Christmas is often associated with being merry and jolly, filled with boundless happiness and joy. It can make things even harder when we don’t meet this expectation and instead find ourselves struggling during this time of year. However if you find that this is a difficult time, you certainly are not alone.
Christmas and the holiday period can be extremely challenging, especially following the year we have had.
So, let’s explore six tips to survive this time:
1. Open up
We can spend a lot of effort denying the reality of experiencing difficult thoughts and emotions. We might start having thoughts such as “I shouldn’t be feeling this way during such a happy time”, so to keep the uncomfortable internal experiences at bay we might over-commit, keep busy and distract or alternatively we might withdraw from events, people and places. This denial of our experiences only leads to these unheard thoughts/emotions becoming louder and louder. Instead, we can start to open up and make room for some of this discomfort.
Following on from opening up to our unwanted experiences, we can then offer ourselves some self-compassion. Dr. Kristen Neff has an activity called the ‘Self-Compassion Break’ which involves identifying that this is a moment of suffering, acknowledging our common humanity and asking ourselves how we can express kindness to ourselves. An example of this could include “this is stressful, Christmas is a challenging time and I am not alone in feeling this way, may I be kind to myself”. For more information on self-compassion, please see self-compassion.org.
Mindfulness refers to being present in the here and now with full awareness. It has become somewhat of a buzzword in recent times but there are many benefits to being more mindful in our lives. Mindfulness can reduce suffering, put us back in the driver’s seat of our lives and increase joy. Mindfulness can be thought of as living life with our eyes wide open in full awareness. In practicing mindfulness we can start to enjoy small pleasures in and amongst the pain, rather than labelling the whole holiday period as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Mindfulness can be practiced formally such as listening to a guided meditation or informally such as slowing down an activity and bringing all your attention to this activity.
4. Cope – ahead
If we can anticipate that a challenging time is ahead a useful skill to use is ‘coping ahead’. This might include some problem solving, accessing resources or calling upon your skills and strengths. It may also include scheduling in positive events such as watching a movie, going for a walk, eating your favourite food or listening to music.
What does Christmas really mean to you? It can be useful to reflect on what is important to you during this time, you may like to ask yourself ‘what kind of person do I want to be’. Are there some ways you can live out these values during this time and maybe this looks different to previous years. For example, if connection is a value you hold close during Christmas and you are unable to see family members, how else could you embody this value. Could you connect online, mail a Christmas card, get involved with a group activity, connect with nature or spend time with pets?
6. Reach out
And if Christmas is just all a bit overwhelming, talk to someone you trust, seek support or reach out to the wonderful team at ProMind (if I do say so myself).
May you look after and be kind to yourself this Christmas.
Leni is one of our wonderful Psychologists at ProMind Psychology and she has availability to help new clients. Reach out if you’d like to make a time!