Whether or not it is something that we celebrate, Christmas is all around us, so it can be helpful to think about what this means for us and what we can do to best support our wellbeing during this time of year.
EXPECTATIONS – HIGH & LOW
- ‘Christmas must be “perfect!”
Expecting Christmas to be perfect can be partly due to romanticised images and messages that we receive via the media which we can then feel under pressure to replicate.
We can also put a lot of pressure on ourselves by having idealised expectations, either by wanting to make up for unhappy Christmases, or conversely, by wanting it to be exactly like previously enjoyed Christmases.
But what does ‘perfect’ even mean?!
The dictionary definition includes ‘flawless’ and ‘faultless,’ so we can begin to see how a ‘perfect’ Christmas would be actually quite difficult to achieve in reality:
Real life is a mixture of ups and downs, what it is not…is flawless!
Even just by swapping ‘perfect’ for ‘best’ we immediately give ourselves a little bit of wiggle room so that the stressful “Christmas has to be perfect” can change to the more creative “What is the best Christmas I can have this year?”
- “Christmas is difficult.”
Having low expectations for the holiday period can be due to unhappy past experiences of Christmas, either from childhood or other difficult life events that have occurred around this time of year.
If we are already dealing with mental health and wellbeing issues, then we may not feel able to join in at Christmas time, or that we will impact on others’ happiness, which can make us feel even worse.
With the emphasis put on happy family reunions and get-togethers with friends, Christmas can heighten grief for those who have been bereaved or exacerbate a sense of loneliness for others.
It’s important to remember that it is okay not to be okay, even at Christmas time – Be kind to yourself and remember what you know:
What or who has helped when you have felt like this before?
TIPS FOR LOOKING AFTER YOUR WELLBEING THIS CHRISTMAS TIME
Bring in self-compassion – acknowledge the achievement of what you CAN do this year as opposed to criticizing yourself for what you think you should be doing.
Set your own limits:
- It’s okay to take time for yourself.
- You do not have to say “yes” to every invitation.
- You don’t have to be happy to be in others’ company.
- Stop or take a break when you have reached your own personal cut-off level: socially, financially, physically, and emotionally.
Catch that black & white thinking – rather than thinking in terms of either it’s completely good or it’s completely bad, allow that Christmas can have both positive and negative aspects just like any other time in the year.
Get creative – just because you cannot do something the way you have always done it doesn’t mean that you can’t do it at all: connect with friends and family via video, chat, telephone call when they are not able to visit, for example.
Prepare in advance – Having a conversation with family and friends in advance of Christmas can be helpful in respect of expectations.
Christmas can be a challenging time especially for those who have been bereaved. Some people may want to do something in particular to remember those who have died, and planning this can be helpful; however, others may not want to and talking about this in advance can avoid misunderstanding.
Stay connected – Spending hours with close friends is not the only way to feel connected.
Taking a walk down the street, going to the park, making a visit the local shopping mall (you don’t have to spend!) can give you a little top-up of social connection; from a friendly nod, a smile, or a chat in passing.
Checking out your local community websites and bulletins to find out what is on near you, some of which can be free, can be another way to meet up with other people!
Remember the bigger picture – There in so much hype built up around this one day, so it can be helpful to remind yourself that it is indeed one day which will pass, as will the hype…so hold on.