The following informative article about coping with separation and divorce at Christmas was published by Relationships Australia www.relationships.org.au
For some people, Christmas can be the most stressful time of the year. People can feel increased financial pressure from the costs of buying gifts, entertaining and holidays, and there can be increased strain from spending time with family members. For those people with complex family situations, such as separated families, Christmas time can present even greater challenges. Stress, anxiety and depression are common feelings over the holiday period.
There are some practical things you can do to prevent stress at Christmas
- If someone close to you has recently died or you are unable to be with your family and friends, acknowledge your feelings. It’s normal to feel sadness and grief and you can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
- If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
- Sometimes expectations around family gatherings may make you uncomfortable or stressed. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones.
- Try to accept family members and friends as they are. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion and be understanding if others get upset when something goes awry. People under stress often ‘self-medicate’ with alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs. Try to remember that drugs can’t solve problems or alleviate stress in the long term.
- Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend and then stick to your budget. If you have a large circle of extended family or friends to buy gifts for you might be able to suggest a change in the way your family and friends give presents. For example:
- Buy presents only for the children.
- Have a Kris Kringle, where everyone draws a name out of a hat and buys a present only for that person.
- Set a limit on the cost of presents for each person
- Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. If you plan your menus and activities you may avoid the stress associated with last-minute or forgotten tasks.
- Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Most friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
- Don’t abandon healthy habits. Overindulgence can add to your stress and guilt. Try these suggestions:
- Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks.
- Get plenty of sleep and regular exercise.
- Take time out for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm. Some options may include:
- Taking a walk at night and stargazing.
- Listening to soothing music.
- Getting a massage.
- Reading a book.
Where to get help with separation and divorce at Christmas
If you need professional medical help, talk to your doctor or your local community health center
If you would like to talk to someone immediately, you can contact:
- Lifeline – a free crisis telephone counselling service www.lifeline.org.au or call 13 11 14
- Monoline Australia – a counselling service and resources for men in family crisis www.mensline.org.au or call 1300 78 99 78
- Family Relationships Online www.familyrelationships.gov.au
- Family Relationships Advice Line 1300 364 277
If you feel anxious or depressed, information and resources are available at www.beyondblue.org.au
If you are a young person, or the parent or career of a young person with mental health problems, support is available at www.headspace.org.au
If you are caring for someone you may find useful information and resources at www.carersaustralia.com.au
If you need help with budgeting, you can find a financial counsellor in your local area by accessing
You can also talk to a phone financial counsellor from anywhere in Australia by ringing 1800 007 007 (minimum opening hours are 9.30 am – 4.30 pm Monday to Friday).
If you are having ongoing conflict or disagreements with your children, siblings, parents or extended family, you can seek the professional assistance of a counsellor or mediator, for example see:
There are many volunteering opportunities in Australia and the websites below can give you some ideas about the various ways you can broaden your social networks and contribute to your community:
If you live near others who are likely to feel isolated, lonely or vulnerable around Christmas, check in with them, and perhaps include them in your own festivities. For information and ideas about what other people do for their neighbors see the Neighbor day website, Australia’s annual celebration of community: