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Not so Merry Christmas

Not so Merry Christmas

img des: a gingerbread man with a sad face

During Christmastime, you may feel like every aspect of your life should feel merry and bright,  from your attitude to your home décor, but the holiday season also comes with a lot of stress, and doesn’t feel jolly for everyone. 

Those working in retail and service jobs feel the strain of having busier, longer shifts where they have to help frazzled, emotional patrons.  

Other jobs may be busy with year-end deadlines and the push to complete projects before things close down for the holidays.  

Financial obligations to purchase gifts, food, decorations and other costs associated with the holiday season can add extra strain on a household. 

Social expectations can create a lot of stress for people at this time of year, as well. With frequent social gatherings and familial obligations, many people don’t get as much downtime as they need after a busy workweek.  

There’s an extra emphasis on spending time with extended family, creating more stress if they struggle to get along. For others, this can bring up feelings of sadness and grief because of estrangement or a lost loved one.  

For people who don’t have much or any family, this emphasis can make them feel lonely and depressed.  

Members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community are at a higher risk of experiencing anxiety and loneliness during the holidays because many have unsupportive families. 

Those who celebrate other cultural and religious holidays besides Christmas can sometimes feel invisible to their neighbors and coworkers.  

People who have family who live far away may also struggle with increased homesickness during the holidays. 

These are just a few examples of the emotions that the holiday season can bring. 

Coping with Christmas Challenges 

It’s okay to put yourself first.

With Christmas being the season of giving, the pressure to overextend yourself, whether it be financially, socially, or mentally, is heightened during the holidays. However, remember that your health and sanity is more valuable than any Christmastime tradition. You are allowed to acknowledge and honour your feelings. 

Taking care of yourself is the best give you can give yourself. A great start is to practice saying ‘no’ without guilt. Set boundaries and allow yourself to be not so merry this Christmas. If you’re not full of Christmas spirit all the time, that doesn’t automatically make you a grinch. Skip on things that hurt your mental health. 

Decline invitations to parties when you don’t have the energy to attend.  

Help yourself out by creating and sticking to a holiday spending budget.  

Allow yourself to grieve for family members, traditions, and experiences lost.  

Keep things simple. Your home doesn’t need to look like something you saw on Pinterest and your holiday celebrations don’t have to rival Hallmark.  

If you’re feeling lonely this holiday season, reach out to friends or look to get involved in your community.  

If you have a hard time with boundaries, especially with your extended family, practice a few phrases ahead of gatherings that you can use to shut down conversation topics that make you uncomfortable. If spending time with extended family is stressful for you, make sure you also make time to see people who make you feel happy to be yourself.  

In the busyness and indulgences of the holiday season, make sure you don’t abandon the regular habits that serve you. Self-care is always important, especially during times when you might be experiencing more stress than usual. Do your best to ensure you eat nutritious food, stay hydrated, get enough sleep, and stay active. Also give yourself space for downtime. Set aside time for yourself. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help from friends and family, or a professional should you need it.  

Remember, you can text or call Distress Centre if you are struggling: 403-266-4357

Self-care is the most important gift you can give yourself, no matter the time of year. Learn how to create a personalized self-care plan.


Christmas isn’t merry for everyone. Some of us are just trying to get through the tumultuous month of December …and that’s okay! There are ways to cope with the challenges Christmas brings. The main things are to take care of yourself, know you can say ‘no’ to things, and reach out when you need help.  

In the spirit of respect, reciprocity and truth, Distress Centre Calgary would like to honour and acknowledge Moh’kinsstis, and the traditional Treaty 7 territory and oral practices of the Blackfoot confederacy: Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, as well as the Îyâxe Nakoda and Tsuut’ina nations. We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Métis homeland. Finally, we acknowledge all Nations – Indigenous and non – who live, work and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.