Christmas can be a time of festivity and celebration, especially for all of those fortunate children waiting for Santa’s presents to appear under the Christmas tree. But for many people, Christmas is a much-dreaded occasion, synonymous with anxiety, stress, loneliness and isolation. Social pressures push you into feeling obliged to buy gifts and attend family or work functions with a smile on your face and an infinitely joyful spirit.
Amid all of the lights and delights can lie a dark side. Christmas can remind us of past hurts and animosities between parents, children, extended family members, friends or colleagues. And it can be particularly painful if someone you love has died since last Christmas … or even several Christmases before then.
Here’s some ideas for how to manage this year’s Christmas with a sense of resilience.
- Practice self-compassion: realise that your life feels challenging right now, and that it’s okay. Don’t let the internal, negative voices prevail: this is a time to look after yourself. Instead, let the gentle voices in, know that you’re not the only one feeling this way, and forgive yourself for not loving Christmas this time around (or ever!).
- Ask for support: feeling a range of emotions like sadness, loneliness anxiety or stress at Christmas time is completely normal. Don’t let yourself feel pressured into feeling happy. Instead, reach out and ask for support from a trusted friend or mate, or ask your GP to refer you to a good counsellor or psychologist.
- Volunteer: it’s well established now that one path towards happiness is through giving, particularly to those who are more in need than you. Volunteer to help at a soup kitchen or a local charity that is collecting toy and clothing donations for people in need. Not only will you enjoy a feel-good buzz, you will meet other like-minded people and feel an increased sense of belonging.
- Organise your own special occasion or tradition: sometimes it pays to take the countercultural angle. If you really don’t like Christmas, then design your own special occasion or tradition by doing something fun that makes you feel energised and alive again. Go to the movies, cook and devour your most favourite foods, go skydiving or on a long coastal bushwalk, bike ride, swim or run, pop a bottle of champagne from a mountain top – whatever makes you smile with relish!
- Look after yourself: write a list of activities that help your mind, body and soul feel good. Walking, swimming, running, meditation, yoga, dancing, singing, gardening, eating healthy foods, drinking lots of water, journaling, drawing, having baths, or socialising with people who lift your spirits. Let looking after yourself be the greatest gift you receive at Christmas time this year.
- Realise that this too shall pass: Christmas comes but once a year, and sometimes resilience is just about gritting your teeth until it’s all over. While that sounds like an uncomfortable process, all of us need to lean into discomfort sometimes, while reassuring ourselves that the unpleasant feelings will pass eventually.
If you are feeling overwhelmed by grief, loss, anxiety or depression, our Healing Your Life residential program can help. Please call 1300-941-488 to find out more.