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  • Writer's pictureCarly Webb

Thriving This Festive Season: Managing Stress and Making Memories

The festive period, while often depicted as a time of joy and celebration, can bring its fair share of challenges. For many, the pressure to create perfect moments, coupled with the expectations of spending extended periods with family, can lead to feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, stress, and even burnout. In this guide, I'll introduce some practical strategies to help you thrive during the holidays - with a clear focus on self-care, effective communication, and nurturing relationships.

A young family celebrating Christmas by decorating a tree. The father is holding the daughter up to place a star on the top.

1. Take care of your own needs: Amidst the hustle and bustle, remember that you can't pour from an empty cup - so your wellbeing is just as important as those around you. Have a think about what helps you when you're feeling overwhelmed, then schedule in moments for you to meet those needs. Perhaps you want to take the odd quiet walk, sneak in a few chapters of your favourite book before getting up, or practicing mindfulness and/or meditation. Making a little time for your own self-care will help reduce any feelings of anxiety while also replenishing your energy for the festivities. It also sets a good example to those around you - your children perhaps - who might benefit from small time-outs to help them reset when feeling overstimulated.

2. Be realistic with your expectations: Stress during the holidays often stems from unrealistic expectations and the inevitable disappointment that follows. Reflect on what truly matters to you and your loved ones this Christmas. Do you need to cook the perfect meal, or is a lovely meal with those you care about okay too? Set realistic goals and boundaries, understanding that perfection is not the goal, but quality time is. Embrace the imperfections, and allow room for spontaneity and playfulness. By trying to control every element to perfection, you'll inevitably be disappointed in yourself, and your loved ones will miss out on seeing you at your best - when you're relaxed, happy, at ease and able to smile and laugh with them.

3. Recognise when you're struggling: Keep an eye on signs of burnout, such as fatigue, irritability, and a sense of detachment to those around you and the things you usually love. If you notice these signs, take a step back, breathe and reassess your commitments. It's okay to say no to prioritise your mental health, or to ask others to step in and help.

4. Try to communicate more clearly: Effective communication is key, especially when spending extended time with family and those you may not see as often. Create an open environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their feelings, and lead the way by doing the same yourself. Honest communication fosters understanding and reduces the risk of misunderstandings. If you're feeling too tired to play a board game - you can say exactly that - it doesn't need to sound unkind. Something like "Thanks for suggesting it! I'm too tired right now to enjoy it, but go ahead and play without me - I'm very happy watching you all." By communicating kindly but effectively, you can ensure your needs are met without harming anyone else. You also allow others to do the same - ensuring your friends and family feel relaxed and at ease with one another, and arguments are less likely to occur.

5. Nurture relationships mindfully: While family gatherings can be wonderful, they can also be incredibly challenging. Mindfully nurture your relationships by choosing to focus on the positive interactions, and let go of some of the more negative ones. Seek common ground, celebrate shared memories, and be patient with differences. If conflicts arise, approach them with empathy and a willingness to understand. Remember why you're meeting up this festive season - keep in mind that you want to create wonderful memories, not revisit old wounds. If there are deeper problems within your family, consider exploring them in therapy during the year, so next Christmas may feel a little lighter.

A family photo album being held open

The festive season is about connection and shared moments, not perfection. By prioritising your own wellbeing, managing expectations, recognising the signs of burnout, enhancing your communication skills, and mindfully nurturing relationships, you can navigate the holidays with a sense of balance and ease.

For more insights on managing stress, mental health and family dynamics, keep an eye on our blog at and sign up to our newsletter.

On behalf of all of us at Vitus Wellbeing, we wish you a wonderful Christmas and an exciting New Year!

Carly x

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