Christmas stress: 5 ways to deal with it


The countdown to Christmas is officially on. Here, Vitality Magazine covers tips from cost-saving to managing a full house this festive season


It’s the most wonderful time of the year… so Andy Williams tells us in his classic Christmas number. But the Yuletide season comes with a caveat – it can also be one of the most stressful times of the year.

Between buying presents, cooking an overwhelming number of festive meals and entertaining the in-laws (not to mention the clean up after they leave), 81% of us think that Christmas is a major catalyst for stress.

So, given it’s the season to be jolly, here we lay out some tips on how to manage the pressures of the impending Christmas period, and why it’s okay to not always be full of festive cheer.

Plan ahead

There is little more stressful than leaving everything to the last minute. If you're entertaining, it helps to know well in advance exactly who’s coming to stay - and when they are going to arrive.

Then you can start preparing the house. You then can also think about the Christmas shop, which, if you're ahead of yourself, can be done online.

Preparing the festive feast in advance will also help ease stress on the day.

Crafty tip? Think about making your stuffing or bread sauce a few days before and freezing it until you need it.

Trim back (on all the trimmings)

Some 36% of Brits said they are going to cut back on festive spending this year, as they feel the pinch of the cost-of-living crisis.

Pre-pandemic, Brits were spending on average £1,116 on Christmas, YouGov found.

That is set to drastically change, however, with 4 in 10 people between 45 and 64 expected to slash how much they spend at Christmas.

But there are some ways that people can trim back on how much they fork out during the festive season.

  • Buy a UK-grown Christmas tree
  • Choose chicken
  • Secret Santa
  • Reduce paper prices

Vitality has partnered with a range of great brands to encourage you to move more, eat better, stress less or just make a positive change.

Try our Savings Tool to fnd out how much you could save through our Healthy Living Programme.

Have a cuppa

Among the luxuries some Brits are cutting back on during the cost-of-living crisis is alcohol.

Recent findings from Mintel show that 55% of us are swapping their bubbles and beer for a simple brew.

And switching up your drinking habits isn’t only good for your pocket, but it will also help reduce stress over the festive period aside from its other health benefits.

Alcohol has been found to enhance stress and anxiety, according to Drinkaware. And if you’re drinking because you’re stressed that can also contribute to feelings of depression.

“We know from clinical studies, that alcohol actually increases the amount of the stress hormone, cortisol, in our brains,” explains David McLaughlan, a mindful drinking expert and co-founder of JITAI.

“High levels of cortisol are neurotoxic, meaning it causes cell damage in specific parts of the brain which leads to low mood and anxiety.”

Mindful drinking, he says, can reduce the likelihood of “alcohol binges”.

Here are some of his tips for drinking more mindfully:

  • Always use a measure for spirits and wine. Free pouring makes it very difficult to know how much you’reactually drinking.
  • Plan drinking ‘check points’ into your evening. Set a notification or reminder in your phone to check in withyourself to make sure you are drinking in accordance with the intentions you set.
  • Avoid topping up glasses. Finish one drink before moving on to the next, this makes it easier to keep track of the number of drinksyou've had across the night.

Of course, Christmas is a time for enjoyment, says Kibble, but a night off won’t do you any harm.

So, why not substitute your after dinner hot toddy for a cup of tea instead?

Talking Therapies is available for Vitality Health members that are going through a rough time, or simply want to talk to someone about their mental wellbeing.

As a Vitality member you can get access to eight online of in-person session per plan year, which varies from counselling to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Keep moving

Even when it's cold outside, exercise is a tried and tested way to release stress.

Anything that gets your heart rate up, be it a spin class, sweaty gym session or parkrun.

However, the busy festive period can mean that our already precious time is limited as friends and family, including St. Nick, descend on your doorstep. Thus, our stress levels can mount up, which can intensify if we don’t do enough exercise.

“It’s very easy to get caught up in the fact you can’t do what you want to as you’re busy or because of the weather,” says Jonny Kibble, Vitality’s Head of Exercise and Physical Activity.

There are, however, a number of ways to get active during the festive period that won’t only just help relieve stress but may even bring the family together too.

“Something like heading out on a long walk in the countryside would be a great start,” says Jonny. “Playing games with family could even class as activity,” he adds.

“Twister is always good fun and gets everyone moving and mobile. Other ideas could be partaking in activities such as ice skating if there’s a rink close by or playing some doubles tennis, for example, if you have some courts nearby.”

Here are some tips to staying active in the winter months.

Be kind to yourself

“Taking time for yourself can feel impossible during the busiest time of the year,” says Samantha Snowdon, meditation teacher for mindful app and Vitality partner Headspace.

But the change of pace of Christmas can bring up unexpected emotions, adds Snowdon, along with the family dynamics, stirring up old patterns of behaviour.

“Taking time out for yourself can help you to adjust to this transition and recalibrate, as we’re often drawn inward to reflect and contemplate the year that’s been and the new year ahead.”

This could be a great opportunity for you to figure out what helps you slow down?

“Maybe it’s a visit to a museum, attending a live musical performance, going for a long walk or taking a luxurious bubble bath,” explains Snowdon.

“Whatever it is, add this me-time to your calendar and let your loved ones know that taking this time to relax will help you show up for them in all the ways you hope to during the holidays.”

After all, it doesn't have to be perfect. The most important thing is that everyone is together at the end of the day.

As a Vitality member, you could get a 12 month Headspace subscription on us.

Available with qualifying health insurance and life insurance plans.

Log into Member Zone for the details.

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