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'Tis the season to be jolly - isn't it?

Updated: Dec 21, 2023

There is an assumption that Christmas time is always a happy time, that a lack of cheer at this time of year means you are akin to a green hairy thing that lives in the mountains and hates the Christmas spirit.

However the reality is that for many people Christmas can be a difficult time of year and the reasons vary. For some people the stress of being with others is overpowering, or the pressure to provide the perfect Christmas can get too much. It’s a time of year when strain is often placed on relationships, when difficult relatives can feel unavoidable or when we are reminded of those who are not here to enjoy it with us this year. There are additional financial burdens and school holidays mean child care can become a problem.

So what can you do to try and reduce that overwhelming stress this Christmas? Here are our top 5 tips:

1) Remember that stuff doesn’t equal happiness

Don’t measure the success of your festive season by the gifts it provides. Your net-worth is not the same as your self-worth and comparing the money you have spent on your children vs what others may have spent is a sure-fire way to bring down your mood. Instead focus on the time spent together. If you think back to your own childhood christmases we don’t remember many of the toys but we often remember the special adventures or the people we saw. Treasure the people who take time out of their own festive period to see you or the children, it means you're on their mind and that is special indeed!

2) Remember the Importance of Time

Time often feels like a luxury and never more so than at this time of year when you often feel like you have to be everywhere at once. A list of family members to see and shopping lists to get often means that you feel like you're running around which can add to that feeling of stress. Getting organised and arranging visits to loved ones at this time of year can be a great way of ensuring you get around the people you want to see but that it's more than a fleeting visit. Shopping can always be done online, time with others – not so much.

3) Cultivate Contentment

At a time of year when it is easy to compare yourself to others so try to focus on what you have, not what is lacking. This might seem simplistic but is a key part of surviving the festive splurge of perfect Christmas tables, puppy portraits and baby news. Focusing on just three things you have achieved this year is a great habit to get into in order to reframe your mind from comparative thinking to celebratory thinking.

4) You don't have to spend a lot of money

An estimated 2.3 Million people get into debt trying to afford the festive season! One of the most common causes of stress we hear this time of year is how we are going to afford everything that comes with the season. The presents, the food and the parties all add up. However, despite the urge to buy the most expensive gift, often it’s the little things that come from a place of thought that are most important. Children making presents or presenting photos to grandparents are often more treasured then something brought from a shop. If you have a big family, consider coming to an agreement for a family wide secret santa and set a limit for one thoughtful gift, not 15 bank busting ones.

5) Pace yourselves

Christmas is of course exciting for little ones and sometimes that can all become too much. We often talk at Embers about how to help children to manage excitement by being aware of what will happen when. A countdown to Christmas can help children to understand how many days they have left before Santa comes to visit, or spreading out the fun on the day can help children to slow down and enjoy the moment a bit. For example, try taking it in turns to open presents so you can enjoy watching each others reactions, or open a few presents from Santa in the morning and presents from loved ones after lunch.

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