There’s a lot of pressure to have a happy Christmas. Any Christmas advert will show you what your Christmas should look like. The reality is that the media shows a stilted inaccurate representation of real life. This discrepancy is responsible for mental health issues, not only at Christmas but in the rest of our lives.
We all compare our actual lives to the perceived ‘amazing’ lives of others and the media reinforces this distorted comparison. We all want to live the ideal but very few of us actually do. Depression and anxiety are caused by feeling we aren’t living our best lives. FOMO is another reason for anxiety and depression. So when it comes to Christmas we feel that we should be having as much fun as everyone else. We all assume everyone is having fun and we are the only ones who don’t but the reality is no one is having the perfect Christmas. The media sells us a dream and we feel inadequate when our experiences don’t live up to it.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to have a perfect Christmas
Experiencing a Christmas that isn’t “perfect” is not a reflection on you or your self-worth. If you are alone at Christmas, that doesn’t automatically mean anything negative unless you perceive it to be so. Be careful about the thoughts you choose to believe. Christmas is one day of the year and you can choose to believe anything you want to about this day. It can be a day where you feel pressure to put on a faker smile and pretend you are really happy or it can be an easy day, spent doing whatever you choose without any fakery. Which one do you think will help you to feel more relaxed and content? In order to have a happy Christmas day, let go of any self-induced pressure.
Be mindful and enjoy the people in your life
Spending time with other is a gift, It may not feel that way when you have to spend time with family members that you don’t particularly get on with. Perhaps Christmas is a time to challenge old beliefs and find out if there is any other way to look at the people in your life. That irritating old Aunt – perhaps you have avoided her because she has been labelled “annoying” but perhaps it’s time to really chat to her and find out more about her goals and dreams. You may even find her stories inspiring…how will you know unless you try to find an alternative way to relate to the person that you have avoided or limited contact with? Cognitive Behavioural therapists call these “behavioural experiments” – a great way to ‘reality-test’ your thoughts. The more flexible you are in how you see the world around you (how easy you find it to generate alternative thoughts for an event), the happier you will be.
Use Christmas as a time for self-reflection
Christmas can be used as a day to reflect on the past year and decide what went well and what went squiffy. What lessons have you learned and how can you use these valuable lessons for the coming year? What worked for and what do you wish you could change? There is never a better time than during self-reflection to re-assess and choose healthy aspirations. See Christmas as a cleansing time.
See Christmas as the springboard for a great year ahead
Christmas acts as a ‘marker’ for change. A milestone in personal-development. Christmas is a time to leave behind toxic relationships, bad habits and self-destructive tendencies. Your emotions act as an internal compass – think back over the times when you have felt hurt, disappointed or let down. Your negative emotions are trying to tell you that it’s time for a change. It’s easier said than done though but your emotions are good at nudging you and reminding you of things that aren’t good for you. Sometimes we stick around for more hurt and disappointment and that can partly be due to an unstable upbringing. fear of failure, abandonment and being alone can keep us stuck in unhealthy situations. Christmas symbolises a turning point if you want it to.
Let Christmas remind you of your values and goals
What would you have done more of in the past year? What would you rather forget and never repeat? Use this hindsight to guide you. I wish I had been more careful with self-care – eating in a more healthy way and more exercise. I also wish that I could have progressed more with work but Covid certainly limited many options. Sometimes life makes it difficult to achieve our goals but we can still live our lives according to our values.
I enjoy helping others and thankfully Covid hasn’t impeded my ability to continue with my therapy work. I want to spend more time with animals in the new year. This last year was tough but the one shining light was starting the new Cystic Fibrosis drug – Kaftrio (Trikafta in USA). So even among the sad and bad times, there are good things even if we have to look a little harder. Life is rarely all good or all bad and it’s about making the most of what we have. It makes no sense be unappreciative of what you have. Make the most of it.
Decide who you want to be – you have complete power over how you wish to behave and present yourself. You also have complete control over what you want to think and focus your attention on. What you focus on determines the quality of your life so make sure you focus on the right things – the things that inspire you, fill you up and leave you buzzing. That’s where you should focus and never give up.
Happy Christmas (or not!)….it’s all okay.