Depending upon your point of view then, either sadly or happily, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. But, what does Christmas mean to you? For many it just means stress. What was once a celebration of the winter solstice, then an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ and is now, for all intents and purposes, simply an invitation to boost the economy as much as you can, has become a very stressful experience indeed. But, how can you mitigate that stress?
Whether you’re a pagan honouring the longest night, or a Christian celebrating your saviour’s birthday, or an atheist that’s simply looking forward to a get together with family and friends, the one thing you could all remember is that it is not a homage to the great god Capitalism.
Christmas is not about presents, it’s not about parties, and it’s definitely not about spend, spend, spend. It’s about people. That’s really what any festival, religious or otherwise, is about: bringing people together. Don’t budget for the Christmas you want, budget for the Christmas you can afford. And that’s not all, there are several things you can do to reduce (but sadly not remove) the stress of Christmas.
- Nothing has to be perfect! As much as you would like it to be, nothing has to be perfect. You don’t have to buy the perfect gift, it does not have to be perfectly wrapped, it doesn’t have to be the perfect dinner. Do the best you can, and take time out to enjoy yourself.
- Letting go of perfection runs to families too. Families are not perfect. They won’t make the perfect Christmas. If you can’t avoid family conflict, just accept that Aunt So and So does not get on with Uncle Thingy. If you really want to avoid family conflict, then there is nothing wrong with just saying ‘no’ and staying at home.
- Presents. Apparently, buying gifts is the number one source of Christmas stress. But, it really is the thought that counts. Get vouchers if you’re buying for someone fussy, buy what you can afford, don’t overspend. If people don’t understand that is there problem not yours. If you can’t afford anything, try making something. Or offering to do something for them (some DIY or home maintenance for instance); finally remembering what any festival is about, the greatest gift you can give anyone is your time. If you want to know how heart warming not having the perfect anything can be, just read this story of a man who couldn’t afford the perfect engagement ring (click here).
- Christmas dinner. Who says you have to cook it all, again, for the umpteenth year in a row! There are other options: buy as much pre-prepared stuff as you can; or ask people to contribute by each bringing an aspect of it themselves; or find a local eatery serving a reasonably priced festive menu and get everyone to chip in.
- Social obligations. Again learn to say ‘no.’ As with the above, there is nothing wrong with it. You don’t have to attend every social gathering, or every family get together. You don’t have to say yes to every drink passed your way. There is nothing wrong with you if you simply say ‘no,’ stay at home and get a good night’s sleep.
Sadly, not everyone has someone to say no too, not everyone has someone to worry about buying presents for. Still, you don’t have to feel lonely this Christmas. One restaurant in South-east London is offering free meals Christmas Day to the homeless and elderly so that “no one eats alone” (click here). Why not find out if an establishment in your area is doing the same thing?
But, if you do feel lonely, and don’t have anyone to call in on don’t dwell on it too much, do what you can to keep yourself occupied. Get out, go for a walk, and get some fresh air. It’s just one day.
However, if things do get too deep and midwintery for you, don’t let it get on top of you . . . please, pick up the phone and call The Samaritans on 116 123.
Finally, if you really do feel like Christmas is cracking you up, find a therapist, find a counsellor, find a trained professional who can help you navigate, not just the stresses and strains of the season, but also of every day life.
After all, the gift of sanity is probably the best Christmas present you could ever give yourself.