Surviving the festive holidays

For many the Christmas holidays are a time to share with loved ones, giving and receiving, sharing food and generally having a good time. But for many the holidays represent something much darker. Some may feel the pressure of having to buy gifts, despite financial hardship. It can make many people feel inadequate and worthless.

Some people may dread spending time with family, when old family dynamics take hold and fully grown adults are made to feel like children again, possibly caught in power struggles with siblings, parents or other family members.

Many people know too often that the Christmas period is an excuse for addicted family and friends to let go and substance misuse of alcohol and drugs can become out of control and it’s left for them to pick up the pieces. 

For children, school could be their only place of safety from violence, their only chance for a hot meal and some kind words. Being at home through the holiday’s no longer shields them from this time. For many adults, Christmas can bring very sad memories from childhood.

For many people, this time of year can create a sense of disappointment and thought patterns can go into overdrive. ‘I didn’t lose the weight I wanted to this year’, ‘there’s no one around me to love me’, I’m still single’, ‘I’m still in an unhappy relationship’, ‘I still have not found a job’. As people begin to reflect on their lives, idealistic images of the perfect Christmas/family/gift/relationship scream at us through the TV, the radio, the shops, they all add to the feeling of inadequacy, the feelings of unhappiness.

So how do we survive the holidays?

1) Self-care. Give yourself permission to take care of yourself. Often we yearn for another to understand us, to notice our pain, to help us make it better. If we can learn to listen to what it is that we need for ourselves and begin to meet our own needs, we become less at the mercy of others’ behaviour towards us.

2) Boundaries. Choosing when to engage with the situation and when to pull back. Keeping clear boundaries for ourselves can allow us to engage with the festivities and at the same time protect us from getting pulled into environments that can be unhealthy for us.

3) Managing expectations. Of ourselves and others. At a time of year where expectations are very high, we can feel a lot of pressure to buy the perfect gift, make the perfect meal, have the perfect amount of holiday plans. We may look to others to provide the perfect, to make up for all the disappointments in life, to make up for things that we feel have not gone our way. Perfect is damaging and unrealistic and finding a way to let go of this could make room for gratitude.

4) Gratitude. It’s a cliché but spending our time focussing on what we do have, rather than what we don’t can really help us to find more fulfilment. There is always going to be someone who has more than us, likewise, there will always be someone who has less than us. If we can find a way to have gratitude within ourselves, we may just find the holidays get a little easier.

5) Be kind. To yourself and others. Everyone if fighting an inner battle and often the people that hide it better are fighting the hardest. This doesn’t mean you have to take care of them; you need to take care of yourself. But be kind. That also includes the words that you say to yourself. Talk to yourself how you would want your best friend or lover to speak to you.

6) Rest and restore. Find opportunities to rest and allow them to nourish you. Life is so busy and our bodies are not made to run around at 100 miles an hour all the time. Take time out to relax, take a magnesium bath, watch your favourite movie, dance around the lounge to your favourite song, stroke the dog by the fire, do what your heart tells you. Everyone and everything needs downtime, including you.

If the holidays become too much, find someone you can trust to talk to. Sharing a little of your thoughts can sometimes make the world of difference. And if you need to seek professional support consider coming for counselling. Don’t let it get so bad that life becomes unmanageable and giving yourself permission to seek support before it gets too bad is the best investment you could make in yourself.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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