How to be naughty and nice: why is Christmas often stressful and sexless?

Now that we’ve all been dragged back to reality, it’s time to reflect on the haze that are the holidays. The haze I’m referring to is characterised by several signs, including: not knowing what day of the week it is, going home and sleeping with your ex, drinking excessive alcohol, family reunions, extra spending and gift giving, and eating until comatose. While I’m a huge fan of the holidays, I am not fond of the stress that sometimes comes with it.

Amongst other disclaimers, that should be asterisk-marked in the holiday package terms and conditions, is the fact that this supposedly really romantic time of year can easily become really stressful. Those in some sort of romantic relationship, can go in with good intentions but end up stressed, separated, or just not feeling it overall. Why does this time of year not make some of us as horny as it should? Perhaps we get performance anxiety from the pressure, travel, family visits. Some (but not all) who are single may end up feeling miserable about being alone and ashamed for just wanting meaningless sex. It wasn’t even a problem until your grandma asked if you’re still single, and then ‘why?’. That’s probably why it’s been found that 15.5% of people have increased stress levels after family holiday 1. There is already enough underlying pressure surrounding the holidays, how are we adding to it?

This pressure exists because of the expectations of everything being perfect. This tends to bring up a myriad of problems. According to Dr. Rodino2 these issues can be to do with: family, stress and anxiety, eating disorders, sobriety, self-esteem, competency–the list goes on. Things like finances and relationships obviously also come into play here. She then goes on to say: “There’s this idea that it’s supposed to be perfect, and if it’s not, the person asks, ‘What’s wrong with me?’”.

It is important to get your ducks in a row before the holidays, so you aren’t stressed about how to prepare the roast later. By this i mean that in order to avoid these stressors you could be proactive in knowing what your priorities are in advance. Don’t write a list or anything, but it is important to be at peace with the way you enter into the holidays, so that you don’t make a mess of the whole situation. Studies 3 have found that positive effects (i.e. feeling awesome and healthy) only persist when we do things on holiday in which we experience feelings of savouring and control, relaxation, and pleasure. times where we can’t think straight, we should look to experts for some assistance.

Studies have found that couples are more likely to separate during or after stressful periods of time3. If you are in a partnership, honour your differences. Not just time difference if you are both travelling, but also differences in traditions, individual needs, and making time for your respective friends and family. Adjust your expectations, and relax.

Generally, the evidence here supports the fact that you just need to give yourself a break to do whatever you want to do–whether you are single or not. If you do manage to see your partner, that’s great, but putting pressure on the situation and stressing out about when to see each other isn’t going to get anyone in the mood. Out of personal experience, putting too much strain on yourself during the holidays (or any stressful period for that matter) not only guarantees that you will ruin the holidays for yourself and those around you, but also that you will probably return to university or work exhausted and ill. If you generally are a sexually active single, or are in a stable, loving relationship, or in any other situation that works perfectly for you, don’t let the holidays change anything about that!




1: Backer, E. & Schanzel, H. (2013). Family Holidays – Vacation or Obli-cation? Tourism Recreation Research, 38(2), 159-173.
2: Rodino, E. (2015, April 24). Category: Holiday Blues Articles.
3: de Bloom, J., Guerts, SAE., & Kompier, MAJ. (2013). Vacation (after-) effects on employee health and well-being, and the role of vacation activities, experiences and sleep. Journal of Happiness Studies, 14(2), 613- 633.
4: Gabb, J., Klett-Davies, M., Fink, J., & Thomae, M. (2018). Enduring Love? Couple Relationships in the 21st Century: Research, Policy, Practice.

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