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Surviving the run up to Christmas

Surviving the run up to Christmas

Having survived the frenzy of Black Friday, signalling the start of the festive season, I’m wondering how many of us will be humming ‘it’s the season to be jolly’ in what is now officially the run up to Christmas? Yes December is finally upon us, but will you be feeling festive or frantic?

Despite Christmas being the time of year for peace on earth and goodwill to all, everyone knows that along with it comes an abundance of stress, as we attempt to manage our own expectations and those around us.

There’s no escaping the endless stream of TV advertisements and festive messages that filter through into our daily lives, telling us what we should be doing and how we should be doing it, so that we too can enjoy that perfect Christmas.

For some of us, this can be one almighty trigger. Suddenly stores are bursting with gift sets and tinsel, what was once a manageable few hours idling around the shops, has now become a test in stealing ourselves, as we attempt to negotiate the surge of noise and scores of people, all trying to get themselves organised in time for the big day.

According to research, Christmas shopping can be as stressful as running a MARATHON. Hitting the high street at this time of year may increase your heart rate by 33%.

And if the hustle and bustle of crowds wasn’t bad enough in the lead up, we then have the prospect of looking forward to long car journeys in heavy traffic, bad weather and more often than not when it’s dark, not to mention the thought of spending days on end with tricky relatives, drinking too much in an attempt to manage the stress; then there’s the additional guilt of over-eating, compounded by worry about those who are materially less fortunate…

Do I dare even mention the burden of additional expense at this stage? Or concerns about elderly parents? Or perhaps you’re worried about not meeting all those social obligations? Yes Christmas has all the ingredients to turn even the most laid back amongst us into nervous wrecks! It’s enough to make us want to pull the duvet over our heads and hibernate until January 1st! If only that was an option….

So how do we survive the month of December and enjoy some festive cheer?

Learn to modify our goals and expectations!

Less can be so much more. Years ago, the English child psychologist Donald Winnicott proposed the notion of the “good enough” mother, in suggesting the concept of frustration and disappointment was healthy and realistic – by not always being a goddess offering an ever-flowing fountain of selfless love, the mother was teaching her baby to experience what it felt like being part of the external world, and with that introducing a sense of reality, thus needs not always being met precisely. And so it is with Christmas.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, not perfect!

The trouble is that when we want things to go precisely, we are striving for perfection, which is exhausting and unrealistic. It also means that we are constantly setting ourselves up for failure. As a psychotherapist/counsellor, I remind my clients the importance of showing compassion towards themselves. So let’s give ourselves the gift of being our own best friend and being kinder to ourselves in the process. Sometimes this involves lowering our standards, just a little!

Be realistic!

1. No one can do everything so prioritize what you enjoy. If it’s cooking, perhaps focus on that; if you’re artistic, concentrate on decorations; if you're sociable, make time for friends and family. But don’t attempt it all, it’s just too exhausting!

2. Delegate, share and scale down tasks – plus, for the sake of sanity, forego some things completely, for instance donate to your favourite charity instead of writing cards.

3. Allow yourself to make compromises. Its ok to buy shop bought cakes and decorations.

4. Shopping and crowds seem almost designed to bring on panic attacks – all those bright lights and people, not to mention the noise. Shopping online from the comfort of your own home is the ideal solution.

5. Don’t rush at everything. Take time to stop and appreciate the moment and breathe! After you’ve finally got round to putting up the tree, sit down, congratulate yourself and admire your efforts.

6. Remember it’s OK to ask for help. People feel good about themselves when they are helping others, so learn to encourage goodwill.

7. In the run up to Christmas, carve time out for yourself - whether it's a massage, reading a book or going for a long walk. It's important to give yourself the same care and consideration.

8. Take time to enjoy the process, after all it’s one day of the year. Very often it can feel like a huge anticlimax if we allow ourselves to get caught up in the hype created by others.

9. Be realistic by creating your own idea of the 'perfect' Christmas that suits you and your family.

10. Don’t forget the true meaning of Christmas. Commercialism forces us to act in ways that feed into our brains not our hearts. The act of giving is based on love and that doesn’t have a price tag.

Here’s wishing you all a happy, healthy and joyful Christmas

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