Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Beating Christmas stress and anxiety

The Christmas season is meant to be a time of joy, but for many people it can be a time of stress, anxiety, disappointment or loneliness. Christmas comes with high expectations of perfect, happy families enjoying luxurious celebrations and gifts, but not all of us are able to live up to these ideals.

For those who have recently lost a loved one, Christmas can intensify feelings of grief and sadness.

Some people experience feelings of isolation, financial pressures or increased family conflict that can make this a very stressful time of year.

However, there are some steps you can take to help manage stress and anxiety during the festive period.

If you're finding it difficult to manage your stress or anxiety try healthdirect's symptom checker to get advice on when to seek professional help.

Taking care of money worries

Is the festive season a burden on your wallet? Here are some tips for managing your Christmas finances and reducing your financial stress during the silly season:

  • Identify what’s causing you financial stress. Buying gifts and attending social get togethers can be expensive. Plan ways to reduce spending. For example, you could suggest to your family and friends that you only buy gifts for the kids, or organise a ‘Secret Santa’ among the adults. Set a budget and stick to it.
  • Find low cost ways to have fun. Don’t let money cut you off from your family and friends. If you can’t afford expensive restaurant meals or cocktail catch-ups, organise a BBQ in the park or a party at home where everyone brings a plate of food.

Dealing with family tension

Just because you’re related doesn’t mean your family members will all get along. Split families and unresolved conflicts may contribute to Christmas anxiety. Family and relationship problems can be a trigger for anxiety.

Here are some ideas for getting through:

  • Set realistic expectations. Christmas might not be the fabulous family reunion you hoped for. Plan how you will manage any feelings of anxiety or depression that may arise.
  • Put the kids first. If you have children, consider putting aside ongoing adult conflicts in their interest. Think about Christmas as a day for the kids and focus on enabling their happiness.
  • Drink in moderation. It may be tempting to drink too much during the festive period, but alcohol can contribute to stress, anxiety and depression. Alcohol may be a problem if you’re drinking to cope.
  • Avoid known triggers. If your family has a history of arguing over a certain topic, don’t bring it up.

Managing loneliness

There are ways to overcome loneliness if you find yourself isolated or grieving a loved one over the Christmas period.

  • Connect with friends and family. Even if you’re separated by distance, you can stay in touch with loved ones online or by phone.
  • Volunteer. Why not lend a hand to a local shelter over Christmas? There are lots of charities who need help. You'll connect with people and feel good about making a positive contribution.
  • Attend community events. Find out what’s on locally and get involved. Whether it’s Christmas carols or local markets, getting out and about can help relieve loneliness.
  • Make plans for Christmas Day. Develop a plan in advance to avoid feeling depressed or stressed on the day. Perhaps make yourself a special breakfast, buy yourself a gift in advance so that you can enjoy on the day, attend a local church service or take a stroll through the local park where you can watch families enjoying their Christmas presents.

Stay healthy to avoid Christmas anxiety

Recognising and changing behaviours that contribute to your stress will help you get through the Christmas period. Remember to stay healthy - eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep can help you cope with Christmas stress.

Need more help?

There are many free services available that offer mental health support. If your symptoms of stress, anxiety or depression are severe or long lasting, see a doctor who can make a diagnosis and arrange treatment.

If holiday season stress is getting too much for you and you need support call beyondblue, 1300 22 4636, or lifeline, 13 11 14, to talk things through. If you or someone you know, is at risk of hurting themselves or someone else, call triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: September 2014

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Found 40 results

Coping with the stress of Christmas | Families | ReachOut Australia

Christmas is meant to be a time of celebration, but the ‘season of goodwill’ can easily slip into ill-will and a tonne of stress.

Read more on website

Coping with the stress of Christmas | Families | ReachOut Australia

Christmas is meant to be a time of celebration, but the season of goodwill can easily slip into ill-will and a tonne of stress.

Read more on website

Plan to be with friends at Christmas – and don’t drink too much!

If you’re likely to be spending Christmas by yourself, without your family and you know it will be hard, think ahead and arrange to spend time with people you like – and make sure you don’t drink too much!

Read more on beyondblue website

Coping with holiday hassles

Free from school, homework and teachers? Its time to kick back and fight holiday boredom with our teen appropriate tips.

Read more on Kids Helpline website

Coping with the Holidays | Tips | Kids Helpline

The holiday season isnt always perfect; for some its tough and lonely. If youre having trouble coping with the holidays, were always here.

Read more on Kids Helpline website

Beating Stress and Depression in the Festive Season | myVMC

The festive season is a time of celebration, but for many Australians the festivities also mean extra pressures, like buying gifts, attending many social gatherings, staying away from home and/or entertaining family and friends. Coupled with great (and often unmet) expectations of what the festive season will bring, these pressure can build up and cause stress, which if ignored may lead to mental health disorders, particularly depression.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Avoiding Stress over the Festive Season | myVMC

The festive season is a time when many people are busy enjoying time with friends and family, however it can also be a stressful time for many people. Remember the year the in-laws arrived on the doorstep unannounced?

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Safety in the Festive Season | myVMC

Christmas is a time for fun and family. However, the traditions of Christmas, from the tree to the turkey, can create dangers which may put a damper on the festive spirit.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Exercise During the Festive Season | myVMC

Maintaining exercise or physical activity over the festive period is important for combating weight gain from overindulgence and minimising stress and the risk of cardiac events.

Read more on myVMC – Virtual Medical Centre website

Making the Most of Christmas | Family | KHL | 1800 55 1800

Making the most out of Christmas day can be hard when your family has other plans. It can be helpful to have some strategies up your sleeve.

Read more on Kids Helpline website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice and information you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo