The Holidays can be a special and fabulous time of year. But it can also be stressful and challenging. All challenges require a toolbox to help you to cope. Here are my tips for thoughts and ideas to add to your ‘Tips for Coping at Christmas’ Toolbox.
Allow other people to be themselves, without letting them get you down.
For those who celebrate Christmas it is the biggest holiday of the year. It is the one holiday where family and friends come together to share food, laughter, games and good times. It is also the time when you may see people that you normally don’t see. In fact, you may only see them once a year. And that may be enough for the both of you. Christmas can be a stressful time, and some people won’t be within their own environment. They may be at your home, or you at theirs. It can become difficult. Even if you are at home, the atmosphere will change with everyone being in your home. You may expect them to respect your space, and you theirs. The best approach is to remember to share your space during this time. And you can respect other people’s personal space. If they appear sleepy, tired, angry or annoyed, leave them to be on their own for a while. And if you are feeling overwhelmed or fed up, take some time on your own.
Go to the bedroom, or out doors for a short walk. Everyone will have their own internal ideas about what their Christmas should be. And whilst you are not responsible for other’s ideas, you can make the best of your Holidays by preparing in advance your time out, how to keep children occupied with games and fun, and ensuring that you as well as your guests or those you are visiting, are left to do what they want to do during this time. Take good care of yourself, and in doing so you will be taking care of others.
The pressure of performing or getting it right.
As it comes around once a year, Christmas has significance in that it marks the approach of the end of the year. Like a New Year’s resolution, we can feel pressured to stick to a plan and to get it right. It may be helpful to have a simple goal in mind. That goal may be as simple as having an enjoyable time. Nothing is perfect. A relative may drink too much and say something upsetting. A friend may cancel their attendance. The weather could be challenging whilst travelling. A child may have a toothache. You may forget the brussel sprouts. The mince pies may have baked for a bit too long. We are not perfect and perfection is an illusion. You can plan and plan, but we can be distracted. Gather help and give the family or your friends duties to help with the celebrations. Why not enlist those you know who are great at graphics to make some table cards. Or a friend who is great at decorating to set the table.
The thing to remember is that even the mistakes are exactly as they should be. Sometimes the mistakes can cause you to relax even more. It’s now out of the way. OK, you forgot something. OK, you have an extra guest that you hadn’t accounted for, and they are so happy to be there. It’s as perfect as an illusion can be. Take some time to pinpoint your stress triggers. Create a tool-box of ‘go-to’s’ so that the stress is minimised beforehand. Be open with others and ask for help. You don’t have to carry every dish into the dining room. Others are capable of carry a plate. Most importantly, bring the laughter, and laugh at yourself. It’s OK to find it funny. It’s Christmas. Laughter is allowed.
Keeping your finances tidy. Your peace of mind will thank you for it.
December can be a financially challenging month, and most don’t fully recover until Easter-time. You may be tempted to borrow money to buy gifts for yourself or your family. Here’s the reality check: Some of what you buy to give won’t be liked. And, some of what you give will be given away or make its way onto eBay. So, begs the question, why become so worried about what people think about what you give to them? They will make up their own mind about its relevance and whether it remains in their life. You don’t get to decide that part. All you can do is be as thoughtful as you can, for yourself and others. You must be thoughtful for yourself, as you will not get a chance to regain that money. It’s a gift after all. Getting yourself into debt buying gifts to impress others, to make a point, or to compete against another person’s gift, takes the give out of giving. If you are a crafty person, you can make your own gifts.
Crafting is extremely popular these days. There are countless crafting websites that sell supplies, and it will most likely take you less time to order those, sit at your table with a cup of tea or mulled wine, and make a few lovely, very personal gifts that will be cherished a lot more than an expensive give that is neither wanted or needed. I know a family that was offered six months of cleaning their home as a Christmas gift. I also know someone who gave the gift of babysitting for a year. Some gifts are priceless. You can think out of the box, literally. Be crafty. Be creative. And be kind to yourself by keeping your finances tidy.
Spot the wobbles.
Although Christmas and New Year’s spells celebrations all-round, it can also cause depression, anxiety, and the purging of addictive behaviours and self-harm. Our emotions can be out of control, and this can be caused by great expectations, worry, and critical and judgmental thinking about how your life should be. People are encouraged to ‘take inventory’ of their lives this time of the year. Whilst this may be helpful for some, if you are a negative thinker, you will naturally be drawn to list your faults and all that you have not accomplished.
If you have a mood disorder, special events and holidays can cause extreme highs and lows. If you are feeling depressed, talk to someone. And if your thoughts are extreme, see your doctor immediately. Your feelings are valid. There are reasons why you feel how you feel and think the way you think. Finding someone to listen to you can spark a new-found calmness and less judgement about yourself. Support groups and peer groups are helpful giving you the platform with which you can speak openly about your fears.
When we keep things in perspective, what we see about Christmas can be factual. For instance, it’s 1 day of the year. In the UK, it’s really 2 days because of Boxing Day. New Year’s is 1 day of the year. After that, it’s on with life. And Christmas does not stop life. Life continues with it or without it. It may also be helpful to remember that everyone doesn’t celebrate Christmas. To some, it really is just another day. Why put yourself under so much pressure and scrutiny, when a percentage of the population won’t celebrate it at all. They’re not worried or concerned. They may, however, be annoyed that nothing is open and they can’t travel public transport.
If you are away from your family, try volunteering at a shelter or charity. They are desperate for help during the Holiday’s, and you will meet others who share your thoughts and feelings. And, you won’t be alone. If you don’t fancy this, get out of the house and take a walk. Breathe fresh air. Study nature. Stop and listen to the birds welcoming you to their home. You are not alone, ever. But if you choose to be alone, that is also OK. There are no rules.
You may already have a tool-box of go-to’s for the wobbles. If you spot a wobble, get the tool-box out. Look at your contents. Make a choice and go to it.
BLURT is an amazing resource for the blues, and offers ‘Buddy In A Box’ or hug in a box. They are an organisation that specialises in helping those who suffer from depression. And even if you are not ‘clinically depressed’, you will find that they are there for you. You can even sign-up to have a monthly subscription box sent to you and it contains some wonderful gifts. Perfect for this time of the year.
Remember to spot the wobbles, or the potential ones, and go to it. The toolbox that is.
It’s all about YOU!
You must look after yourself, and this is first and foremost. Drinking lots of water, especially if you are consuming more alcohol than you normally would, this will be very important. Most people forgo their workout routines during this time, and then make impossible New Year’s resolutions to regain it. All are recipes for disaster and more disappointment. You can treat yourself to an extra walk a day, or even a nice coffee from your favourite coffee shop.
I always recommend relaxation techniques as a morning routine, and in the evening to brain dump. You can do this in the shower or bath. Close your eyes and think of a beautiful place, where all your shopping and planning is done, and where you return home and though you may be exhausted, you’ve done your best. Standing in queues is a trigger for many people. Try breathing in several deep breaths, and when you breathe out, you have exhaled all your stress. Imagine it, and see it. Breathing in calmness. Breathing out stress. Take your phone with you and download any of the mindfulness apps available. I recommend The Mindfulness App.
In the end, we’re all mince pies.
We are complicated beings, we humans. We want to open our homes to others, but we want them to remove their shoes. We say yes to Aunt Sue, but we don’t want her to drink. We don’t want to be alone, yet we make no effort to meet others. How can we be so ambivalent? It is our human nature. We are up. We are down. We love Christmas. We hate Christmas songs. The least you can do is laugh at it all. And look at all those people who turned up for your Christmas dinner. They really could have been anywhere else. Look around at all the minced pies in the room. They too are a complicated mixture. Some sweet inside, and some burnt a bit around the edges. You can always peel off the burnt bits. You don’t have to throw out the whole pie. Poor little pie. It’s the Holidays. It just wants to be liked. And loved. And wanted. Laugh it all off. Watch everyone get all broken apart for nothing. Isn’t it nuts. It’s just Christmas. Put on the music and turn it up. If you choose to be alone, it’s OK. But if alone time is not a good idea, you must ask for help. Speak to someone. Anyone. Call the Samaritans. They are always there to help.
Whatever you choose to do, however you spend Christmas, ensure that your tool-box is at the ready. Even if you don’t use it, it’s there, always there to help.
Remembering those we know.
People don’t just suddenly change who they are at Christmas. They are themselves. But that doesn’t mean we forget them or ignore them at Christmas. Think about others and it can take your mind off your own worries. Who do you know that may be alone during this time? Can you visit with them or invite them over?
Christmas is more than just about food and drinks. It’s about being hospitable, to yourself and others.
*All images are from royalty free stock.