Have yourself a merry mindful Christmas
Updated: Jul 25, 2022
For most it's time away from work; there's a chance to do things as a family; you get to see loved ones you've missed during the year. Yet, for many Christmas signals a sense of dread and stress.
First of all as soon as the stores shut, it's a time of excess, little exercise and little escape. Then the carcophany of excitement, batteries included gifts, and the seasonal film marathons make it all the more difficult to converse with Nan and her hearing aid, or send the baby off to sleep in order to stick to the routine. Add to that the social expectations to "have fun" at Christmas - where for some there is an added pressure of making the hours "instagram worthy"; and the nagging feeling that rather than the choice to see people along with the opportunity to make it happen visiting at Christmas feels like an obligation, and you have a recipe for a cracker of a non-hangover headache.
...and then, just when you reach a moment of calm - often when society opens its doors again, there's the small talk which always seems to open with "What did you do this Christmas?"
Plus, this is before you consider the festive period through the eyes of someone who chooses solitude for preference.
There must be a way of balancing your needs and the desires of those around you.
My 12 tips for Christmas
1. Ditch the expectations, including "traditions" if they are stressful to all concerned. Maybe use the opportunity to create a new one! It's ok to do something "different" - by anyone's standards.
2. Watch your budget - and remember putting yourself in debt in order to make yourself feel better is only a downward spiral. A couple of research-based shopping tips:
- People tend to spend more money away from home - try to buy your presents in your own area.
- Write a gift list and stick to it.
- Where you can, try and pay in cash rather than on a card - handing money over always makes you think more.
- Some parents practice the rule of 4 when it comes to gifts, giving something you WANT, NEED, WEAR, READ
3. Choose your "poison" - try not to overindulge in everything. Choose the one thing you really love and enjoy it without guilt.
4. Make the Christmas Card writing easier with pre-printed labels.
5. Learn to say "no" - or find ways of sharing the load. If you are hosting, ask yourself if it is something you enjoy, or something that is expected. Either way, consider asking people to bring a dish, or to help out on the day, and for next year - float the idea of something different.
6. Try and keep the blood pumping - go for a walk, especially after large meals, and while wrapping up warm and being mindful of the elements eg. slippery roads and dark nights; take in some nice deep cleansing breaths.
7. Keep it bright - if you can't get any more sunlight, brighten your rooms, light can brighten our mood.
9. Rather than thinking about what you've achieved (or not) during the year, think about what you are grateful for right here and right now.
9. If you are lonely - consider things such as an "online Christmas" - there are forums where you can chat to others online over your dinner. Or perhaps volunteer, it's a great way to get out and meet nice people. Perhaps you've been planning to visit relatives - take a step towards putting that into action by contacting them or even buying the ticket.
10. If you enjoy solitude - tell people, and allow yourself a couple of hours to yourself - with the expectation your loved ones will be happy for you to.
11. Remember you don't need to "prove" anything. This is time for you as well as for everyone else. No-one likes a martyr - honestly!
12. Try to engage fully in the time you spend with those you love. Step away from technology, and bring your focus to the here and now and how your feel with those you are with.
Dr Audrey Tang is a chartered psychologist and author. Listen to her podcast Retrain Your Brain here; and catch her practical masterclasses Psych Back to Basics on DisruptiveTV & Energy Top Up for resilience For quick tips and tools: click for SKILL PILL and Q&A videos and here for Media appearances. Twitter/IG @draudreyt