Stress over Christmas – What to watch out for.

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For all the talk of the season of goodwill to all men, the sad reality is that Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year.  We mentioned last week of the effect on pets and why it wasn’t a good idea to get a new pet at this time of year, but it’s not just animals that can buckle under the strain of over-expectation.

Here’s a list of the things that can cause people to have a stressful time over Christmas.

  • Relationship Worries
  • Financial Problems
  • Over-Commercialization
  • Family Quarrels
  • High Expectations
  • Loneliness.

Relationship Worries 

According to various sources, the two weeks leading up to Christmas are some of the most dangerous for any relationship, with a huge surge of breakups happening in the lead-up to the holiday.  The added stress and strain that comes with the festive season is sadly good at undermining and exposing the weaknesses in couples, married or otherwise.

The holiday also provides time for individuals to think about whether they are happy in their relationship or want to move on, and whether or not they want to take their partner to meet the rest of their family.  Some people simply think the coming new year is a good chance for a new start.

Financial Problems

Christmas can be seriously expensive.  Attending or hosting parties, buying gifts, decorating, preparing for a festive meal – it all adds up.  Even something small, such as an unexpected obligation to play secret Santa in the office, can leave a person stressed with the additional worry about what to buy.


Lets be honest, every commercial outlet In the world is milking the holiday season, from toy manufacturers right down to distance learning colleges (why hello there ADL).  What supposedly began as a pagan festival adopted as Christian celebration has become an endless exercise in gross commercialisation.  Everywhere, people are festooned with messages telling them to “Buy, Buy, Buy!”.  

Family Quarrels

Leading on from the above, people have been sold a picture of Christmas as a happy time with their family around the table sharing a meal, smiles on every face.  You never see the commercial with the slightly racist grandparent commenting on the grandchild's choice of partner, or the toddler screaming the house down over the injustice of being given the green robot instead of the red one. 

High Expectation

All of this leads to unrealistically high expectations.  Everybody is led to expect the best and becomes disappointed bitterly when they aren’t met.  Even though people are human, money is limited and the expectation was unrealistic to begin with.


Perhaps the worst of all might be being alone on Christmas day.  Whether one is from a Christian background or not, Christmas day, in the western world at least, is a strange day when the 24/7 society almost entirely shuts down.  Almost everywhere is closed and for someone without family or friends to pass the day with, the sensation of acute loneliness can be overwhelming. 

Getting Through the New Year

Knowing about the likely problems in advance means you can take steps to defuse expectations and help to ensure a less stressful holiday season for you and your loved ones.  Some things you might consider include:

  • Spending an intimate Christmas with your partner, rather than with either of your families.
  • Be firm with your spending commitments.  Set a budget and commit to not spending more than you have.
  • If you’re going to be on your own, ask around if anyone else is in a similar situation and would like to group up for a meal. Or perhaps volunteer at a shelter or charity for the day. 

Want to understand the psychology behind stress and how people can be helped to deal with it?  ADL offers a range of counselling courses that can help you understand what is going on in people’s minds and how they can be helped.  From families, to young people, our counselling courses will help you develop the skills you need. 

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