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5 tips for surviving a less than perfect Christmas

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

Is there a time of the year where we feel more collective pressure to have fun than Christmas? Not to mention the pressure to spend money, meet other people’s expectations, catch up with old friends and to be filled with festive cheer.

I believe more people dread Christmas than we realise. This could be due to childhood trauma and difficult family dynamics or simply because they are going through a difficult time and the stress of the holidays feels overwhelming.

There are, sadly, no quick fixes to festive stress, but here are 5 things you might want to try if you expect to have a less than perfect Christmas.

1. No family is 'picture perfect'

Films, TV shows, adverts… even Christmas cards portray images of the perfect family, sitting down and having a good time. Remind yourself that this is fictional and the ‘picture perfect’ family does not exist. In truth, more people struggle at this time of year than we realise. Try confiding in a trusted friend from outside your family. They too, may share stories of struggling at this time.

2. Decide one thing you want to do, and do it

We can feel huge amounts of pressure to get things right for other people over Christmas. Present buying, cooking, cleaning, travelling, it can feel like we're losing ourselves among our responsibilities to other people. Before the big day, decide one thing that you will do for yourself and make sure you do it. This can be something very small, like; take a 15-minute walk by yourself, watch your favourite Christmas film, stock up on a favourite food. No matter how tired or stressed you are, try and make time for your thing, because you have earned it.

3. Remember, other people are responsible for their feelings

It can be hard to navigate other people’s feelings, particularly when there is stress or alcohol or late nights involved. While we want everyone to have a good time we are not responsible for other people’s feelings. If you can help someone great, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of your emotional energy. Remember, save that energy for yourself and trust others to do the same.

4. Acknowledge little victories

When you have a good time, or your worst-case scenario doesn’t happen, take a moment to acknowledge it. You can even do a 35-second mindfulness exercise: unclench your jaw, relax your shoulders and breathe in for 4 seconds, out for 6 seconds. Do this three times while focusing on your little victory.

5. Have an ally

Ahead of the big day pick a friend from outside your family and ask them to be on standby, should you need to reach out. Discuss with them the best way to do this. You could arrange to talk on the phone at certain times or make sure they will have their phone near them for text message support. Stay connected to people who support you and can help get you through.

Whatever your Christmas looks like, I hope you find time to prioritise yourself, even if it's for a short time each day. Should things get too much, remember you can call the Samaritans (UK & IRE) 116 123 for free or email them at

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