Updated: Jul 14
Does the thought of Christmas lead to a sudden cold sweat or a lump in your throat? Does a wave of sadness or stress come over you? You really are not alone.
The festive period can be a really difficult time for some of us. Whether it's memories of a loved one who's passed, demands from loved ones who are present or fears about what Christmas will hold for you, here are some helpful tips to best manage the festive period.
There's a lot of pressure to be cheerful during family get-togethers, but they can also be very tense times in some households. If you're dreading the festivities then it can help to plan how you'll manage in advance.
If we disrupt our usual routine it's hardly surprising that we may feel stressed or out of sorts. Go to bed and wake up at your normal time and maintain your exercise routine if that's something that helps you feel good the rest of the year.
Try not to over indulge at every meal - treats are fine, it is Christmas, but stuffing the digestive system full at every chance you get will just make you feel sluggish and impact your mood negatively. The gut is the second brain!
If you maintain your foundations and routine then whatever the season requires you to handle, at least you body will have the stability and consistency it knows.
This can be tough, but ultimately Christmas sometimes involves saying no. This might be telling relatives you can't visit them this year, admitting it's too much waiting on your entire family all day or explaining to your children that your budget has limits.
It's important to be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot manage, and then be prepared to make it clear to others. It's your Christmas too and if you are overwhelmed and over stretched, it's not going to help anyone.
Whether it's your first Christmas since they passed, or you lost someone many years ago, Christmas can be a particularly painful time. If this is true for you, don't try to shut it out or suppress those feelings, they are valid. Remember your loved one (or pet), but in a helpful way.
This can be as simple as ‘speaking’ to the person, silently or out loud, wishing them a Merry Christmas, or just telling them that you love and miss them.
Another way of remembering them could be to write down one of your favourite memories with that person, perhaps at Christmas, and put it in a memory box. Add a new memory each year. You can include other family members in this or just take the time for yourself and your loved one.
Is it helping you?
It can be tempting to drink more during the festive period, it seems like everyone's knocking them back and having a great time. However when we are low or stressed we can also look to drink as a way to help numb the pain, or cope.
Alcohol does act as a sedative initially, so can help you feel more at ease, but it's important to remember that it only provides temporary relief and when the effects of alcohol wear off, it changes our brain chemistry for the worse. If you find yourself drinking to cope, it might be time to consider whether it's really helping you? If not then I would suggest seeking help and support.
No day is 'perfect'. Ever. Perfect is not a real, it's subjective.
Add in adrenaline and excitement, alcohol, juggling all the roles and bringing multiple personalities together in this pressure cooker of emotions and you may see that it's highly unrealistic to expect that the day go without a bump.
So don't burden yourself with impossible and unrealistic expectations. Take the day as it comes, it may be stressful at times, but it will pass. It's how you respond that is important.
Breathe, give yourself extended loo breaks if need be, stay true to your boundaries and be present in your own needs.
If you find that you are really struggling over the festive period then here are some useful helplines open throughout the holidays:
Samaritans - 116 123
C.A.L.M. (Campaign Against Living Miserably) Outside of London 0800 58 58 58, London 0808 802 58 58
NSPCC - 0800 1111
National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK - 0800 689 5652
Alternatively you may decide you would like to try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in January in which case you can contact me at email@example.com to organise a free phone consultation and discuss how I can support you further.