• Katrina Down

Avoiding a Crossmas

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

Over the weekend I found myself perusing the aisles of the homeware mecca that is “The Range” in search of antibacterial spray (exciting Saturday stuff, I know).

As I scanned the shelves, I was roused to the realisation that I was humming the tune to “have yourselves a merry little Christmas” as the dulcet tones of Frank Sinatra echoed through the speaker system. My brief WT… moment was quickly followed by two clearly observable thoughts. The first being “Jeez, it October give it a rest”, the second “I’m not ready for the C word, I’m only just wrapping my head around the other C word that has stolen half a year!”

I quickly decided to “Voldermort” the word Christmas for another month, banishing it to my brain locker with other “that which shall not be mentioned” words such as Covid. It did however get me thinking of what Christmas will be like this year and the increased impact that current circumstances will have on what is already an incredibly stressful time for many.

Now, my intention is not to “grinch” the Christmas spirit. Far from it! I love the smell of fresh pine, walking through the Christmas tree markets and the twinkling of foiled wrapped presents under the Christmas tree lights, however the pressures we place upon ourselves to create seasonal perfection sometimes becomes more of a self-imposed obligation than a joy. Westernised societies, especially with exposure to media fuelled idealisms, place great emphasis on excess, expense and indulgence which can lead to stress, guilt, financial difficulties and ill metal health, and that is what I am here to help you combat.

If you are someone that experiences increased anxiety during the festive period, you are far from alone. Research by David Lloyd Clubs suggests that approx. 33% of people in the UK suffer from increased anxiety at this time of year and as much as 69% of the population relinquish self-care and boundaries in order to accommodate and appease others. Furthermore, research shows that as many as 60% of women experience shopping fatigue, under the pressure to find the perfect gifts.

Aside from the expectation to accommodate family and friends, to socialise more and to spend out on gifts, tension from family gatherings, the need to increase cooking and cleaning and for some the loneliness, isolation and the memory of lost loved ones, can all fuel depression and ill mental health.

Positive steps to decrease stress.

1. Self-care - During heightened periods of stress, it is important to engage in activities which allow for a healthy outlet for overwhelming feelings and thoughts. This could be anything from a short walk and fresh air, to exercise or just having a good old chinwag. Self-care is vital for relieving the pressures of the busy Christmas season.

2. Maintain your boundaries – Family gatherings, Christmas parties and gifts. Know your physical, emotional and financial limits and make sure you say no if you feel that these limits are being crossed.

3. Plan in advance – This is way I think it is important to write this now. Planning well in advance; who you are buying for and creating a budget; will reduce your risk of debt, panic buying and overspending. Although many of us value nice gifts, it is often the thoughtfulness that we appreciate most. Nobody would prefer to see a loved one struggle just so as we can have a pretty bow on a box, so keep within your budget and get someone (with a good memory) to hide the credit card until December 26th to avoid going into debt. If money is really tight, homemade gifts are a perfect way to say, “I love you”. You can get the family involved and they won’t break the bank. Furthermore, asking family and friends what they really need may reveal gifts that do not require wrapping, such as babysitting the kids so parents can have some adult time alone, or making a home cooked meal. Maybe even just giving a family member you absolute undivided attention accompanied with a bottle of wine or tea and biscuits. Planning your time is equally important. Prioritise, make your plans achievable and allow for periods of rest in between. You do not have to be all things to all people and at every event, just because it is Christmas.

4. Reach out – With so much uncertainty surrounding Christmas this year, more people will be feeling the impact of isolation and loneliness. Plan now for worst case scenario’s (whilst hoping for the best) to avoid a lonely Christmas. If you have few people to reach out to, obtain names and numbers of organisations that you can turn to for support and connection during the festive season . For those that are able bodied, volunteering to help others can be incredibly rewarding, especially at Christmas. Reaching out is also knowing you limits and asking for help when you need it. Do not be afraid to delegate or share the workload with others.

5. Aim for happiness not perfection – We can become so absorbed in the details that we often lose sight of the bigger and more important picture. Concentrate on what is important and be weary of any “shoulds” and “musts” that creepy into your inner and external dialogue.

6. Ditch the comparisons – the exquisite images of log fires, draped in garlands and 7ft trees adorned with hundreds of pounds of decorations are beautiful, but for many, extremely unrealistic. Magazines and social media will bombard you with images such as these constantly, so be mindful to take a break from these images and remember that the true spirit of Christmas isn’t really found in these things. A great alternative to buying expensive decorations could be grabbing the kids, your nieces and nephews, and going foraging for items to make your own decorations with. Much cheaper and such good fun!

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration. It is also a time where we can reflect in appreciation for all the things we have. Remembering that the true essence of Christmas is not about debt, stress or burning yourself out, will help you to prioritise what is individualistically important to you. For those who are facing huge uncertainty and isolation, organisations such as the following may be able to offer you some help and connection, through the coming months.

Samaritans: 116 123

Shelter: 0808 800 4444 (for those with concerns surrounding homelessness)

MIND: 0300 123 3393 or text 86463

Crisis: 0300 636 1967

Age UK: 0800 169 65 65

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