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How to cope with Christmas

Christmas is a time of joy - but also a time when stresses and strains sharpen, warns Helena Coxshall

AT THE BEGINNING of every January, the switchboard at Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association (CABA) lights up with an intensity that is unmatched during any other month of the year. For some accountants, the holiday period is not one of festive joy but a time when their troubles seem to crystallise and the need for help from CABA becomes apparent.

Their challenges tend to fall into three main areas – money, relationships and stress – although often all three are involved because these issues seem to feed off each other and create a general downward spiral. However, much can be done if you act to tackle these problems in advance – and these hints and tips could help to make December a month to enjoy rather than endure.


The range of debt issues encountered at CABA is wide – from retired accountants attempting to survive on an inadequate pension to people earning six figure salaries who are simply living beyond their means. There are some themes common to all, though:

• Don’t keep on spending at Christmas

Accountants with money worries often tend to continue overspending wildly on Christmas, delaying facing their problems until the New Year. This approach is inadvertently supported by the fact that many debtors are slower to chase outstanding payments in December, so the immediate pressure on them can seem to disappear. However, if you keep spending, you are just escalating a mountain of debt.

• Work out your financial position and seek help

Ironically given their profession, accountants who contact CABA for debt help often have not worked out how much they owe, when and to whom. Often as part of a hectic lifestyle, they have been running away from the problem and simply know that they have reached a point where they need support. If you contact CABA, we can help you work out what your financial position really is, then start the process of constructing a debt plan that puts you on a firmer footing for the future. The best time to do this is not January, it is now. Once you take steps to start solving your problems, you will probably begin to feel better.


Accountants are not unique in finding that Christmas and the New Year are times when their relationships come under stress but this is a common problem that our team helps people deal with every year. Some simple steps can improve matters:

• Find out about expectations

Holiday stress is often caused by disappointed expectations – not material ones in the form of gifts but just that the whole event didn’t measure up. An easy way to avoid this is to find out what your partner and family want to do and to achieve over Christmas and the New Year, and then plan so that everyone’s needs can be considered. This will allow some realistic but effective compromises to be made.

• Plan ahead and make space

Most people have a lot of time pressures on them over Christmas, to visit and to accommodate family and friends. This can create demands ranging from undertaking long journeys on busy motorways to having to deal with a house full of people bursting at the seams. So, making a plan that looks fun and isn’t onerous can help to reduce stress. Accept that it is not possible to do everything that might be asked of you. It is also important to put some “time out” days in the diary when you and your family can simply kick back and relax with no pressures at all.

• Drink sensibly

At the root of many Christmas and New Years arguments is excessive alcohol consumption. Drinking within sensible bounds will mean that you and those around you will tend to behave in a much more tolerant and less fractious manner.


Stress is the number one issue that we deal with and December is possibly the most stressful month of all for accountants – with a flood of year-ends to complete plus the pressures of meeting all of the season’s family and social obligations. The result of this is that accountants often arrive at Christmas itself feeling frazzled and highly strung. Try these tips:

• Teach yourself basic relaxation skills

Knowing how to relax is a skill like any other. To tackle your stress, learn some basic relaxation techniques such as gentle stretching exercises of the neck and arm muscles and slow steady breathing. Recognise any perfectionist tendencies you have and try instead to work out what is reasonably possible.

• Make time to take some exercise

Regular exercise can reduce stress levels by burning off the excess adrenaline that stressful situations can often prompt the body to create. It also takes you out of your usual environment and may allow you to see things in a different, calmer perspective.

• Watch what you eat and drink

Try to reduce your intake of easily available ‘uppers’ and ‘downers’ such as coffee and alcohol. Small amounts may help in the short term but too much can easily create additional health problems and lead to a reliance that may, in itself, become an issue. Also, try to control how much festive food you eat – a healthy diet is something else that can help you to deal better with the effects of stress.

Contact can be made with CABA by calling 01788 556366. We are available 24 hours a day over the Christmas and New Year period

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