December 21, 2015

Surviving Festive Stress: Some Simple but Effective Tactics.

michael/ Flickr

My memories of Christmas as a child are magical.

Common customs of stockings stuffed with satsumas, carrots and mince pies for Santa and Rudolph and whopping great piles of presents for us made the festivities the absolute best.

And as an adult I maintained the festive zest.

I loved the build-up—the Christmas markets, parties and everything sparkly. And the day itself—excitedly exchanging gifts, munching the much loved merry meal and, later, gathering at my grandparents’ for games, nibbles and more merriness.

I was so resolute in retaining this ritual with relatives I would react with dismay at any suggestion of an overseas getaway.

But then family difficulties and dynamics dropped us into an alternative reality. And I also left behind family to embrace a new life faraway.

Now, as for many, when the season descends so does a feeling of dread.

It can be a challenging season for various reasons—difficult divorces, deaths, family feuds, financial troubles and solitude.

The idealistic image of how the season ought to be actually conflicts with many of our realities.

But for those that find it difficult, there are a few ways that can help to dissipate anxiety, angst and ache:

Remove the rose-tinted glasses.

When familiar traditions are slightly different, or missing, it’s easy to view memories with glasses that are partially pink. Yet it’s a flawed way to think.  We have a tendency to gloss over gripes of Christmases past so it’s a real possibility we will also look back on today in an enhanced way. So when we reminisce about yesterday’s rituals, keeping our lenses clear and transparent will help us see our Christmases past more accurately.

Embrace the changes.

We cause ourselves much pain by assuming things will always remain the same. But situations change. And while, lifelong traditions can be hard to let go when they’re what we’ve come to know, grasping on too greatly can further cultivate the contrast. It makes more sense to create new traditions and embrace alternative events.

Give up the guilt.

While looking out for those we love is important, unlike Father Christmas it’s not always possible to visit everyone hand delivering gifts. If we find ourselves away from loved ones or unable to spend the day, the guilt can weigh on us as heavily as Santa’s sack. But worrying about everyone else’s experience is a waste of energy that will only impact the ones we’re with.

Erase expectations.

Expectation at Christmas, and in life, creates discontent. The festive season especially can shroud us in a thick fog of should be’s and woeful wishes.  But this mindset leaves us in turmoil—trapping us in the gap between what is and how we think it ought to be. By dropping expectation, we erase the gap, setting us free to enjoy reality.

Get creative with gifts.

Christmas consumerism puts enormous pressure on all of us to pick out presents, triggering tension for many. Yet inexpensive gifts like special snapshots, thoughtfully chosen books or a homemade cake will just as likely put a smile on the our loved ones’ faces. As for children, the novelty of expensive gifts last no longer than a day. Instead, make magical memories lasting lifetimes through crafting, creating and family play.

Rise above family politics.

Families are at the heart of the season. But for many they are the source of festive stress. It can help to be prepared when we know difficult dynamics may arise, ensuring we keep calm and put differences aside. And, if there are places we really don’t want to go or people we really don’t want to see, remember it’s ok to say no.

Be thankful for what you have.

 When families change or separate, it’s normal to mourn for festivities gone by. And it’s important to honour our emotions and allow ourselves a little cry. Yet we can help rationalise emotion with the notion that if we’re spending it with just one person we love, we’re luckier than many.

Reach out to others.

Those who are isolated, especially the elderly, can feel forlorn or be overwhelmed with feelings of failure and loneliness at Christmas. When clouded in misery many wont take steps to change their reality, and reaching out can help dispel their distress. So, whether we’re surrounded or in solitude, let’s conjure the courage to request or bequest some company during this years’ festivities.

Christmas is an opportunity to get together, give gifts and express gratitude. Yet it can also be a source of strain, longing and loneliness.

While we should never suppress our sadness, if we let stress get the best of us or memories of yesterday’s yuletide take over, we allow our today to be washed away with the tide.

How do we know this year we’re not more fortunate than in the future?

Nevertheless, it’s not uncommon at Christmas to be feeling a little blue. So the one gift we mustn’t forget to give this year is happiness.

And make sure the recipient is you.


Relephant read:

Sweeping up the Christmas Blues.


Author: Nicola Sutcliffe

Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

Image: michael/ Flickr




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