image by Ryan Graybill
And so Christmas is almost here. This can be a difficult time for many of us. We’re surrounded by images of the ‘perfect’ Christmas, with everyone happily sat around in gaily patterned Christmas jumpers in their beautifully decorated homes opening huge, expensive and perfectly-chosen gifts. Often there is pressure from friends and relatives to celebrate Christmas the ‘right’ way, the way everyone else seems to be doing. That uneasy feeling that everyone is having an amazing Christmas, and you’re the only family who isn’t, whereas in reality most families are just having another normal Christmas, and can be found asleep in front of the TV by 3pm anyway.
Christmas can also be a reflective time, it marks the beginning of the end of the current year, for many a time to review things hoped for and not achieved, the things and loved ones lost. Often the images of Christmas we are shown make us think about what is missing rather than what we have.
So what can be done? Below are a few ideas that you might find helpful at this time of year.
Take time for yourself
It can be easy to spend many of your waking hours thinking about Christmas preparations on top of all the normal stresses of daily life. So it’s important to make a little space for something different you enjoy that‘s unrelated to Christmas. To have just a few moments of calm where you don’t need to be planning and preparing, where no-one is demanding anything from you can be immensely helpful in giving you a little respite and more energy when you return to the fray.
Spend time with the people who are important to you
Amongst the many and varied family commitments that many of us face, find some time to be with the people who are important to you. If this is the family you’ve arranged to have over for the 15th Christmas in a row, great. However if it isn’t, try to make some time to be around the people you love and trust, that accept you as you are, not for the presents you’ve bought them this year. Spending time with the people you love is the most important gift you give. Presents are always welcome, but most gifts won’t be remembered by New Year. Your friendship will be.
Your way is OK
Be it constant Christmas music, gaudy Christmas decorations, or one tiny tree hidden in the corner of the room, your way of doing Christmas is just fine, if it suits you and you enjoy it. Everyone does it a different way, and there is no ‘right’ way to do Christmas.
Their way is OK too
With family commitments we often find ourselves in unfamiliar places with other people’s customs, family members and ideas of how Christmas should be. This is probably the way they’ve always done it, and it works for them. Maybe you’ll like some of their Christmas traditions, and if you don’t, how about bringing a few rituals with you? From wearing a Santa hat for the entire day, to having to watch the Dr Who Christmas special, they’ll give you a bit of the Christmas you love, and maybe the others will join in and enjoy your little rituals too.
New Year’s Resolutions Are Not Set In Stone
Whilst writing a list of things to achieve the next year can be motivating, if the end of the year comes and most things aren’t achieved it can make people feel demotivated and depressed. The things we resolve to don’t naturally fit into yearly boxes. Sometimes things take longer, sometimes things aren’t possible - plans are made to be broken. If it’s important enough to you, you’ll do it whether it’s on a list or not. So if you do write a list of New Years resolutions, decide whether they’re things you truly want to do, that will make you happier, or whether they’re things you feel you ‘should’ be doing. If the latter, ditch them and go back to your Christmas pudding.
Christmas can be a difficult and stressful time for many of us. Remember to look after yourself, give yourself some space, and that even if you think you’ve bought the best gift ever, what matters most is that you’re there to give it.
Chris Mounsher is a BACP registered humanistic counsellor working in private practice in Brighton and Haywards Heath. He offers both long term and short term counselling and has particular experience working with anxiety, addiction, depression, low self-esteem and relationship difficulties.