Christmas can be a time of joy and happiness, but also a time of stress and worry. The expense of buying gifts, the pressure of last minute shopping, and the heightened expectations of family togetherness can all dampen our Christmas cheer. Read on for some essential tips on surviving the top five causes of Christmas stress.

1. Money

Personal finances are consistently rated by Australians as one of the five major causes of stress. The added financial pressure of present buying and social gatherings at Christmas can make this a particularly troubling time for many people. Incorporating the Christmas spend into your annual budget can greatly relieve the pressure. Great advice, but you only seem to think of it when it’s too late! Why not set yourself a reminder now for next Christmas or another option is to open a Christmas Club Account and have the money debited from your weekly, fortnightly or monthly pay. Shopping during the year also allows you to spread the cost over 12 months, and has the added benefit of taking advantage of annual sales. Consider Kris Kringles and pre-set dollar amounts on gifts. These options allow everyone the opportunity to give, receive and share without spending too much.

2. Time pressure

Presents to buy, parties to organise and attend, school commitments, work commitments, visiting relatives, all on top of regular household chores. At a time when we are meant to be winding down and enjoying the holiday season, it just seems there is all too much to do! Some simple tips can help to ease the time pressure of Christmas and ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible. Including others in the planning and assigning responsibilities can help to ease the burden. Ask your partner or adult children to help out, ask a friend to host the pre-Christmas party this year. If you can afford it, consider hiring a cleaner to help out over Christmas. Order your groceries online.

3. Family stress

Christmas doesn’t guarantee “peace, love and goodwill to all men” and it’s probably unreasonable to expect feuding friends and family members to get along just because it’s Christmas. Family and relationship problems can be a trigger for anxiety. Some of the following strategies may help to manage family stress.

• Keep your expectations realistic. If you predict unpleasantness, plan a short visit.
• If you do get upset, go for a walk, have a nap, or find somewhere private to call a friend and get it off your chest.
• If you are hosting, try to make separate areas of the house available for conflicting family members to retreat to.
• Keep everyone busy. Schedule the day with fun activities and let guests help with cooking and washing up, if they offer. Allow some downtime also, to create space when needed.
• If tensions are likely to arise, don’t provide too much alcohol.
• Put the kids first. If you have children, consider putting aside ongoing adult conflicts in their interest. Think about Christmas as a day for the kids and focus on enabling their happiness.
• Avoid known triggers. If your family has a history of arguing over a certain topic, don’t bring it up. If someone brings up the topic, use distraction and quickly move on to something else to talk about.

4. Feeling lonely

For some people, Christmas is a time of loneliness and loss. Connecting with others or using the time to do something you will enjoy can help to relieve feelings of sadness or depression.

• If you’re separated from family and friends by distance, organise a phone or Skype chat.
• If you don’t have family to be with, reach out to a friend. They might like to invite you to their Christmas event, or plan to have a special Christmas catch up with you.
• Arrange to be a volunteer over Christmas. There are lots of charities who will welcome your help. You’ll connect with people and feel good about making a positive contribution.
• Get involved in community events. Whether it’s Christmas carols or local markets, getting out and about can help relieve loneliness.
• Develop a plan in advance to avoid feeling depressed or stressed on the day. Perhaps make yourself a special breakfast, go for a drive and visit a favourite spot, or start that book you’ve been meaning to read.

5. Over indulgence

It’s very tempting to indulge in food and alcohol over Christmas and into the New Year, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle, where moderation is the rule, is important to your overall health and well-being. The stress of the Christmas season can seem like an inducement to indulge, however alcohol is rarely an effective coping strategy. Excessive alcohol consumption at Christmas and New Year gatherings can lead to poor decisions, with consequences ranging from social embarrassment, to a tragic increase in the holiday road toll. To maintain your health over Christmas, adopt some of the following:

• Set reasonable limits on food and alcohol consumption, and stick to them
• Drink water
• Use relaxation techniques to cope with anxiety and stress
• Exercise regularly, even if that just means going for a walk in the evening – take advantage of daylight savings!

Support is available from your EAP

The end of the year is often a happy time but can also be hectic, overwhelming and a time of stress and worry. If you need support, help is at hand. Our EAP short-term, solution-focused counselling service is designed to help employees work through personal or workplace concerns. They may choose to access this service as a preventative measure or in response to a particular issue. Provided by professional counsellors and psychologists, we offer a range of options including face-to-face, telephone and video counselling to suit the needs and preferences of each person.

The EAP is funded by your workplace and is provided at no cost to you. EAP services are provided by Caraniche at Work, independently of your workplace, to ensure your confidentiality.

How to access your Employee Assistance Program

Accessing EAP is easy for Caraniche at Work customers. You can phone, email or book online via the Caraniche at Work website or App 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

EAP can assist you with:

• Stress management, and feelings of being overwhelmed
• Problems at home or work
• Grief and loss, feelings of sadness, fear, or unhappiness
• Relationships and family issues
• Anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbances
• And many other workplace and personal challenges

Where can I find resources online?

If you prefer self-guided digital tools for your health and wellbeing needs, you can access our digital resources via our website or App.

If things get really tough for you or a family member, you can contact:

• Caraniche at Work customers can call 1800 099 444 (24 hour help access)
• Your local GP or hospital
• 24 hour crisis resource centres such as:
o Lifeline – 13 11 14
o Suicide Call Back Service – 1300 659 467
o 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732
o Mensline Australia – 1300 789 978

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