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What are the biggest causes of Christmas stress?

Good food, gifts, and spending time with our loved ones — these are just some of the ingredients that make Christmas the “most wonderful time of the year.” But it is not without its stresses; a new poll reveals the factors that are most likely to help and hinder our mental well-being this festive season.

We love Christmas here at Medical News Today. For the past 4 weeks, the office has been full of excitable chatter about festive plans, and, more importantly, Michael Bublé’s Christmas album has been dominating the speaker.

When I asked my colleagues what they love most about the festive season, there was a common theme: spending time with family.

And it seems that this is a common theme beyond the scope of the MNT office. In a new poll from the United Kingdom’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), 84 percent of 2,000 respondents said that spending time with family improved their mental well-being at Christmas.

Conversely, it’s our family that seems to be the biggest source of Christmas stress, with 76 percent of respondents reporting that family arguments have the worst impact on their mental well-being during the festive season.

But the stresses don’t end there.

Sickness and hangovers
You’ve made lots of plans for the festive season — from the office party to your family get-together. Then it strikes: the dreaded flu. It’s no wonder that getting sick comes in as the second biggest stressor at Christmas, according to the RSPH poll.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that December has been the peak month for flu activity for seven seasons between 1982–1983 and 2015–2016.

This December has already seen flu activity at levels above the national baseline, so many of us will be waving goodbye to our festive celebrations in favor of our bed and a cup of hot lemon and honey.

However, if you’re thinking about having some alcohol to ease your sore throat, make sure not to drink too much; having a hangover is the third most common burden on mental well-being at Christmas.

Time off work best for well-being
Of course, there are factors — aside from spending time with family — that can improve our mental well-being during the festivities.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, having time off work is considered the most beneficial, providing us with the time to relax and look forward to the coming year.

Spending time with friends, giving gifts, and going for a walk on Christmas Day are also high on the list of things that can help to beat mental stress at this busy time of year.

According to Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the RSPH, embracing these favorable factors may help us to combat stress this Christmas.

“While Christmas is an enjoyable time for many people, it is not without its stresses and taking care of your mental well-being is as important as ever. […] So this Christmas, be sure to focus on what makes you feel good — and try to minimize those things you know make you feel bad.”

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