For many people Christmas can be quite a stressful and demanding time of year fulfilling endless expectations. In this blog, I aim to explore how it affects us and what we can do to make things a little easier.
Recently my friend and I were talking about Christmas plans as we were trying to organise a meet up before new year. I was outlining numerous Christmas plays that I had to take the kids to, the fun activities they were involved in and the things I had to buy or get so they could participate in these events. When I listed all the things I had to do, including my own social life, I realised that I was running myself ragged. My friend and I reflected on this (as we therapists are prone to doing) and she said she had been listening to a podcast by Gabrielle Treanor who focused on mindfulness. It was about reflecting on what Christmas means to you and how you’d like it to be. Each day she sends an email with a couple of questions to help you work things out. Ironically I’m too busy to read them all at once so I’m taking it a little day by day. The first question I read was how would you like Christmas to be different? It was then that I realised I had spent the past 15 years rushing about so much, so that when it actually got to Christmas I was shattered and stressed out.
Christmas has become ever more demanding. The fast pace of life we have now, fancy adverts showing us how beautiful things can be and how wonderful Christmas can be, food to buy, not to mention all the events and activities that children are involved in. If you are feeling overwhelmed. I get you.
There are a number of things that we do though to make us feel overwhelmed. These include….
- Perfectionism Many people at Christmas feel the need to get things right. I have definitely fallen into this trap a few times. Building up my own expectations of how things should be and crashing spectacularly when things have totally failed. Last year, I had some massive failures in meeting my own expectations. I gave myself such a hard time but other people didn’t notice, weren’t affected or weren’t bothered by them.
- People pleasing- At Christmas there is a big focus on making other people happy, after all it is the season of giving. Many of us go that extra mile and just keep saying yes to everything, desperately trying not to let anyone down. I think I’ve fallen into this trap too!
- Overthinking- Many of us, don’t have too much on our plates but tend to over analyse everything, maybe trying to think of all the things that could go wrong and trying to prevent them from happening.
- Self doubt- When things go well, everything is good and you feel in control but then if something might go wrong, for example a friend calls you to cancel before your Christmas party, you start to feel out of control and unconfident.
So what can we do to help us manage a demanding Christmas?
- Perfectionism- Being good enough is fine. Look around you, everyone is in the same boat. When I talk to my clients, we all have our own issues going on. If you fail, look at other people’s reactions. If your reaction is stronger than theirs, then maybe you’re being very hard on yourself. You can’t do more than your best.
- People pleasing- One of my friends is a medical receptionist. Occasionally she has to cancel appointments because a member of her team has become sick or their car has broken down. I listened to her calls the other day and was reassured to hear that most people she cancelled were fine about it. No one shouted at her, and they all just rearranged, even when some of them were sat in the waiting room patiently waiting for their appointment. It’s ok to have limits of what we can achieve. Sometimes despite our best efforts, we can't help but not meet them. If we practice saying no to potentially let others down, we might feel more confident in doing what we can.
- Overthinking- If we are constantly thinking of the worst thing that could happen, it will cause us so much anxiety. By trying to control uncertainty, you are backing yourself into a corner where you will get stuck. Try ditching the what if’s that may never happen. Focus on what you can do, your skills, previous successes in dealing with difficult circumstances and allow yourself to rely on them if the worst happens. If a real problem does occur, you’ll feel confident in dealing with it.
- Self doubt- if you feel under confident, try talking to yourself as you would talk to a child. Would you berate? Would you encourage? Would you criticise a child thats failed? Or would you praise for having a go?
- Christmas can be overwhelming but if we do take a different perspective, it can be manageable and even lots of fun. If we take the pressure off ourselves to be superhuman, then maybe we can start to enjoy things.
If you would like more information about taking a different approach to Christmas and how CBT can help, why not get in touch today and call me on 0161 8831156.
Gabrielle Treanor has a blog called worry less and enjoy life more. https://gabrielletreanor.com