Forgive my ‘Bah humbug!’ assumption – and if you adore Christmas feel free to stop reading now.
But if the approach – or should that be onslaught? – of the festive season makes your heart sink, then here’s something to bear in mind: How you feel about Christmas depends largely on the perspective you choose to take – and note, I said ‘choose.’
There was a time when I dubbed the four weeks of December ‘the worst month of the year.’ Why? Because the painful loss of people I loved came sharply to the fore, and my tears fell like snowflakes every time I heard a schmaltzy bit of music in the supermarket.
With a label like that, what hope was there of having even a reasonable time in this season? In my ‘worst month’ perspective, I couldn’t help stomping around with a long face and generally behaving like Scrooge’s evil twin sister.
In recent years though, I’ve learned to make a conscious choice about the way I approach this annual holiday – and so can you.
My refreshed outlook is to experience December through the filter of The Three ‘Fs’ – Family, Friends, Fun. This kicks out any loneliness and lets me honour my deep values of connection with the people I love most – my family and friends – and the pleasure I get from having a laugh and a bit of frivolity.
Encapsulated in that ‘fun’ idea is a farewell to stress and seasonal frazzlement. This year I’m saying “No!” to taking heroic shopping expeditions or cooking myself to a standstill, and “Yes!” to being extremely kind and compassionate towards myself and others.
It’s important to realise that making a positive choice won’t stop sadness from biting you on the backside now and then. If you’re missing someone who’s no longer here, or coping with major changes in your life, then this poignant time of year will push your buttons.
However, it’s important to accept the feelings as they arise and handle them in a way that fits with the perspective you want to take. With that in mind, ask yourself what focus you want to choose for Christmas this year, and how you will make it happen.
Reach out and do not struggle on alone. Join forces with another family or friends, and make a conscious choice not to shoulder the burden on your own.
At every turn, ask yourself: “How can I do less?” Set a target of making the celebrations as simple and stress-free as possible. Shop online, cut down on your gift list – or even consider giving a charity donation instead of buying lots of presents – and plan easy food.
Be aware of your own danger times, and plan ways to avoid them or distract yourself. For me, Christmas morning before anyone else is up is a ‘danger time’ where peeling the sprouts all on my ownsome can lead to a serious attack of the blues.
This year we are eating later with friends, so there’s no need to get up and start cooking. I’ve treated myself to a glorious pristine hardback novel and am planning an indulgently lazy morning on the sofa in my (new) pyjamas, reading and sipping hot chocolate until it’s time for a leisurely brunch.
Consider creating a completely new ritual rather than repeating an old one which could make you too painfully aware of all that has changed over the years. Taking a break away from familiar surroundings can help, as can spending time with people who love you and understand how you’re feeling.
Have a strategy up your sleeve for sad or difficult moments. Do you need to schedule in some time alone, take a walk in a beautiful spot, or allow an hour to reflect, write, cry or do whatever’s needed to allow your feelings to flow? Are there memorials and rituals you want to include?
Don’t leave these times open-ended, and when they’re over, plan in some comfort – make a phone call to a friend, watch some undemanding TV or a film, or get some sleep.
Above all, cut yourself plenty of slack and put self-care at the top of the agenda. Chances are, you’ll be doing a lot of care-giving at this time of the year, so please don’t neglect yourself. Get enough rest, book a massage, go for a walk or swim, relax and let others share the responsibility for making Christmas happen.
Finally, give your new holiday perspective a title. Write it on a Post-It and stick it somewhere as a reminder of the way you actively choose to ‘do’ Christmas this year.
I love my ‘Three Fs – Family, Friends, Fun,’ but yours might be ‘R and R – Rest and Relaxation’ or ‘Happy and Peaceful’ or even ‘The Two Ps – Party Party!’ You get to choose – and whatever your choice, I wish you a happy and serene Christmas.
What perspective do you like to take this time of year? Have you found a mindset that helps you to enjoy the season and stay out of the doldrums? Please share your insights and ideas below.