• Fiona Hewkin Counselling

Great Expectations – or Christmas, how to absolutely survive it!

Updated: May 7


Christmas decorations


How to relieve stress and anxiety at Christmas


Some people absolutely love Christmas, for others it can be really difficult. For every person humming jingle bells there could be another experiencing loss, bereavement, and heartache. So how do we relieve stress and anxiety?


We all have that one friend. You know, the one who loves Christmas, and has bits of sliced orange drying on her windowsill. These bits of orange will be lovingly made into arty decorations that smell lovely. I tried that once and the orange went mouldy because I forgot about them! She also manages to do creative things with elves on shelves. For the rest of us Christmas at best can feel like a lot of work at worst it can be stressful and feel like a marathon slog.


‘Tis the season to be jolly, apparently. Christmas is full of expectations like this and so often it is these expectations that cause us the most problems. We expect everyone to be happy, to have a good time, to be nice to each other. Is that even realistic? I always wanted my family Christmas to look like the Waltons, it rarely worked, (if you are under 40 go Google The Waltons). Now could be a good time to ask yourself if your expectations are realistic. Are they even your expectations or are they being imposed by others?

Let’s take a look at some expectations and how to manage them:


Everyone needs to have a good time.

So, if you are hosting a get together your responsibility is to provide the food and the venue. That is it! Whether people have a good time or not is not in your control. That’s their stuff. Realising this was a game changer for me, relieving stress and anxiety, leaving me free to enjoy myself.


I need to do loads of cooking

If you couldn’t make pastry last year, the chances are you still can’t. Buy the mince pies and the cheesy nibbles. If you’re not Delia Smith don’t try and cook a goose stuffed with a chicken that’s stuffed with a pigeon, just make sure the turkey is cooked all the way through and try not to poison people. Let friends and relations bring dessert.


This needs to be the best Christmas EVER

Why? Feed people and let them get on with it. See both points above.


It needs to be perfect

Does it really? Some of our family’s best memories are of when it didn’t go to plan. The year I left the pigs-in-blankets in the oven and they came out like bullets still makes my kids laugh. They used them as ammunition and threw them at each other in the garden. The ability to laugh at ourselves is pretty useful. Although I still can’t see the funny side of my mother in law turning up an hour late then moaning that the parsnips were burnt, maybe I will get there eventually.


Booze free Christmas?

If you are worried about drunk behaviour this year, if you have a drink problem or live with someone who does, then Christmas can produce lots of anxiety. My childhood Christmas memories are coloured by drunken arguments. Consider a booze free holiday. It can be done. We did it one year. Yes, it annoyed the person who wanted to drink but nobody got drunk and punched anyone. I’m taking that as a win. That’s lowered expectations right there.


Self Care - Your Mental Health Matters!

If you are busy doing all the Christmas prep take time for some self-care. Your mental health is important! You are no use to anyone if you slide into the big day exhausted and resentful. Here are a few things you could do:

· Stop trying to keep everyone happy. Other people’s feelings are their responsibility

· Have boundaries and enforce them (see the blog about monkeys!)

· Switch off – leave the work emails alone for three days

· Pace yourself

· Get some exercise

· Drink lots of water

· Sleep

Is mental health important for Christmas? Hell yes! Here’s to surviving Christmas and maybe even enjoying it. A wise friend once told me it’s just another day with tinsel on it.