The expectation of Christmas is one of perfectly orchestrated joy, goodwill, hearty food and glorious gifts. We try so hard to achieve perfection that it really interferes with achieving it at all. Christmas TV ads are tugging at our heartstrings (and our purses); magazines are filled with tips on how to make the best of the festivities, Christmas songs are playing on the radio; shops are filled with gifts to delight our loved ones; and the supermarket shelves are filled with produce to grace our tables and expand our waistlines. It seems that all that’s missing is the snow. The pressure to spend and please are enormous. Yes, Christmas can be stressful.
It can feel overwhelming, and for some, a lonely time. I don’t know about you, but I think it’s time to turn the pressure off and The Real Spirit of Christmas on, especially for those who are going through a hard time. Here are my tips:
- Forget the hype, decide what a good Christmas would mean for you. It is rarely about the amount of money spent (or saved); or the amount of food and alcohol consumed; or that it went perfectly; or even that you received the most expensive gift.
- Practice random acts of kindness as much as possible throughout the season – they spread the feeling of goodwill faster than anything yet cost nothing and make you feel good into the bargain.
- Keep things as simple as possible and ask for support. Part of the Christmas spirit is sharing/chatting/laughing as everyone chips in with the chores.
- Focus on the quality of interactions: make sure your hugs come from the heart; build bridges with the people you care about; light a candle for those no longer with you. It is useful to know that when you do lose a loved one, their annoying habits can become the ones which make you reminisce lovingly, or at least become irrelevant in the scheme of things. Remembering this can help lessen any annoyances you might experience with loved ones now. If there are toxic people in your family, either minimise the time spent with them or refuse to engage in toxic behaviour and buffer it with positive interactions.
- Spare a thought for those who are struggling and send them your love in whatever way is right for you: a card, a call, a visit, or simply a message. The more personal the better. You’ll be amazed at how the smallest effort can yield the biggest results when heartfully meant.
- Be gentle with yourself – don’t make commitments you will struggle to keep; ask for help with chores if you are the organiser (it’s more fun this way too); take time to yourself so you get to recharge our batteries.
- Make laughter a priority – whether it is laughing kindly at yourself for dropping the Christmas pudding, reminiscing over old stories from the past, playing parlour games (the sillier the better), or watching a feel-good comedy, laughter really is good medicine.
- Show appreciation – we don’t take enough time telling people what we appreciate about them and, when it comes from the heart, it can mean more than any other gift. While you’re at it, remind yourself what you appreciate about you.
- Take a walk after lunch, especially if you can be out in nature. There is something about walking, chatting and nature which is really good for the soul. The dishes won’t go away but you will look on them more kindly when you get back!
- Reflect gently on your year, what you achieved, the highlights and what you would like from 2019.
For some, Christmas is a time of despair. I am noticing this a lot at the moment, especially after the recent loss of a good friend. It can highlight loss, failure, and problems. Sometimes reaching out can feel too hard, but not doing so can be harder. If you are someone who is really struggling at the moment, now is the time to practice extreme self-compassion and to make it a habit for the New Year.
In the meantime, I want to share one of my happy Christmas memories. My father could be quite serious at times but the Christmas before he passed he agreed to wear a Santa hat for the first time ever. There was such a sense of connection and laughter from that simple act 10 years ago that it eclipses any of the gifts, TV we watched, or food we ate. It’s the simple things that matter.
Make sure they are not lost in the noise and the pressure. So, take this time to think about what will make the difference to you this Christmas, despite what the media tells you and be gentle with yourself.
Have a good one, whatever that means to you. Blessings.
PS: If you want to give the gift of change, check out this page for ideas from gift packages to vouchers, or call me on 0345 130 0854 to discuss. It’s good to talk.