Christmas is nearly here again, and the pressure is on. There are so many things to be done. We may find ourselves dreading the big day or lying awake at night going over our worries. Will it all go according to plan? Will we be able to get everything ready in time? Have we bought the right presents for everyone? Can we pay the bills after buying all those presents? Will the family get on or will there be arguments? Anybody can feel a bit frazzled by all the stress. But for some of us our anxieties about Christmas can become overwhelming and may threaten to take over.
Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of things I love about Christmas. But I think it’s important to recognise that there are quite a few challenges to be faced at this time of year. Finding the right presents, struggling with trees, lights and tinsel, not to mention the tricky business of getting the turkey just right, can all come with a fair amount of stress. Many of us put ourselves under huge pressure to make everything perfect. There is also the stress of organising large family get-togethers. Spending a lot of time with our extended family can be tough. Personality clashes or past arguments can often resurface as we’re thrown together with brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, in-laws etc. who we may not exactly see eye-to-eye with! We all dread those awkward silences between people who don’t normally speak. A few cross words can soon turn into huge rows once we’ve all had a few drinks.
For many of us Christmas can also be a time when memories of the past can be particularly strong. We may find that we’re thinking more often about things that happened in our childhood. If these are difficult memories Christmas may feel like quite a sad time. If we have lost friends or family we can also find our emotions being stirred up as we remember the last Christmas we spent with them. We may find ourselves crying more often or returning again and again to hug their jumper left behind in the wardrobe. If someone we love has recently died we may find we are dreading our first Christmas without them.
Bearing all of this in mind, it can be helpful to consider some simple ways to care for ourselves this Christmas. Here are some suggestions which may help.
1. Let go of perfection
We often have an image of what the “perfect” Christmas should be. Try to let go of this. We’re not likely to be perfect and neither are those around us. And what does perfect even mean? Is cooking a flawless dinner or giving the best gift really the most important thing? We can have a good time without putting so much pressure on ourselves. Set some realistic goals for what we would like to happen over the holiday. For example, would we like to spend more time with our partner or children? Perhaps visit a particular friend? Focus on things we would really value and allow for the occasional hiccup!
2. Be aware of alcohol intake
Christmas is all about indulgence and this often includes alcohol. It’s worthwhile to be aware of the effect this may have on us physically and emotionally. Research shows that drinking can actually increase feelings of stress and anxiety. Using alcohol to relax can therefore be counter-productive. Alcohol can often intensify our emotions. So, if we’re finding the holiday is stirring up difficult feelings, these will not be helped by drinking. It is often the case that we are more likely to clash with others when under the influence. Remember that alcohol also acts as a depressant which means it can cause us to wake up with low mood and a lack of energy. Drinking in moderation will give us the best chance of feeling happy and alert this Christmas.
3. Take time off
With all the work to be done at Christmas it can seem like our own needs come at the very bottom of the list. Remember that this is our holiday too. Taking some time for ourselves each day is a great way to reduce stress levels. When we feel we are becoming overwhelmed, snappy or frustrated this can be a sign that stress is building up. Removing ourselves from the situation for a short while can often be helpful. Whether it’s getting out for a walk, taking a hot bath or sitting down to watch a film, make it a point to claim some “me” time. If we are finding Christmas difficult we can also use some of this time to reflect on our feelings and maybe even write some of them down. It can be a relief to acknowledge and express our emotions and it can help with the process of letting go of past issues.
Christmas doesn’t have to be all about anxiety and stress. We can change our approach to get the most out of our holidays.
I’m always happy to talk about how life can be better.
Make a change today.
Have great week and a happy Christmas,
Newbridge, Co. Kildare
Portlaoise, Co. Laois