This next blog in this series of one thing for wellbeing is about navigating Christmas. Actually, this doesn’t just apply to Christmas, but any event or date on your calendar where you feel the weight of expectation about how you should behave or do things.
This is going to be a short blog, but felt it important to acknowledge the issue at this time of year.
What might bring pressure at Christmas?
- Finance – whether you have children in your family, buy for a large number of people, or simply feel that it’s not Christmas without a huge credit card bill.
- Major change in circumstances such as family split, loss of income.
- Fitting in – need to belong. Everyone else is going wild about Christmas, so you have to too, yes? Out partying, dressing up, drinking and eating a lot.
- Tradition – maybe you have a belief that Christmas has to be done a certain way.
- Family always done it this way, so there’s an expectation that you’ll simply continue with your own family.
- Social expectation – you can’t really get away from Christmas (from about October) and it’s clear that if you’re not having a fabulous time with friends and family, you’re not, well, doing it properly.
- Family disagreements. Often, the pressure of Christmas can highlight where tensions have been.
- Past memories – if you’re previous Christmases haven’t lived up to expectation, you’ve felt scared or disappointed, then this can haunt you. Those memories of Christmas past.
- You’re going to be on your own, or without someone special for the first time this year.
How to cope at Christmas
- Plan ahead. This might be saving, or perhaps buying over a period of time rather than all at once.
- There’s no such thing as a perfect Christmas. There, I said it. There’s no such thing as a perfect Christmas.
- Decide what suits you – your budget, your time, your expectations. There may be financial or other support available to help you through. Acknowledge your limitations.
- Make new traditions – whether it’s exchanging ‘time’ gifts rather than bought presents or agreeing that Christmas Day dinner is a shared meal with everyone contributing.
- Talk to family and friends – if you’re feeling uncomfortable with plans, maybe contribute some of your own, or explain why the arrangements might not work for you. Especially where children are involved – how can family and friends help you to manage their expectation. This might even include saying no to some activities.
- If talking to those close to you feels too much, there are other groups available Sometimes speaking to a stranger is just easier as they have no agenda.
- Build in time to do the things you need to do, whether it’s being on your own for a while or visiting a special place can help to manage the situation. This might even be carving out time to read your favourite book with a lavendar candle. Making sure you eat well (even if you do indulge too!!) will maintain those feel good brain chemicals which will help you deal with stress.
- Become really conscious about what your triggers might be so that they don’t take you by surprise. Notice the sensations you feel and see if you can just sit with them. They are just sensations. You could even play a little; if the sensations move in one direction, move them the other way. How does that feel?
- Admire Christmas adverts and razzmatazz – and make it your own. Instead of hankering after what others might be doing/having, find your own version. This might include finding special offers or free family events that you can take advanage of.
- Be grateful for the celebrations you do have, not the ones you don’t.
If you’re aware of someone for whom Christmas is not the most wonderful time of the year, your compassion and empathy will go a long way to helping them through.
- Understanding that Christmas is different for everyone and don’t make assumptions as to why they feel the way they do.
- Tell them that they’re not alone and take time to listen to them without judgement.
- Help find some way of sharing some joy – whether Christmas related or not. A walk in the park might just be the support they need.
- Ask what might help – our ideas of ‘cheering people up’ might not be theirs.
Whatever you do this festive season, I’m wishing you a sense of expectation that you do it your way and that you navigate the next few weeks in a way that is good for you too.