Are You Struggling In The Lead Up To Christmas?

It’s that time of year again with the media constantly portraying Utopian versions of happy Christmas get-togethers, relationships within the family are full of loving, jovial goodwill, there’s an abundance of festive food and lots of presents under the tree. We can often feel the pressure to step up and enjoy the festive season or pretend we enjoy it when we really don’t.

Anyone struggling with family dynamics, emotional and mental health issues or grief will know that the lead up to Christmas and Christmas day can be a difficult time for many with countless triggers for emotional health issues. Families coming together can bring conflict, reigniting old wounds and dysfunctional family dynamics. The media often creates a false sense that everyone outside of your life is enjoying the festive season and in turn this can foster real feelings of loneliness and isolation for some.

While many of us look forward to spending precious time with loved ones, some of us struggle with enforced or compulsory family time over Christmas. 

Having to socialise with difficult or toxic family members can be very challenging. Playing an active role in helping with preparation and having a job to focus on can give you a purpose and be a nice distraction from how you’re feeling. Having some healthy boundaries can help to keep you safe while still enjoy parts of the festivities. Pre-plan your day and try to identify previous triggers for changes in how you have felt, consider how much time you want to spend with people, plan breaks between contact with people. Enjoy a drink but now may not be the time to have too much and then address your differences with your most unfavourite person.

Try not to buy into the commercialism and fakery of advertising and social media. 

Let yourself know that Christmas is a difficult time for many and that’s OK, you are not alone. Try not to beat yourself up for feeling like this, depression, grief and anxiety are normal even if they are unwelcome. Remember to be kind to yourself and If you are spending Christmas alone, try to shift your perspective of Christmas day as a day of self-care for you and plan the things that you might enjoy in your day.

Christmas self-care time

Think about what you need and want from your Christmas day

While many of us are juggling family time or work commitments, think about how you can be kind to yourself this Christmas. Try to see any time off work as an opportunity to nourish your mind and body. Plan rest days or time slots where you can recharge, looking after your basic needs like sleep and eating nutritious food. This will also give you good internal resources to cope with what life is throwing at you during the festive season. If you’re feeling lonely and in need of Christmas plans, don’t be afraid to ask a friend or someone you know if you can spend the day with them. Try to have a couple of options and ask people in advance.

You might like to try something completely different like volunteering for a homeless shelter, women’s refuge, or feeding the homeless. This is an opportunity to meet some lovely people and feel really good about doing something worthwhile for others. This is an opportunity to meet some lovely people and feel really good about doing something worthwhile for others.

Above all, remember that if you do find this period difficult, you are not alone, be kind to yourself.

Yours truly,
Leslie Hartley
WLSA Psychologist

Make yourself a nice cocktail at home, you deserve a treat. See dietitian Maddison Evan’s Guide to Christmas Drinks.