Lower your expectations if you want to avoid ‘Stressmas’

Not everyone feels warm and jolly at Christmas. (pic: istockphoto.com/javarman3)

People feel the pressure to prepare a perfect picture-postcard Christmas. (pic: istockphoto.com/javarman3)

Think of the ideal Christmas and you’ll likely conjure up images of families sitting cosily around a tree with cheeks of pink and presents of gold – everyone happy, jolly and getting on wonderfully. At least, that’s what the media would have us believe. With so many tips on how to stage-manage Christmas Day, there has arguably never been so much pressure on us to be perfect. And for many that image is impossible to make reality, because they may not have anyone to celebrate Christmas with – or because they just become far too stressed to enjoy it. For many, Christmas has become more like ‘Stressmas’.

The BBC reports that people suffering social anxiety have a far harder time at Christmas because of the pressure of having to spend time with people they may not know or like, the stress of finding the ideal present, and because they may obsess far too much about how they will come across to other people. It’s a time when we’re all meant to be happy, and that can be hard to fake when you’re the only person in the room not enjoying yourself.

Then there’s the stress of the person who’s tasked with keeping everyone happy: preparing, buying, cooking and entertaining even the most reticent or rowdy relatives. The Washington Post reflects on the increased stress that women feel during the festive season: they feel twice as much overwhelm as men. So much so that (more…)