Feeling the strain at Christmas
According to the song, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. And yet for all its tinsel and glitter, the festive season can bring an array of worries and stresses. If you are feeling the strain this Christmas you are not alone.
I notice some familiar themes cropping up in my therapy room at this time of year.
Spending quality time with family is a welcome prospect for most of us. But for some, Christmas is a reminder of painful family memories, or perhaps the loss of a loved one. Loneliness and depression can set in. Sometimes, it may become intolerable to be in close proximity with relatives when relationships are strained. Anxiety, resentment and anger may rear their heads.
Overspending is common at this time of year. There is a huge amount of pressure on us to deliver a picture-perfect Christmas celebration, and getting into debt is one way we can achieve this. Debt creates tensions within close relationships and people often harbour feelings of guilt and shame.
Christmas is the ultimate temptation, leading to excesses in eating and drinking. Afterwards we may feel guilt-ridden and lacking in strength as we notice the calories that have piled on. All the additional opportunities to socialise can result in us feeling tired and run-down, which in turn exacerbates any pre-existing mental health symptoms.
Christmas is a lot to deal with. As a mother I know that I am juggling shopping, wrapping gifts, writing cards, putting up decorations, social and school requests alongside all the usual household chores and my job. It's enough to make anyone feel the strain, and can give rise to all sorts of unhealthy coping strategies.
The pressure to enjoy ourselves at Christmas is enormous. But if parties and crowds and noise make you want to stay in bed and pull the covers up over your head then your experience of Christmas is likely to be far from enjoyable.
If you are under pressure this Christmas please remember to take time out for yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup! Whether it's making time for a relaxing bath, a walk in the fresh air or doing self-hypnosis or meditation, it will be time well spent and will allow you to come back feeling stronger.
Tomorrow is another chance to start afresh. Set your intentions and emotions for the day when you first wake up, and let go of the need for perfectionism or people pleasing.
You deserve to have an amazing Christmas too!
This article first appeared in the new Stour & Avon magazine on 17 December 2021.