Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Graeme Orr MBACP(Accred), UKRCP Reg. Ind. Counsellor
22nd November, 20110 Comments
Tis the season to be jolly, intones the Christmas carol. Yet for many people Christmas can be one of the hardest times of the year. With Christmas appearing earlier and earlier in our shops each year, the time that this sense of being down can effect behaviour and our outlook grows.
I have clients that worry about the financial side of Christmas, the expectation that everyone will be showered with gifts. Your sense that if you are given a gift: you should give a present of equal value back. It shows the love you feel for the person (sic). Sometimes people have relationships that are not working well and the pressure of Christmas puts an intolerable load on the relationship. I cant remember which of our parents should we be having Christmas dinner with this year?It may be that you have lost someone close, perhaps recently, perhaps in the past and this time of year reminds you of the loss in your life. It is particularly hard because everyone is being so Jolly when you feel like locking yourself away. But you put on a mask of happiness so as not to spoil everyone elses Christmas.
There are of course many other reasons that people find Christmas a hard time, but while it can be a difficult time there are things you can do to help yourself. One of the most important things you can do is to speak about how you feel. Perhaps there is a friend or a relative, or even a counsellor, which you would be comfortable just saying what it is like for you. Sometimes the process of just expressing how difficult you find it can be enough to make the season a little more bearable. The person that you speak to just needs to listen, they cant solve the problems but there is comfort in the fact that someone else knows how difficult you are feeling.
Many people find that volunteering especially at Christmas is very special it helps them feel that they are putting something back and enjoying that sense of giving while at the same time looking after those who struggle at this time of the year. If you find yourself on your own at Christmas this can be a particularly good way of making contact with others. You help them and you help yourself. Problems with money and relationships can always get out of control, but many people find that setting boundaries on what is spend or discussed can help them get through the period. Agree with friends that this year you will only buy the children presents or that the maximum spend will be a set amount. If you really want to swap gifts Secret Santa can be a good way to keep the cost down. Relationships are harder, but as at any other time of the year honest communication will be better than hiding your feelings.
Try to avoid jugular subjects and remember if someone is trying to make you feel inferior, that is there problem the only opinion that matters about yourself is your own. Remember you dont have to slavishly go somewhere each Christmas because thats what weve always done start a new tradition. I know families who go for a walk on the beach at Christmas, having a meal out on Christmas day is more and more popular. Build what you want into the day. Kenneth Williams once said Just because youve build your bed doesnt mean you have to lie in it.
Similarly just because you did it last Christmas doesnt mean that you have to do it this Christmas. Finally if you have lost someone, perhaps you could have a tradition to remember them light a candle or toast them at dinner, even share your memories of them at Christmas. In essence Christmas is about relationships not expectations, money or gifts. So support your friends and family in the way you feel most comfortable, remembering you are part of the family too.
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