Experts in the Media

Donna Stambulich – Body+Soul

Clinical Psychologist

Already exhausted? It might be ‘festive fatigue’

Yes, it’s a real thing.

While it is meant to be the most wonderful time of year, many of us are limping into the holidays. Sound familiar? According to psychologist Donna Stambulich, it is possible to lower your stress levels enough to enjoy the festive season.

The silly season is in full swing, and with it comes all of the stress and festive fatigue that we’ve come to expect from the lead-up to Christmas.

Whether that stress is financial, because you’re exhausted after a big work year and too many social commitments or you’ve got family or personal issues going on, the start of December is a great time to stop and re-set your expectations of yourself and others, to help manage your stress levels and anxiety this festive season.

In recent tumultuous years, we’ve all learned the importance of resetting our expectations, and it’s particularly pertinent at Christmas time.

The festive season often amplifies financial strain, family conflicts, and loneliness, and often exacerbates stress for those struggling with anxiety and depression.

Research indicates a concerning uptick of up to 20 per cent in domestic incident reports during the Christmas and New Year period, which can be attributed to increased alcohol consumption, stress, and more frequent family gatherings.

The societal pressure to participate in social events and meet certain standards can be particularly overwhelming for those with mental health conditions.

This stress is compounded by personal expectations about gift-giving and the apprehension of potentially contentious family reunions.

Follow these strategies to help maintain your mental wellbeing during this time.

Be kind to yourself and others

As Christmas and the New Year approaches, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, especially after a year marked by significant change and uncertainty.

It’s crucial to practice kindness towards yourself and others during your festive preparations. Adjusting your expectations can alleviate stress, paving the way for a mentally healthier holiday season.

Keep things in perspective

Resist the urge to create the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Instead, focus on what’s financially feasible and emotionally fulfilling. Engage in meaningful actions for others and choose to spend time with supportive people.

Remember, it’s okay to decline activities that you’d normally do out of obligation or tradition. Minimising stressors can maximise your ability to relax and enjoy the holiday.

Be mindful and live in the moment

Avoid fixating on the future or dwelling on the past. Concentrate on the present and cherish the joy in small moments. Mindfulness is a powerful tool for aligning your mental, emotional, and physical states, fostering improved mental health.

Manage conflict

When navigating tensions among family and friends, don’t feel compelled to merely endure it. Consider dividing up your Christmas celebrations to prevent conflicts, such as spending Christmas Eve with one set of relatives and Christmas Day with another.

Or organise activities such as pool parties, backyard cricket, or board game tournaments to engage and distract attendees and take away the formalities of lunch and dinner.

Moderate alcohol intake

To maintain your wellbeing throughout the festive season, moderate your alcohol intake, nourish your body well, and keep physically active. While alcohol might seem like a stress reliever, it’s also a depressant that can worsen any anxiety and stress you’ve been struggling with this year.

Choosing healthier coping mechanisms is key to enjoying a mentally balanced festive period.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself first, make sure that you’re getting adequate rest and hopefully you’ll greet January feeling rested, refreshed and ready for 2024.