not always possible and it is absolutely and totally ok not to be ok at Christmas time.

Speak to a close, trusted friend about what you are experiencing or better still, look in to counselling.


hug-cuddle-winterDay 22: You do not have to spend all of Christmas with family

The festive season is definitely an opportunity to spend time with family. But that does not mean we have to spend all of our time with them.

Carve out some time for you or you and your partner. For families it is important to have mum, dad and the kids only time too.


sledging-christmas-stressDay 23: Fun with the family doesn’t have to cost money

Ice skating, festive films at the cinema, shopping trips, panto – the list of festive season activities which are not cheap is almost endless. But having quality time together does not have to cost.

Try a good old fashioned board game that has been gathering dust in the cupboard. For parents remember what you enjoyed most about Christmas during your childhood. Surprisingly, children wired in to the digital world tend to really enjoy simple things that offer actual and not virtual interaction.

Day 24: Get some sleep

This probably sounds silly but with the usual ‘running around like a headless chicken’ pre-Christmas followed by late nights and early starts (especially if you have kids) sleep often gets forgotten about.

Missing out on a proper night’s sleep is bad for us physically and mentally so make sure you are getting your zzzz’s.

snowflake-christmas-tree-christmas-stressDay 25: Just enjoy Christmas Day

On Christmas Day forget about the ‘perfect’ day and enjoy the special moments.

Savour the smiles of loved ones receiving gifts and forget about whether the turkey will be moist or not. Laugh as the kids try to teach Grandpa how to play Call of Duty instead of worrying about whether you got everyone a ‘perfect’ present.

Merry Christmas!

Support this Christmas

Stress, anxiety, depression and relationship issues are very common at Christmas and during the festive season. The Spark offers counselling and support for individuals, couples, young people and families across Scotland.

Find out more about counselling or complete an enquiry form. You can also call our enquiries team on freephone 0808 802 0050.

Christmas and New Year opening hours:

The Spark Counselling (enquiries team and appointments) will observe the following opening times during the 2016 Christmas and New Year holidays.

22 December 2016: 11am – 12.30pm

23 – 28 December 2016: closed

29 December 2016: 10am – 2.00pm

30 December – 3 January 2017: closed

Services return to normal hours on Wednesday 4 January 2017.

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