Christmas! A time of peace, joy and good will to all men.
Or… pressure, stress, exhaustion and resentment to all. The true miracle of Christmas would be the kids not changing their lists to Santa every time the whim takes them. The delegation of duties being evenly split across families. The perspective to know your limits and work within them.
The Christmas Lens becomes a magnifying glass about whats not ‘perfect’ in our lives. Standards regarding our homes, decorations, gift ideas, wrapping and food become unrealistic and negatively intrusive to our sense of well-being. Surely if we can just get this one perfect day then everything else will fall into place?
This kind of magical thinking sets us up for failure before we start. The reality is – your home is invaded by impossible goals! From disappointing reactions to gifts, Black Forest Gateaux trod into the carpets that you spent hours cleaning and the inebriated finding the Dutch Courage to suddenly voice a narrative of ‘home truths’ or ‘tough love’. Old resentments make an appearance and lead to hushed conversations in the kitchen.
Suddenly military precision is required for entertaining, gift opening and serving 18 side dishes at the correct temperature and time. It’s a pressure cooker ultimately of hopes dashed. Surrounded by ‘loved ones’ yet feeling put upon, disappointed, isolated and emotionally distressed.
This is not everyone’s Christmas experience. Some will have a relaxed and wonderful time and that’s good. There will also be a rise in domestic abuse and suicidal thinking or action. 2020 may be the poster child of grief and loss. People who are already experiencing depression, stress or anxiety won’t get a free pass just because it’s Christmas. Charles Dickens’ ghosts of Christmas symbolise these prevalent mental health issues well:-
The Ghost of Christmas Past – Depression
The Ghost of Christmas Present – Stress
The Ghost of Christmas Future – Anxiety
The pressures of Christmas know no bounds. Whether self-imposed or culturally driven the effects can be harmful.
So, how can we be kinder to ourselves and how can we manage realistic expectations?
Perhaps we need to adopt a ‘that’ll do’ mindset, one that is inline with our abilities and available time. Relaxation techniques are widely available on the internet or within self help books – treat yourself!
The realisation that life is messy, why would Christmas be different?
Humour, it has always been a prized resource for me that has built up my resilience.
If you feel you are in crisis or need specific help please see my list of useful numbers and websites here
I hope you have a Merry Christmas but just like everyone else it is unlikely to be perfect.