Christmas can be a time of great stress and anxiety. Here is how to manage the festive season.

Therapy at Christmas: ‘Tis the season to get some help.

So Halloween and Bonfire Night are over. Now comes the big one. The C word. Christmas. A celebration, yes, for many, but for others, Christmas is a time of unattainable expectations, fraught family dynamics, financial strain and the idea of having to be ‘happy’, when inside you just want the madness to stop.

Once Christmas was five days long. Now it creeps into three or four weeks. Some families ask months ahead, “What are you doing for Christmas?” as they organise their social calendar and crank up the internal panic.

For many families Christmas week is spent on the road, travelling up and down motorways visiting divorced parents, grandparents, in-laws and others who want special seasonal contact.

It is a time of unrelenting emotional toll.

In my work, I have had clients who find Christmas the most painful and lonely time of the year. They have no one to visit and no one to visit them. Everyone else’s seasonal cheer only serves to make their situation more acutely observed.

Local heroes

I love it that in my town, Wimbledon, The Alexandra pub at the bottom of Wimbledon Hill, not only holds ‘Meet Up Mondays’ for those looking for company, but offers a free Christmas dinner in the pub for their community.

It is an act of such love and unselfishness, that locals treat them as real life heroes.

Women make Christmas happen

It is said that without women there would be no Christmas. Women make the magic happen. But the toll can be extensive: exhaustion, resentment, guilt, just to try and give friends and family the perfect meal, the perfect gifts, the perfect tree and home. The perfect Disney/Dickens Christmas.

Christmas counselling

What about the family where one partner wants Christmas to be so perfect they can play ‘mine host’ and throw open the doors for constant parties, to be a mine host,  no matter the toll  on others. I have helped clients find the inner resources to help communicate  what they are willing to do and not do. Communication is the key – much better than simmering rage in the kitchen, topped off with a massive family row and tears. (“You’ve ruined Christmas!)

We can get through it – even find bits to enjoy.

Rewrite your expectations

Maybe now is a good time to manage those expectations. All those should ofs, could haves, must dos. Work out how you want to play Christmas. How you can cope with uncomfortable social situations or family gatherings. Maybe this year it is time to rewrite what makes a good Christmas break for you.

I haven’t got round to offering gift vouchers for therapy at Christmas counselling. Maybe I should. I do know though, that January is a therapist’s busiest time of the year… Better prevention in the run up, than miserable recriminations afterwards.


If you would like to contact me for a free half hour phone consultation, to see if we could work with each other, click here