Let’s be real, the Christmas season can be tough.
Ok, it can bring with it a healthy dose of joy and cheer, but for some this hardly rears its head. Instead, this period besieges them with triggering moments at unfortunate regularity, presenting a personalized advent calendar of challenges to work through. I for one often find the period brutally reliable in upturning my innards and unleashing all manner of palpitation-filled angst, albeit balanced at intervals by love lingering in the round. I feel childlike, ping-ponged between different sides of my family, trying to steady the ship and present the most agreeable version of myself.
For many of us, there’s the grief of losing a loved one and having the holiday season without them, maybe for the first time. On top of this, from weeks before Christmas rolls in the season has invited conversations with close/close-ish relatives on where to go, how to spend it, gifting opportunities to agonize over ways of balancing the books between familial factions. This can simmer along until the event, heightening tensions to a chilling chest scream, and to then see faces arriving that drag back unresolved grievances and traumas from yesteryear. On the day even the messaging behind a gift can bring you deep into an exhausting self-analysis, leaving you with no appetite come turkey time.
And with this year being, well, this year, we may end up doubling down on the unmerriness that many find ourselves seasonally wading through. Which perhaps can give you the final charge of impetus to look after yourself this Christmas.
It’s easy to lose sight of your true north, or to feel muddled about what you want when steeping in the whirlpool of family expectations and the past. Ask yourself, “is it okay to do what I want to do?”, and give yourself permission to do so. Maybe you’ve always fancied doing things a little unorthodox, doing a very un-Christmas-y Christmas. Could this time around be a first?
When you feel triggered, see if you can space out the gap between it hitting you and your habitual knee-jerk reaction. Where perhaps you’re inclined to outsource this pain onto someone else, accommodate these emotions shifting around inside, to feel the feels of the festive period, and realize your unmetered resilience to house all that’s rumbling within. If helpful and natural to you, reach for a pen and journal and write it out, noticing the thought patterns and narratives that are front of mind without attachment.
Take. It. slow. Get some headspace away from the buzz buzz buzz-ing world of today by stepping away from screens and out for a walk, either without your phone or zipping it away. When winding down for the days in the lead-up to Christmas, switch your devices to aeroplane mode before you head off to bed, so you don’t wake up to a stream of notifications and noise. At Christmas, is there a grounding, peaceful activity you could plan for with a family member, say a puzzle with a niece? Or, let the wider triggers fizzle away and immerse yourself in cooking, taking time to put together a cracking Xmas feast!?
Just a few self-accepting ideas to equip yourself for the season. To finish, I’ll leave you with some positive affirmations that you can hold and turn back to, perhaps in those most challenging moments or every upcoming day of advent.
The truth I know, is I am good enough, just as I am. I am whole.
My experience is valid. My heart, is heard. I accept, unconditionally, who I am.
I don’t need to be fixed, I’ll drift within to a sanctuary of unstirred bliss
Hear yourself, feel yourself, be yourself. And, merry or otherwise, have the Christmas that works for you!
Written by Rupert Eyles
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