Recently, co-director Sarah McMahon was interviewed by The Daily Telegraph’s Body+Soul, about how to manage stressors that often accompany the Christmas season. Read her interview below-
THE festive season is a time of fun, but for many it can also be stressful. Here’s how to make this year’s your best ever.
For many people, Christmas Day and the holiday season can be stressful or lonely. Apart from the Christmas Day pressures of choosing the right gifts, catching up with friends and family and preparing food, it can also be a time of disappointment, financial strain, family feuds, stressful travel and being alone or far away from loved ones.
Instead of enduring another stressful festive season, psychologists Sarah McMahon and Tracey Hassan share their advice on how to put the merry back into Christmas.
There is always a fight between family members
> Solution: Change the routine.
“Family relationships can be like a predictable dance,” Sarah McMahon says. “If there is a particular pattern of relating, this will likely continue until someone changes their steps.
“If your family consistently ends up fighting, consider the things you can do differently this Christmas to change the routine. Are there conversation topics you could avoid? Could you listen more effectively? Should you be establishing different boundaries? Are there triggers (such as drinking alcohol) that you could avoid? How can you circumvent interactions or people that press your buttons? Could you remove yourself or bite your tongue before you find yourself embroiled in a fight?”
McMahon says while Christmas can seem like an excellent time to talk about what you would like to change in your relationships, it is recommended that you address issues at a more neutral time.
When dealing with in-laws, Tracey Hassan says this is a time when you and your partner need to support one another. “Talk with your partner beforehand about your concerns and ask for their help,” she says. “It’s important not to sound like you are complaining, but describe how you feel. Say you want everyone to enjoy the day, and discuss how this could be achieved. Ask them for ideas as well as offering your own suggestions. And don’t forget to celebrate the success you have together afterwards.”
Hassan also advises not over-committing your time on the day, which can add further stress.
I’m alone and/or away from family and friends
> Solution: Create a new ritual.
“Develop your own rituals or routines to celebrate Christmas,” McMahon says. “Manage loneliness by preparing something that you enjoy on Christmas Day or closely thereafter. Consider whether there are other people in your local community who may be similarly isolated who you could celebrate with. Look for opportunities to share the Christmas spirit with those less fortunate than yourself.”
Hassan says: “If you are away from your family at Christmas, you can overcome feelings of loneliness by continuing some of the traditions you enjoyed growing up, or even starting your own new traditions.”
She suggests spending time with others through volunteer work. “There are many options for volunteering your time to help others during Christmas. Helping others gives you purpose and can boost your confidence and your mood.”
I feel sad at this time
> Solution: Have a plan.
“Christmas is, for many people, a sad or lonely time, which is amplified by the expectation of happiness during the season,” McMahon says.
“Christmas often brings increased stress and anxiety, which is closely correlated with depression. For those who experience clinical depression, Christmas can be a particular challenge as many therapists take leave.”
McMahon advises trying to anticipate the triggers that make you feel blue, such as being overwhelmed, drinking alcohol or feeling alone, and planning ahead to prevent the triggers from occurring.
“Have a crisis plan if things become really desperate. This might include identifying friends, family and neighbours you can call on, as well as crisis-counselling services such as Lifeline.”
Source: Body+Soul, pg 1.