Managing festive stress

With December about to begin, Alan Price from BrightHR has some tips on how to keep calm over the Christmas period.

Man in red sweater and glasses holding present while girl in cream jumper climbs on his back with Christmas tree in the background


Christmas and the holiday season can be a stressful time for working parents. As rewarding and restful as the season can be, it’s also a hectic time of year in both your professional and personal life that can at times put a strain on your mental wellbeing.

With workloads piling up, finances getting tight, family coming to stay, and school holidays impacting childcare arrangements – it’s safe to say Christmas comes with a few extra stressors.

So, here are some tips for managing stress and ensuring you have a restful break.

1) Switch off until January – if you can!

Unless you work in an industry where you must be available or reachable at all hours, it’s best to take a break from your work emails.

Switching off on holiday is hard, especially if you manage a team or work in an industry where a full Christmas shutdown isn’t feasible. But taking a couple of days over the Christmas period to forget about work will mean you’re far more productive and refreshed when you get back to it in January.

2) Set boundaries

As much as the festive season is for giving and reflecting, we all know it can get a little indulgent.There can be a fine line between enjoying yourself and overdoing it to the point where eating unhealthy food and drinking in excess starts to take a toll on your mental health.

Remember to get outside, exercise when you can, and take small breaks and days off from drinking if it starts to alter your mood.

Without a doubt, it’s important to enjoy yourself and the season – but make sure you’re looking after yourself as well as others.

Christmas parties and the pressure to be ‘on’ all the time can be draining for our social batteries, especially during a holiday that revolves around being social and spending time with family. Don’t be afraid to set some social boundaries and take a couple of hours to yourself to recharge and remember: it’s not selfish to put self-care first.

3) Plan ahead

When it comes to Christmas, planning ahead of time in terms of budget can take the stress out of the last-minute Christmas shopping rush.

It’s an expensive time of year, especially as the cost of living continues to hit households hard, but setting aside some money throughout the year can help you to feel more in control.

If you have the days to spare, take some annual leave to work through your to-do list. This is advisable instead of fitting it into your work schedule and balancing tasks on your lunch break or after work.

On top of your work schedule, Christmas can feel like a wave of additional duties and tasks you need to plough through before you can relax.

Set time aside outside of work to properly chip away at some of your festive preparation. That way you won’t feel like you’re dropping the ball on decking the halls or completing your work tasks.

4) Balance tradition with routine

Some people find comfort in routine and Christmas is traditionally a time when routine goes out the window. If this is something that’s important to you try to fit in as many of your usual activities as possible, whether that’s a morning walk or run or just taking 10 minutes in the morning to do something you enjoy doing.

This can help you avoid feeling too thrown off. Alternatively, you can ease into the Christmas spirit by gradually adding new activities to your schedule, rather than jumping in all at once.

5) Speak to friends and colleagues

Not everyone has the same experience of Christmas, but most people have a pretty good understanding of the areas where the season can get a bit overwhelming.

Having a chat with a friend or colleague about the stress you might be feeling about the festive period can help you to realise you’re not alone in feeling that way. Opening up and getting it off your chest can often feel like lifting a weight off.

And if you’re really feeling the pressure or stress in the run-up to Christmas and it starts to affect your job, speak to your employer or manager about your potential options, which might include wellbeing support or an impartial HR representative you can speak with. They may be able to help you with suggestions to minimise your stress at work such as flexible working to accommodate changing childcare arrangements.

6) Take the pressure off

Sometimes in our lives, the biggest enemy to switching off can be the pressure we put on ourselves to relax and enjoy something – which, counter-productively can get in the way of us relaxing and enjoying something!

Take the pressure off yourself and your loved ones to have a perfect Christmas or holiday season – it doesn’t exist! Things are inevitably going to go wrong somewhere in the planning or bickering with family members. And that’s OK.

Give yourself a break and focus on recharging for the new year. That way you’ll come back to work ready and prepared for whatever 2024 has in store.

*Alan Price is CEO of BrightHR.

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