Christmas or Christmess?
Christmas can be a wonderful time of year, it can also be one of the hardest depending on your circumstances. For some of us there is all the stress of planning and preparing for the big day, the expense and the prospect of having to spend time with difficult family members. Alternatively Christmas may be a time of sadness and loneliness, especially if a friend or loved one has passed away recently and you’re facing your first Christmas without them. Some stress is a normal part of everyday life but there are times when it can become more than we can cope with.
Everyone’s reaction to stress is different but over-eating, drinking too much, shutting down emotionally or reacting with anger to trivial situations are common signs that you may be struggling to cope with stressful events. At times such as these it can be difficult to see any solution to the situation and sometimes it’s necessary to be realistic and accept that there may not be a simple or perfect answer for now.
Unfortunately the pressures we place upon ourselves and others often form part of a habitual pattern and are difficult to stop. This sounds very disheartening but it is often the realisation that there’s something ‘wrong’ that allows us to start finding what is ‘right. One of the biggest changes we can make is to realise that there’s always more than one way of looking at a situation and changing how we react. A helpful question can be ‘what is the worst thing that could happen if I do/don’t do this?’ Quite often the answer can be surprising and gives a new perspective.
In some ways we all go through life using the habitual coping mechanisms that we learned in our childhood, from our parents or our education and that’s where we stop. But life is a process of change and nothing stays the same, so finding new ways to cope and developing new emotional skills are just as important as learning to read, drive or even sky-dive. It’s also worth remembering that you are not alone in experiencing these feelings and emotions and that even experiencing things that we regard as negative are signs that we need to change how we respond to the challenges that our lives are creating for us now.
Christmas creates many emotional minefields that we may have to deal with that affect others. The children’s wildly unrealistic demands for presents, which parent they’ll be spending time with during the festivities, shopping, spending and socialising. One of the hardest things to do at these times is to ask for help or even delegate some of the responsibilities to others and let go of the consequences if they do things differently to you. Let your spouse choose the Christmas tree, let the children decorate it, after all why should you have all the fun?
Simple relaxation techniques may help us to cope; remembering to breathe deeply and slowly when feeling stressed or anxious, use ‘mindfulness’ to focus on just one thing (even the washing up) can allow your mind to relax, or perhaps a long warm bath, some wild and energetic dancing to your favourite loud music or a good laugh at a favourite feel-good film. There are times though that these methods are not enough and this is where psychotherapy can help. Through psychotherapy it becomes possible to explore the emotional tangles of life in a safe and entirely non-judgemental way with a therapist who listens and allows you to explore the foundations of the beliefs that are getting in your way, letting you discover the answers you need to move forward in your life.
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About Terry Hyde
Terry Hyde is a trained psychotherapist who practises in both Brighton & Hove and on the Isle of Wight. His experience covers a wide range of issues (please see profile) for adults, adolescents and couples.