So the festive season is upon us again. We’re surrounded by images of cosy Christmas couples wrapped up warm, and families with beaming children opening large, elegantly wrapped presents beneath a beautifully decorated tree, reminding us all of the way that Christmas ‘should be’.
But what if you don’t like Christmas? What if for you Christmas is a stark reminder of past losses, of get-togethers that no longer happen? Of friends and lovers you’ve lost touch with, or those that have passed away. What if you don’t care about decorations, trees or sending cards to people you’ve not spoken to for a decade? What if you can see that it’s nice for other people to enjoy, but it just doesn’t grab you any more? What then?
It’s tough if you don’t want to celebrate Christmas, if you just want to move on whilst the world revels in festive cheer. What’s important is that you look after yourself during this difficult time.
Here are a few ideas to help you manage this time of year.
In the build up to Christmas, decide which, if any, parts you like. If you like a good sing-song, then go to a carol concert. If you love shopping, then take advantage of the infinite variety of things on offer in town. If you like the cold, crisp weather, put on your hat and scarf and get out and about. If the cold makes you want to snuggle up under a blanket in front of the TV watching ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ then so be it. If you can’t stand absolutely anything about Christmas, then prepare your Netflix list, or get some of your favourite films in as a buffer between you and the Christmas world.
Spend time with your friends.
You know, the good ones, the ones that don’t care if you don’t wish them a Merry Christmas, the ones that accept your grumpy aversion to Christmas hats and terrible jumpers. It can be tempting to isolate yourself from others, but even if you’re more Grinch than Bob Cratchitt your friends are still there for you.
Decide what to do with the space the Christmas holidays give you.
You may need to suffer family dinners and overcooked turkey, but this only needs to be endured for a couple of days. Many of us are lucky to have a week off for Christmas, so after the cross-country journey and the forced conversations with great Aunt Marge, there’s still some time for you. Perhaps it’s a space to do nothing but read for a few days, to get out in the countryside, to binge watch Netflix, or to engross yourself in a video game marathon. Amongst the family commitments remember to set your boundaries to ensure there’s time for you and your needs during the Christmas holiday.
Remember your friends and family.
Friendships and families are often spread across the country, the continent or the globe. Social media has enabled us to keep in regular contact with our loved ones, but the connections are often shallow – a quick call here, a WhatsApp message there. Christmas is a chance to pause and remember the deep connections you have with those closest to you. Sure, some of them will drive you mad, but spending quality time with your loved ones is just as likely to remind you of the good things about them too.
Christmas is a difficult time for many, but you have more control than you think. Make sure you look after yourself and take the opportunity to decide how you’d like to do Christmas for you.
Chris Mounsher is a BACP registered humanistic counsellor working in private practice in Brighton. He offers both long term and short term counselling and has particular experience working with anxiety, addiction, depression, low self-esteem and relationship difficulties.