'Tis the season to be jolly, or is it? It is also the season for a spike in stress and a whole lot of negative emotions playing out. Family Christmases as a child, were full of excitement and expectation which were rarely fulfilled. Mum was in the kitchen preparing a feast and Dad was out socialising and in the pub. Inevitably the fall out from Mum's exhaustion and Dads inebriation would result in a miserable time being had by all. Still Mum laboured on to give us kids a good Christmas and I feel so sad that she felt she had to do this.
The familial pattern I learned from this did little to help lift my Christmas spirit. My late husband ramped up his gambling habit as the pressure mounted for him to be present for me and our children. I took the lead in making the children's Christmas as special as possible. Presents were bought months beforehand to avoid relying on any financial support from him.This backfired a few times when the children asked Father Christmas for something completely different to what was already wrapped and hidden away. Another year, Father Christmas spent so long in the betting shop, that he forgot to collect the bikes I had bought. Cue Christmas morning with a frantic call to the kindly bike shop man, who had luckily left the bikes behind his shop for collection. Crisis averted but my nerves were shot to pieces.
I always hung onto preparing a big roast turkey dinner and having matching tableware. I believed that if I aimed for perfection, it would somehow negate the niggling inner message that I wasn't good enough. I had learned from my Mum that you had to 'keep going' for the children and this took its toll as I strived each year to pretend everything was ok.
Going away to my parents house was the children's idea of heaven and Christmas for them there, was magical. We were able to eat well and they had plenty of presents to open. For me it brought another level of anxiety as my husband was never welcomed by my parents and used any excuse to exit early and make his way back home with my credit card in his pocket. Playing Monopoly while knowing our mortgage payments were in jeopardy was incredibly stressful. However I told myself that nobody wanted a scene and that I should try and make the best of everything.
When my late husbands health deteriorated, he was eventually moved into the hospice. I had time to reflect on the past and I thought back to the times I had endeavoured to create the perfect Christmas. We didn't know whether he would make it to Christmas, and sadly he didn't. However my change in mindset was profound and I built a list of survival techniques which I thought I'd share. Sitting in a hospice can allow us to contemplate all that is important in life and sadly, in death.
This list is not exhaustive and hopefully if will give some useful pointers to think about. The 1st question is the most important and it is good to think deeply about your answers. Be honest with yourself!
1. Check in with your perspective on how you think Christmas should be.
Are you trying to create something that is unrealistic and unnecessary?
What is driving your mindset? Who are you doing this for?
Does it matter that you didn't get the exact present for someone?
Ask yourself, what is important and what is not.
2. Children will ask for the latest things advertised. You can get plenty of preowned stuff on social media sites. It won't be the end of the world if they don't get what they ask for.
3. Don't go into debt. It is tempting to have now and pay later. Paying for an expensive Christmas gift carries double the stress, if it's causing hardship further on down the line.
4. Resect other people's ideas about Christmas. Not everyone celebrates this and that's fine too. Some of my family have different religious and political beliefs. We park this and just get together as a family.
5. Take some time out for yourself if you're living with a number of people. If physical space doesn't allow for much distance, use a pair of earphones and some calming music. Maybe read a book or lie quietly for a while.
6. Be kind to yourself and breathe. It soon will pass and hopefully you will come through unscathed and having had a good time.
In the meantime if any of this resonates with you and you'd iike to talk about underlying issues around Christmas or anything else, why not book a call with me?