It’s not exactly news that Christmas (or the ever-expanding Festive Season) can be one of the most fun but one of most stressful times of the year. The media has created an insta-perfect image of what Christmas ‘should’ look like. Think along the lines of a White Company catalogue- decorated tree and table, which is of course heaving with a perfectly-cooked array of Christmas treats, surrounded by happy, smiling families, all wearing ironic Christmas jumpers. Oh and don’t forget the handmade gingerbread house, complete with stained glass windows!
Really? Is that what Christmas is?
And what if your Christmas isn’t?
I’ve already heard people stressing out about Christmas. About having everything ready, and how they’ll cope on the day, what to buy, what to cook. And how on Earth they’ll pay for it all.
It seems to me that it’s all such a long way from the true spirit of Christmas. So if you’re feeling the pressure of conforming to the ludicrously high expectations we seem to have about Christmas, it’s worth stopping to think, now, about how you could turn the stress dials down.
Last year I was pretty much bed-bound for most of December. I was devastated that I couldn’t even lie on the sofa and watch the kids decorate the tree, let alone get involved. CFS had my nervous system so revved up and my body so exhausted, that the excitement, noise and lights were such an assault on my senses that I lasted about two minutes before I had to take myself back up to lie quietly on my bed. My mum had to help me wrap presents and my husband did all the cooking on Christmas Day.
As someone who absolutely loves everything about Christmas (including the home-made gingerbread house) I had to completely lower my expectations. And guess what, we all had a lovely Christmas. We spent the morning opening pressies on my bed, and I had to leave the table before everyone else to go and lie down, but it was the most relaxed Christmas I’ve had in years. Yes I missed out on the parties and days out. But there’s other years.
And I’m so grateful that this year I’m far better, and, touch wood, hope to be back decorating the tree (if the kids will let me!). I’m still not likely to be up to the parties, or going with the hubby and kids to London to see the lights – I wish I was, because as much as it’s all a bit far removed from the ‘real’ spirit of Christmas, I’m a sucker for all things glittery and sparkly. But I can honestly say I’m fine with the fact that I can’t go. That’s the way it is right now and I can let it upset me or I can choose to be happy about what I CAN do. Which is plenty. I mean, not being able to go to a Christmas party or see a few lights is a seriously 1st World problem, right?
SO HERE ARE MY TOP ‘CALM CHRISTMAS’ TIPS…
These are my three top tips for a calm and happy Christmas – and they’re not your usual ‘make lists’ and ‘be organised’. They basically all boil down to not giving a crap what everyone else thinks:
– VALUES: think about your values and how Christmas fits into those. Depending on how religious or spiritual you are, this might be thinking about the true meaning of Christmas or what this time of year means to you. What’s really important? Is it the perfectly-roasted potatoes and insta-worthy tree? The big pile of presents? Or is it about love, kindness and celebrating life? Once you’ve worked out what YOU really think is important then keep that in mind with whatever you do. Because if Christmas is really just about love, does it matter if the turkey’s dry or you forget the cranberry sauce? Do you really care if your table isn’t big enough to fit Great Auntie Pat and all her children around? Can you get some rugs on the floor and have a Christmas picnic?
– GRATITUDE: be grateful for what you have, however little, because there will ALWAYS be someone who would love to have what you have. I think Christmas has become far too much about the presents. I mean even Jesus only got three! And was born in a barn… no perfectly decorated house for him with matching plates and serviettes.
See if you can truly just accept and be happy with what you can do and what you can’t – and let the latter go.
– STOP COMPARING: Drop the perfectionist! (This has been a biggie for me!) Something I’ve really understood recently (from some fantastic people including Faith Canter and her new book Loving Yourself Inside & Out, and Toby Morrison who runs CFS Health) is that we’re all busy comparing ourselves and trying to be like each other! But it’s pointless – none of us are the same or on the same journey. We have no idea what’s going on behind other people’s facade. The reality is we all aspire to be these perfect people – but they don’t exist. They’re all trying to be like someone else too. I’ve spent my life comparing myself (unfavourably) to other people and trying to be perfect. It’s exhausting and it’s fake. I’m a million times happier now I’ve decided that I just want to be me.
Keeping it simple, letting go of expectations, consciously enjoying each moment and remembering that, for me, it’s all about feeling the love – that’s the plan I choose for Christmas this year 🎄 💕