‘Christmas is the spirit of giving, without a thought of getting’ – Thomas S Monson
Yes, I know it’s still October! But is it time for a new kind of festive season? One that allows us to really enjoy it? One where we improve our mental health and wellbeing rather than make it worse? I think so! For many people, Christmas can be incredibly stressful, whether it’s planning the food and drink, finding the perfect present, the spiralling costs or trying to make it perfect for everyone. Split families or arguing relatives can make it even harder or maybe you’re spending the day alone when you’d rather be sharing it. Whatever the reason, I hope you find something here to help and thinking about it in good time allows us all to plan properly for what we would really like rather than having it sprung upon us.
What’s in a date?
Many of us focus purely on 25th December, but why? There is no reason why your Christmas celebrations have to always be that day. We can spread the festivities over a few days or even weeks if we want to. A study by the University of Edinburgh showed that ‘Christmas hormones’ (cortisol, serotonin and dopamine) race through our bodies causing highs and lows, but mostly fatigue, and that no other event in the year has such an impact on our moods or behaviour. The whole build up to the big day causes stress, then afterwards we feel low because it’s all over and maybe we didn’t even get to enjoy it because we were so busy ‘doing’ instead of ‘being’. If we can begin to see Christmas as a season and not just one day, then maybe we can spread the enjoyment across several events and dilute the stress. For split families this is even more important. There doesn’t need to be an argument as to who gets to spend the day with the kids, Christmas can be celebrated any day and young children won’t mind at all that Santa is visiting more than once!
Just because there are lots of things to do, is not a good reason to stop looking after ourselves. If we were to treat ourselves gently throughout December, allowing time for rest and reflection, imagine how different we’d feel in January. There are many simple ways to do this, including keeping up regular routines such as our weekly exercise class, going for a sunday walk after a roast dinner, writing in a daily journal or sipping chamomile tea before bed. We could also try batch cooking healthy meals ready for when we don’t have time, taking the time to meet a friend for a coffee, going for a massage or manicure, and really focusing attention on all the good things of the festive season.
Keep it simple
We don’t need to make life more complicated. A simple, straightforward Christmas is key to keeping stress levels down. Could we delegate something? So many people feel the need to take on everything themselves so that it is ‘perfect’ but it doesn’t need to be that way. Let the children decorate the tree, for example. It really doesn’t matter if the baubles aren’t exactly where you’d like them and they will love to get involved! Just as important is to try to stop worrying about the things you have no control over, such as who will get along at Christmas dinner. This helps to create headspace amid the seasonal noise and will help us feel calmer.
Make it your day
If you’re planning to spend Christmas alone this year, then make the most of the time off work and the shops being closed for a day and take time to enjoy yourself doing whatever makes you happy. Binge watch your favourite show, have a long soak in the bath, go for a walk, eat your favourite food, call a loved one, read a book, anything to make it feel like the day is yours. No chores allowed!
Set an intention
Tradition is important to many people, particularly at Christmas but we don’t have to do everything the same every year, particularly if it causes stress. How about reflecting on the year we’ve experienced and our life now. What kind of Christmas feels right? How do we want to feel at the end of the celebrations? We can even try choosing a word that encapsulates the Christmas you want, such as ‘celebratory’ or ‘restful’ and use that intention as a guide during preparations.
Choose a Priority
A lovely thing to do is to pick one thing that would make this Christmas extra special and memorable. It could be to write and share a poem honouring someone who has died during the year. Maybe a family quiz on zoom, involving as many extended family as possible or how about recreating your grandmother’s Christmas pudding? Focus on something that will be enjoyable for you and appreciated by those you love.
Let it go
Throughout the festivities, it’s really important that we take time to reflect. Rather than stressing over the things we haven’t done, we can take a few deep breaths and give ourselves credit for what has been achieved whilst still staying calm and happy. A sense of gratitude rather than frustration or dread, is so important. After all, if we are stressed and anxious, that will spread to other people too or, if we are spending the day alone, will make us feel unhappy. A sense of joy and gratitude for the Christmas we are about to have is the way to go – let the celebrations begin!
Until next time xx