Christmas time is a wonderful time of year especially if you have children or grandchildren but it can also be a difficult time, this year especially.
Christmas is a time for festive cheer, enjoying being together with loved ones, and goodwill to all; at least that’s the idyll. In reality, Christmas can be the most stressful time of the year for many and can accentuate money worries, feelings of loneliness, and depression.
Many families will be feeling the squeeze as the cost of living keeps going up but young children don’t understand it. Christmas should be a magical time for everyone but it can stir up many other emotions.
As we get older the people round the table gets smaller and we realise how difficult it was for our parents to make things special, personally I didn’t realise how poor we was as children and on reflection can see the sacrifices my parents made to make Christmas time special.
Many families will be struggling this year more than any other year but Christmas isn’t just about presents, it’s about love, family and religion.
It’s also worth being mindful that people who suffer mental illness cannot just switch it off for Christmas and many people will be spending Christmas alone, I would urge anyone that knows someone who’s going to be alone this festive period to just check in with them, even just for a cup of tea, the smallest things can mean a great deal to some people.
Tips for surviving Christmas
Set a Budget and Stick to it
Finances are one of the biggest triggers when it comes to seasonal stress, so don’t make things even more difficult by overstretching yourself. Set an achievable budget for gifts, food, and social occasions and don’t let yourself go over it.
Manage Your Expectations
Christmas can feel like a huge let-down if you’ve had grand plans and things haven’t gone the way you intended. Instead of promising yourself that this year will be the biggest and best Christmas ever and trying to decorate your home to look like the perfect pictures you’ve been browsing on Instagram and Pinterest, give yourself permission to have a less-than-perfect Christmas. Accept that you live in the real world, not a magazine.
Take Some Time Out
Make sure you take some time for yourself every day to get away from the madness and get outside for a walk in the fresh air. A little light exercise is a great way to boost hormones such as serotonin, which have a positive effect on your mood, and spending some time in solitude gives your mind a break from the pressures of work or family.
Release Your Expectations of Others
It can be upsetting and disappointing when your kids have a tantrum on Christmas day or your partner gets you an underwhelming gift. Release yourself from these negative feelings by accepting you can’t change how others behave. Focus on your own actions and feelings and enjoy the pleasure that comes with giving gifts to others without expecting anything in return.
Take Time to Reflect on the Past and Plan for the Future
The end of the year is a good time to take stock of what went well and what didn’t and to start thinking about your goals and plans for the year ahead. If you’ve had a difficult year it’s natural to be a little down, but try to focus on the positives and remember that a fresh new year is just around the corner and a new start comes with it.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Sometimes feelings of stress and depression can be so overwhelming that it’s impossible to overcome them on your own. It’s important to reach out if you feel like things are getting too much, whether you seek the support of a friend or family member or a professional organisation.
Keep it simple
Easy does it and don’t over think it. Write a list with the most important things at the top, then work your way down, one task at a time. It’ll happen; you will get through the list.
Enjoy the company of those you love, and those who love you. And don’t forget to smile! It’s hard to be stressed while you’re smiling.
Find time for yourself
Make space for solitude and do what recharges you. This will stop you from burning the candle at both ends and trying to meet the heightened expectations of Christmas.
Find a safe space
If you have to go to a family lunch or dinner, find a quiet spot to retreat to when you get overwhelmed.
Have realistic expectations of yourself and others
No one is really going to change just because it is Christmas and the challenges we face on a daily basis do not suddenly miraculously disappear. So don’t attempt to change anyone as you will be disappointed, but rather navigate the Christmas with a focus on enjoyment and with the people that make you happy.
Do what makes you happy
Make time and space for things that you enjoy. Try to prioritise pleasurable activities during this time. Chores and other usual commitments will still be there when it is over! Make space and prioritise your pleasurable activities.
Beware of social media and comparisons
Not everything you see is true and what people post is not always a true reflection of what is happening in their lives. If you end up unfavourably comparing yourself to friends, remind yourself that what’s most important is what’s happening in your life, and not in the virtual world. There’s nothing wrong in taking a break from social media.
What can you do if it is all getting too much?
STOP AND BREATHE. It really doesn’t matter. Nothing is an emergency when it comes to celebrating Christmas. Nothing will “spoil” your day, unless you allow it to. Why? Because it is a DAY. It is 24 hours after all!
According to NHS England, one in four adults in the UK are likely to experience a mental health problem every year. When it comes to the festive period, research by mental health charity Mind has found the pressure people feel to have “the perfect Christmas” leaves one in 10 struggling to cope.
Mental health doesn’t take time off at Christmas, and with all the added stresses that can come with the festive season it’s very important to care for your well-being.
The impact Christmas has on mental health problems is most often negative. For people who are alone, the idea that others are enjoying themselves can intensify their own sense of loneliness. For those who are feeling depressed, a similar feeling can arise if they believe their own Christmas feels different to the one everyone else is having. For the bereaved, Christmas can be a particularly lonely time and a reminder of happier times with the family they’ve lost.
In reality, these feelings are exaggerated. Many healthy people dread the festive season; the hectic family gatherings, and the inevitable conflicts. The media portrays Christmas as a happy time, pushing the view that everyone else is having fun. Perception though is everything.
This is by no means universal of course – Christmas can also provide a positive boost to mental health. People who usually feel lonely will feel uplifted by taking part in family gatherings, for example.
If you are feeling sad, for whatever reason, share your feelings: Talking or sharing your feelings is something that helps to chip away at the sadness. You can mindfully explore your feelings and ideally find ways to capture how you feel and let them go.
You can also visit MINDS website here and their own tips for surviving Christmas.
Last but not least, enjoy yourself, be kind to yourself and don’t forget to quit smoking for the New Year!