As the preparations for Christmas get underway, it’s worth taking some time to make sure we are going about things in a way that’s exciting and renewing, rather than stressful and exhausting.
Too many people say they don’t really enjoy Christmas. Very often the problem seems to be expectations – both our expectations about how Christmas “should” be and our sense that we have to fulfil the expectations of friends and family members.
I suspect these pressures are behind the oft-heard phrase that “Christmas is getting too commercial”. They leave us feeling we are not in control of how we spend our money (a particular stressor in austere and uncertain times) as well as our time and our emotional energy.
The answer is to stop, before we plunge into the whirlpool of frantic preparation, to consider what kind of Christmas would really work for us, and to question some of the oughts and shoulds that might be driving us subconsciously.
Some ideas that might bring more peace and goodwill into your Christmas:
• Reducing the amount of time you spend with “difficult” relatives, or running around meeting everyone else’s needs.
• Deciding your Christmas budget on the basis of what you can comfortably afford, not what you think others expect – and examining your own preconceptions of what’s necessary to have a good Christmas.
• Finding one or two things to have or do which are special for you, at some point in the Christmas season.
• Reconsidering family traditions to make sure they still create joy, discarding those that no longer work and creating new ones that do.
• Letting go of your fantasy of how things (and other people) “should” be. I’ve found WITWOK a useful mantra when things start getting to me: “What If This Was OK?”
Of course, it takes courage to do things differently at such a significant time of the year, especially if you worry that people will be upset. Maybe start gently with one or two smaller changes.
Remember that being more straightforward with others makes for healthier relationships in the long run.
Karen Bray (MBACP) is a counsellor with a private practice in Bath. Her website is at www.karenbray.co.uk.