For some, Christmas isn’t merry. Here are some ways to handle loneliness and stress

Many people reported on cutting down on their Christmas plans or gift giving because of financial stress. Photo: Getty

Many people reported on cutting down on their Christmas plans or gift giving because of financial stress. Photo: Getty Photo: Getty

Family dynamics and money troubles can add to the already stressful Christmas period, but a psychologist has weighed in on the best ways to navigate those tricky situations.

Brooke Smith, a psychologist at Medical on Miami, said it is completely reasonable for people to be stressed during the holiday period.

“It can be from all sorts of factors, from the increased financial pressure to feelings coming up if you don’t have family,” she said.

“Also that concentrated amount of time back in the old family dynamics is a really big thing for a lot of people.”

According to Relationships Australia, Christmas is considered one of the six most stressful life events, alongside divorce, moving house and changing jobs.

Smith said she encourages people to meet everything with a sense of compassion for themselves.

“If you’re with your family — most of my work is to do with family dynamics — I encourage people to make sure they’re taking the time out to remind themselves that it’s temporary,” she said

“Allow yourself to say no to particular things and have some good boundaries around what is good and what’s not.”

Santa, sleigh bells and stress

The financial commitment often involved in Christmas can put stress on people, with the cost of presents, hosting dinners and outings quickly stacking up.

“Everyone is feeling the pinch, even more so now,” Smith said.

“With all the other things that go on at Christmas time with family pressures, that financial part would definitely be tipping people over.”

Aussie families have already signalled they are planning to cut back ahead of Christmas, with 65 per cent reporting being worried about the cost of living and making changes in response.

Smith said gift-giving and the expectations around it can also contribute to stress.

“In all of those interpersonal stresses where we have conflicts and values, it’s really important to be clear to yourself about what your values are,” she said.

“Remind yourself why you may or may not want to do something and allow yourself to stand behind those values.”

You are allowed to opt out

Australians don’t always have the best relationship with alcohol and Christmas is the booziest time of the year, which can create further issues.

Pregnancy Beer

Christmas can be a stressful time before alcohol is added in the mix. Photo: Getty

December and January are also some of the busiest times of the year for family violence support services, and Smith said if somebody finds themselves in a toxic family dynamic, they are able to say no.

“You are allowed to opt-out,” she said.

“One of the beautiful things about being an adult is that other adults can handle their own emotions, we’re only responsible, really, for keeping ours in check.”

Smith said if family tensions do come to the forefront, there are strategies people can use.

“Maybe it’s limiting to staying three hours or cutting down your usual visit from two weeks to three days,” Smith said.

“It could be making sure that you have in your head the topics you’re going to be okay with talking about and what you’re not.”

Another strategy, according to Brooke, is ensuring there are safe friends and family to debrief and talk to about any issues.

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