Stress at Christmas
It's that time of the year again - the run-up to Christmas and all it entails. Christmas is a bit like Marmite - you either love it or loathe it. If you love it you probably don't need to ready any further, but if you find Christmas challenging, you wont be surprised to learn that thousands of other people feel the same way. Traditionally, counsellors receive more referrals in November and December than at any other time of the year. It's not hard to see why.
The days are getting shorter, darker and wetter, and physically our energy levels are low due to the lack of sunshine and the likelihood of catching a cold or flu. Most of the animal kingdom hibernate in winter, but human beings in the western hemisphere, are expected to make a super-human effort to enter into the Christmas spirit, whether we like it or not.
Some people love it, the sending and receiving of gifts, the preparations for Christmas Day, decorating the tree, feeding the family... But truthfully many others hate the 'festive season' because of the expectations it brings with it. Stress levels are at an all time high, partly because of these expectations. Most of us muddle along quite happily the rest of the year, but as Christmas approaches, uncomfortable feelings and memories arise, creating anxiety and disquiet.
We may have chosen to live and work away from our family of origin - to safeguard our mental health. But even so, something compels us to participate in this annual ritual, despite our personal history. We may be frightened to be on our own at a time when we imagine everyone else is having a 'wonderful time'. It might be hard to say 'no' because we don't want to hurt anyone else's feelings. Or it could just be that we feel low because we're on our own anyway, estranged from family and with no partner or significant friends to share it with.
A growing number of people on their own at Christmas are volunteering to help others, or having a 'Me' day just for themselves. Eating and drinking exactly what they want, happy that they don't have to please anyone else if they don't want to.
But if you really are dreading Christmas, and are feeling stressed out, you could benefit from some short-term counselling to talk about your feelings and circumstances.
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