For those of us to whom Christmas doesn’t equal ‘the most wonderful time of the year’, dread has been slowly creeping up since the first decorations entered high street shops (in August!!).
Not partaking or being able to partake in ‘the festive season’ can leave us in a very distressed state. There is such an extreme pressure for our lives to be perfect: to be invited to and enjoy parties, to have the perfect family to share the day with, reconnect with those long-lost friends and do it all in the perfect home that is filled with luxurious food. In short: The ‘festive’ season is Instagram coming to life and forcing you to apply a filter so that it all looks amazing.
The festive season is an absolute nightmare of forced perfection.
So, how do you get through it when life is hard enough without all this added pressure?
The answer to this question will be unique to everyone, so the key is to find your own strategy.
I will try to provide some key strategies that can help you. Please do add your own, as you might just help out someone else that feels like you.
Don’t linger in Christmas past.
I tend to do this. My biggest dread about Christmas is remembering how wonderful it used to be. Decorating the tree together with my partner and/or friends, drinking hot chocolate after ice skating, relaxing by the fire with the family. I am constantly recreating my past in better and brushed up ways. I brushed away the tension, the fights, and in my mind Christmas past is the best time in the world. Also, it is a Christmas that will never return, ever. I invented the best form of self-torture in the world.
The first strategy is to let go of the past. The past has passed, and it will not return. If someone died or left you, they will not be there to open presents or cut the meat. However hard you want them to. You will have to face this and try and move forward. Your whole being might scream ‘I can’t’, but I promise you: you can. You’ve made it so far, you are pretty incredible and deserve to be in a good place.
Be honest about your feelings.
I used to go around and lie about ‘yes, I’m looking forward to Christmas’, at least three times a day. Each time in my mind remembering how I really was not.
This is what we do, every person that dreads Christmas lies about it. Not only does it make you feel that you are the only one not looking forward to the whole ordeal, it also prevents you from meeting others that might feel the same.
I stopped lying. I do not care that people feel uncomfortable in the knowledge that they have a friend that feels terribly lonely and like a failed human being every Christmas. Yes, it does mean that several ‘friends’ avoid me like the plague come December. Guess what? Not real friends!
Since ‘coming out’ I have found several people that feel my pain, and that have come forward and shared their story about feeling too pressured. It helps having someone near that says, ‘let’s do this thing then’, with suitable discontent.
Practice mindfulness and learn how to deal with anxiety.
I breathe in and making my whole body calm and at peace.
I am breathing out and making my whole body calm and at peace.
Whenever things get hard, I repeat the above mantra in my head as I breathe in and out.
I only takes a few breaths and I am back.
You can do this little exercise anywhere anytime, in a busy shop, at the train station, if you wake up drenched in sweat in the middle of the night.
Other things that might help:
– Petting a dog or other pet (go visit a shelter if you don’t have your own pet, plenty to pet there, and it’ll get your mind off things)
– Exercise, go outdoors if weather permits and get some vitamin D
– Find a creative outlet, doodle or paint or write poetry
– Write it out, find a notebook and write down everything you feel, even your deepest feelings, no shame and no holding back, you will be surprised how much strength you find in yourself after you look at all the stuff you carry in your soul and deal with on a daily basis
– My personal favourite: Hard rock / metal music, really loud, let your body move in whatever way it wants and scream at the top of your voice. Of course…I do not live in an apartment.
Find your own niche, think of something you really enjoy doing and start doing it!
If you know that those commercials showing the ideal Christmas wind you up, turn off the tele and watch a movie online or read a book. If you feel pain walking through a busy shopping street, then don’t walk through a busy shopping street.
If your social media makes you feel inadequate, log out.
If you can’t stand pretending you are in good cheer in a pub surrounded by drunk people, then don’t go or leave the moment those negative feelings kick in.
As a society we have build in this weird concept of doing stuff that really hurts ‘because it makes you stronger’. Stop that behaviour right now, give yourself permission to go home, cuddle up under a blanket and have a little cry. Then get up and make yourself a cup of tea, and if needed call or text a friend or the Samaritans (https://www.samaritans.org/branches).
If you are more comfortable in an anonymous setting, find an online support group (https://www.dailystrength.org/groups).
Find the things that you do like and build your own Festive season.
If you do like how people become very charitable around the Christmas season, find a volunteer opportunity. Shake a bucket or work in a soup kitchen for a day. What is in it for you is that you will feel that you have something worthwhile, and that helps your feelings of self-worth.
If you do love a good pudding, make yourself your favourite one, spend time perfecting it and then only share if you feel like it.
If you do like singing, find a place where people meet to sing together.
Start rebuilding your festive season, filling it with the things that you love.
Remember that it’s only a couple of days.
With the lead up starting 3 months before date, it can feel like the nightmare never stops.
Just keep reminding yourself it’s only a couple of days. Soon it’ll be January and this episode will have passed, with nothing but a half-price sale to remind us.
I hope that some of the above will help you. If you do feel like talking, contact me.