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Why Christmas can make you feel stressed and anxious

16 November 2023

Community services Mental health
Christmas can be a difficult time as some face high expectations from family and work, and this year cost of living is also adding to the stress. Mental health clinician Natalie Wo shares practical tips on how to cope with mixed emotions during the festive season.

Why do some people feel stressed and anxious during Christmas?

For some, Christmas can be a difficult time for a variety of reasons:

  • Christmas is typically a time when families come together. In families with difficult relationship dynamics, the holiday period can be hard as these dynamics – sometimes stemming back from as early as childhood – come to life again.
  • For others, the holiday season can be marred by painful memories, particularly for those who grew up in homes where neglect or abuse occurred.
  • Where people have experienced loss of a loved one, the holiday period can be a reminder for those left behind.
  • Christmas can be a lonely time for some - people may not be able to be with family and friends for many reasons.
  • The holiday period can also be stressful financially for families. Buying presents, taking time away from work, and entertaining family and friends, can all be financially taxing.

Coping strategies 

If you or a loved one are struggling emotionally this Christmas, consider the following coping strategies to make the holiday period more manageable:

  • Take time for yourself (quiet time away from others).
  • Balance family obligations with putting yourself first and doing things that are important and meaningful for you.
  • Recognise when old family dynamics are being acted out. Remember that you don’t need to play your old role in the dynamic.
  • Spend a greater portion of time with people you enjoy.
  • Enjoy food and alcohol in moderation.
  • Spend within your means - remember that love is more important than material things - it really is the thought that counts.
  • The holiday period is a time of celebration and it is okay to celebrate, but remember to balance life out and do all things in moderation.
  • Consider using online technology to catch up with loved ones and avoid feelings of loneliness. Booking a time will ensure you don’t get missed in the busy period.


If you need urgent support during this time, please contact your GP, your local hospital emergency department or the following helplines:

Lifeline (24 hours/seven days a week)
Tel: 13 11 14

Beyondblue (24 hours/seven days a week)
Tel: 1300 224 636

Mensline (24 hours/seven days a week)
Tel: 1300 789 978

Headshot of Natalie Wo
Natalie Wo - Mental Health Clinician

Natalie Wo is an occupational therapist specialising in mental health at Head to Health in Perth. She has a Bachelor of Arts (Psychology) and Masters in Occupational Therapy Practice.

Natalie started her career as an occupational therapist working with NDIS participants and supporting them to overcome psychosocial challenges. She is now a case manager at Midland Head to Health and is passionate about sharing with her clients practical strategies to address their mental health concerns and improve their health and wellbeing.