We all know that Christmas is the season to be jolly and although it is seen as the “most wonderful time of the year”, it’s not the case for a lot of people. In fact as many mental health practitioners know this time of year can be extremely difficult for many of us.
There are many things that contribute to the Christmas angst and the ‘end of year fear’. Around now is the time where people tend to reflect on the past year. Many ruminate in a negative way about all the things they could have, should have, and didn’t do. People beat themselves up mentally for not being where they thought they should be in life or this year.
The financial stress of Christmas is something that is too often talked about in the therapy room. Many people feel huge financial pressure to spend money they may not have on lavish gifts, new clothes and fancy food to the many Christmas nights out. Attending every social event and trying to catch up with friends can be overwhelming for people, especially when they don’t really want to go. And of course more nights out often means drinking more than usual, which plays a major role in how one feels emotionally, physically and psychologically.
It’s not only Christmas parties that some people dread, the idea of spending time with family members can conjure up different emotions and increase levels of anxiety. For many it can be difficult to avoid arguments or to ignore snide remarks or comments from aunts, brothers and mothers around the table. We can sometimes feel overwhelmed when there is a lack of personal space. And for those who are bereaved, Christmas can be a time of mixed feelings for those who are missing someone they love.
Whatever the reason for lacking festive cheer each one of us can relate to it in one way or another. Thankfully there are things that can help you manage your emotions better. We got our minds together at Mindworthy and came up with some tips to help you through this “holiday” season.
- Just say NO to the things you don’t want to do. You don’t have to go to every party you are invited to. It’s okay to go somewhere else, or to be with someone else or to just stay in on your own. It can be difficult at first, some people may be annoyed and you might feel guilty but you need to honour your own feelings. As Novelist Paulo Coelho says, when you say yes to others make sure you’re not saying no to yourself. Ask yourself that the next time you are asked to do something you don’t want to do.
- Although we can say no to hanging out with some people, it’s not so easy when it comes to family. Although we love spending time with our families, Christmas rarely looks like the ads we see. The truth is that family gatherings are stressful for people. When families come together old issues can arise, tensions become high and arguments can happen, which can cause anxiety. So when you start to feel anxious or overwhelmed try to remove yourself from the situation. If you can, go to another room and read a book, or perhaps ring a friend. Getting outdoors for fresh air or going for a walk can be a great way to clear your head. It’s important to have your own time and space. If you can’t get away and you sense tension rising or the start of an argument, stop, and count to ten before you respond. This gives you time to consciously think about your response. Or better still don’t respond. Do the exact opposite of what you would do or say. Just like you don’t have to go to every party you’re invited to, you don’t have to attend every argument either.
- Whether it’s your first or tenth year without a loved one, Christmas can be a difficult time. Implementing self-care is key to managing your emotions. Whether you want to stay in and watch Netflix, or go mountain climbing, try to stick to arrangements that will best suit your needs. Maybe take time to share special memories or stories of your loved one to those around you. Or you could remember your loved one by lighting a memorial candle for them at the dinner table or playing their favourite Christmas music.
- Try to avoid excessive reflecting about the past year. Some relationships don’t work out, opportunities are missed, goals aren’t reached and wrong choices are made. None of these make you a failure or a bad person. Dr. Albert Ellis, an American psychologist, says it’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters. Use the time to reflect on some of the positive things that happened throughout the year. When you are in a positive mind-set you can begin to focus on new attainable goals for the New Year.
It is important to remember that although there is a big hype around Christmas, it is in fact only one day in the whole year. Just one day. You’ve made it through 358 days so far. You’ve got this one.