Most people would agree that Christmas is a stressful time for one reason or another.  Even the best Christmases will be stressful, and it’s a question whether the stress is dystress or eustress, that is good stress or bad stress.

Eustress, or good stress is the rush of Christmas, the haste to have everything ready, the pleasure of seeing loved ones, friends and relatives, the receiving and giving of gifts, and the enjoyment of indulging in tasty food.  It is stress, but we make sure it’s good – we choose it.

Dystress, often caused by ourselves, is the frantic rushing around, leaving everything until the last minute, the impatience when things don’t go our way, or when things are not as perfect as we want.

Dystress is being with relatives who give you stress, like that sleazy uncle, or the cousin who sexually abused you when you were a child – and of course you didn’t say anything about it, but it’s in your face every Christmas.

Dystress is being without loved ones.  They have either passed on, and you miss them, or perhaps there has been a sudden and very distressing death.  No time to say goodbye, or right some perceived wrongs.  Your grief comes into sharp focus at times like this.

Dystress is having to put up with relatives or friends getting drunk or perhaps even violent.  The emergency departments fill up at this time of the year with alcohol-related incidents.

Dystress is being alone, or having no-one special to share Christmas with.  It’s just another day like all the rest of the days.  For many in this situation it may mean that they decide they cannot cope, and admit themselves to a hospital, or worse still contemplate suicide.

Dystress is realising that you have overspent your budget and that the ones you have given gifts to do not appreciate or even want them.

Christmas is a time when we need to remember, and be very grateful for the ones who pick up the pieces.  The emergency services, hospital workers, people who care for others who are alone, and provide food, and gifts, the people who take in others who don’t have family, who donate to others here and overseas, so that their lot is eased.

Christmas is not about you, and if you can unhook yourself from that notion, then Christmas will be a lot less stressful.

Here are some tips.

A bit late I know, but don’t take on too much.  Agreeing to cater for 30 people will be stressful unless you are a wiz at doing this sort of thing, and enjoy it as well.  Get some help if you need to.

Stick to your budget, remember it’s the thought that matters with a gift.

Say no if you don’t want to attend a family gathering where there will be acute stress.  It’s not the end of the world.  Make alternative arrangements for yourself.  Or invite a friend to come for support.

If you have recently suddenly lost a loved one, just say “no” to Christmas for this year.  Everything will be raw and strange, and you just need quiet at this time of grief, and that’s OK.

Get help early if you are feeling fragile about anything, and be aware that you may not be able to access the usual services around Christmas.

Don’t fuss about detail, or sweat the small stuff.  This is no time to demand perfection.

Avoid excess alcohol and food – you will feel better for it.

Think up as many ways as you can to turn every part of Christmas into Eustress, and enjoy it.

Happy Christmas!


© Kathleen Crawford 2018 Strategies for a Better Life.