How do you feel about Christmas? The movies would have us believe that everyone adores it, but for many of us it brings up a plethora of different, and often difficult emotions:- overwhelm, anxiety, fears around money, grief for lost loved ones, frustration that things aren’t different. Add in strained relationships, Omicron and the ever-chasing restrictions, and you’d be forgiven for wanting to hide under the duvet and hope it all goes away.
So just for you, here’s our holiday survival kit:
- Prioritise your family’s mental health and wellbeing. Decide what you want from Christmas: what do you want it look like this year and what can you manage? Yes we’d all like to be off at a posh Country House Hotel waited on hand and foot, or perhaps waking late to the turkey already in the oven – but perhaps that’s not doable. What do you need? My husband and I are exhausted, so we have decided we need to rest and spend some time with the girls. We’re prioritising downtime rather than socialising and everyone else will have to respect that. Agree as a family as to what is important to you all, so that you can know what to expect and juggle everyone’s needs and expectations.
- Don’t overspend. It’s easy to get sucked in and to wonder whether you’ve got “enough” for the kids or feel like you need to buy for everyone. You don’t. Your kids don’t need mounds of tat. It’s a cliché, but what they really want is time with you. And before you feel guilty, we’re talking quality not quantity – hot chocolate at the end of a walk around town to see the lights can feel like a real treat. Wrap presents together. Put a festive film on and snuggle up. Agree to forgo presents with people you might not see or plan to do something together in the New Year instead. You may be surprised at how relieved they are at your suggestion.
- Remember Xmas dinner is just a cooked lunch. There’s nothing fun about spending days in the kitchen and no one needs to eat enough food for 20. Bin the elements you don’t like – one family I know is having lasagne and I think it’s genius. if the kids are old enough, get them to chip in with the prep – laying a festive table, or a messy gingerbread house adds to the fun and festivities without the need for perfection. If you’re entertaining, get people to help. A quick call asking someone to do a cheeseboard or the starters will save you a ton of grief and allow them the joy of contributing.
- Socialise as much as works for you (and restrictions allow). Again, agree with your family what feels safe for you, and don’t be scared to tell people that you’re unable to attend parties and get-togethers if you don’t want to. You don’t need to elaborate – a simple “we’re being careful” is enough. Similarly, do get out and see people if you can– we need community and celebration: a night out letting our hair down can be the best present we give ourselves.
- The holidays can be a time when we’re thrown together with people that we normally avoid, like in-laws and estranged family members. Again, agree parameters with your immediate family, and feel free to exploit Omicron if you need to ;). If hanging out with them is unavoidable, make sure you build in your own breathing space – hide in the kitchen or the loo, take the dog for a Christmas walk, or invent a long catch-up Christmas call in another room. Self-care is vital at this time of year – know your limits and honour them.
- Remember it doesn’t have to be “the most wonderful time of the year”. All the hype around Christmas can make us feel like everyone is having the most amazing time – but it’s just not true. As we age, Christmas tends to come with a sense of wistfulness and often grief as we miss those we love. If you’re separated, being without the kids is hard. Working on Christmas Day can just suck. Plan whatever will make the day easier for you. Throw yourself a pity party if you need to. Allow yourself space to feel whatever emotions arise and remember – it’s just a day.
- Build-in enough downtime for yourself as well as the kids. It is tempting to fill your days with “festive activities” but over-scheduling leads to emotional overload – for you as well as the kids. Factor in plenty of lie-ins/ early nights, movie nights on the sofa and a few winter walks. Equally, don’t be tempted to over-indulge -when we feel physically under par, our mental health suffers. Balance the excesses with a few simple meals or some time off the booze. You’ll be happy you did.
- Don’t forget our recordings – not just individually when you or the kids are feeling stressed but stick them on in the background whilst you’re cooking or wrapping presents or the family’s gathering. Don’t make a big deal of it, just put them on: most of the time people won’t notice and they’ll help keep the tension from mounting. So log in here or sign up for your free trial and keep us on standby.
It’ll be over before you know it…