While there are some who excitedly count down the days until Christmas, there are many who, given the opportunity, would joyously cancel the entire thing.
For many Christmas comes with stress, financial strain, exceedingly high expectations, endless chores, and extreme fatigue and exhaustion.
Tree lights glowing in windows, store aisles packed full of Christmas gifts and treats, and neighbours trying to outdo one another by having the most extravagant displays can send those who dislike it into a full-blown meltdown—and that’s often way before festive arrangements with family, friends, or work colleagues have been drawn up.
Unfortunately, if someone is going through a devastating break up, if they are suffering with grief, if they are not financially secure, or if they do not have a supportive and caring family unit or close friends, Christmas time can be a struggle filled with turmoil, desperation, and loneliness.
For those who are socially introverted and prefer not to be around large groups of people, even if this includes relatives and life-long friends, this time of year can bring on major bouts of anxiety as it’s not quite as easy to excuse oneself from festive gatherings as it might be to cancel or decline other organised parties or annual events.
According to a survey, 46 percent of people feel financially stretched due to Christmas, 36 percent feel stressed out by it, and 36 percent feel that buying presents is wasteful.
Therefore, if you are included in the 16 percent of people who would happily eradicate Christmas from the calendar and are willing it to be over before it’s even begun, then read on. Here are a few tips on how to survive the season:
1. This is not for the fainthearted, but if the holiday period causes you so much distress, then outright cancel all involvement with Christmas for this year. Let those around you know that this year you are taking a hiatus from festivities for personal reasons, and as Dr. Seuss says, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter won’t mind.”
2. If you have social anxiety, or strongly dislike and feel uncomfortable in gatherings, then limit social events to an absolute minimum, and for the ones you attend minimise the amount of time (and/or money) you spend while there. Prioritise events and conserve your energy for the ones you feel you should try to make the effort for. However, if at the last minute you feel emotionally or mentally unable to attend, then cancel. It’s vital to put your personal health and wellbeing first, so don’t push yourself past what you currently feel able to deal with.
3. If you choose to opt out of the usual Christmas celebrations, then opt in to donating your time and energy to causes that help and support those who are vulnerable or less fortunate in the community. There are a large variety of organisations that provide meals, entertainment, and company to those in need at Christmas, so do something rewarding and volunteer and make a difference to people’s lives in a different way than through partying and gift giving.
4. If you have no one to spend Christmas with, then use the opportunity to celebrate and buy gifts for yourself. Indulge yourself; go Christmas shopping and beautifully gift-wrap trinkets for yourself, purchase your favourite treats, spend time in the kitchen cooking your favourite foods, and totally nourish yourself on Christmas day. Put on cosy pjs, watch sentimental movies that offer magical feel-good vibes, wrap up warm and head out for a woodland wintry walk, then make a mug of hot chocolate and read a book by the fire while eating too much candy. Light candles, eat and drink well, and be deliriously merry pampering yourself for the entire day and night.
5. Let go of any guilt you feel if you choose not to spend time around people who aren’t healthy for you to be around. Try not to feel pressured into attending events that you feel will consume you with anxiety and stress. If your family is dysfunctional and previous gatherings have ended in disaster, then don’t feel guilty for choosing to protect yourself and keep yourself out of harm’s way. Not everyone has warm, loving, and caring families, and if your family causes you emotional or mental anguish, then you have the right to make the decision to refrain from being in their company.
Stay strong and make decisions that are in your best interest. Do not put your own happiness and wellbeing at risk through trying to please others. Your contentment, peace, and joy at Christmas is just as important as other people’s, so carry out an act of self-love and spend your time with those who show mutual love, care, and respect.
6. If you are at events that are draining your energy or giving you anxiety, then take regular breaks, or don’t be afraid to explain that you aren’t feeling great and that you need to leave early. Meditation, even if it’s only for a few moments, works wonders when we’re overwhelmed or feeling stressed out. Meditate before, during, and after meet ups, and also, as obvious as it sounds, don’t forget to focus on deep breathing and bringing yourself back to the moment whenever you’re in a highly charged or high-stimuli situation.
7. If there are certain people who you will see over Christmas who you find are triggering, passive, overtly aggressive, or who are deliberately antagonistic, then avoid engaging with them, other than to exchange polite greetings, if at all possible. Within most families or social circles there will often be that one person who effortlessly seems to turn us from calm to crazy in a matter of seconds, so prepare in advance by remaining conscious that communicating with them for too long will likely cause upset.
Notice the signs that you are starting to feel irritable and smile politely and make excuses to end the conversation and take a few moments to breathe deeply and clear your energy field. Before you go places over the festive period think up a few coping strategies beforehand, whether it be mantras that you repeat, a calming image that you can picture in your mind, or a squidgy stress ball that you keep in your pocket for angsty moments.
Essentially, only go where you feel comfortable, where the surrounding energy is soothing to your own, and where you are not constantly on “fight or flight” high alert.
If you are an introvert, if possible, spend your time with those who understand your need for introspection and who reciprocate a similar calming vibe back, and particularly with those who are non-judgemental and have consideration and acceptance.
Most importantly, never feel obliged to do anything or go anywhere that you desperately don’t want to just because other people guilt-trip you and try to tell you that you should. It’s your Christmas too, so you can choose to hibernate away and celebrate it on your own, spend it with whomever you decide to, or be bold and outright cancel the entire thing.
Christmas isn’t for everyone, and so long as we are with the people we care about and love (even if that means being alone), then surely that’s all that matters. Stressing ourselves out just so we feel involved in Christmas totally defeats the meaning of Christmas.
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Emily Bartran