If you’ve been feeling rather uncomfortable lately and thinking; ‘not this again’ or ‘is it really worth it’. Or maybe the image in your head of how you want your festive season to be doesn’t fit everyone else’s, don’t worry.
Let’s dig in and explore whether it’s possible to have a wonderful alternative festive season.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, there’s undoubtedly lots of societal pressure to measure up to an ideal around this time. It’s always baffled me. The Christmas tree and the perfect beaming extended family often accompanied by a dog.
What if you don’t have that perfect family, or little or no family at all? What if this year’s been so tough that there’s no way you can afford the presents that you once did? What if you simply want to hang around in your Jim Jams and not do this?
I’ve been there. In my lifetime, I’ve had so many different Christmases from the time I got out of hospital and was simply so grateful to be alive, to volunteering at a homeless shelter, to those spent in my PJs eating pizza and watching a film.
For many years I thought that I was alone until I spoke with others who didn’t feel that they fitted into the Christmas mould either or simply wanted a different option. Maybe that’s you. If so do read on.
Why do we panic around Christmas and what’s the alternative?
After a long year, even if it’s been really good, Christmas brings with it many expectations. One we may have is to take time out, celebrate and share with others. That’s the intention and that’s the best of the festive season. But, Christmas isn’t a normal everyday occurrence.
And here’s the thing. Expectations can build, and build, and build. This can then lead to us experiencing stress. On a short-term basis that’s not a problem as it gives us fuel to carry out all of our actions. But longer-term even if it’s only for a few months or even weeks, it can be problematic.
Then there’s the expectations from friends, family, colleagues or simply society. Now expectations about something good happening can be exciting. But, if we get caught up, carried away and start over imagining how ‘perfect’ Christmas could be, we can set ourselves up to fail.
Our imagination is so powerful that when we think about something it can elicit physical symptoms. Negative thoughts can literally unleash a cascade of stress inducing biochemicals in our body.
For a minute, think of a beautiful Christmas tree, now imagine it being knocked over and the baubles shattering everywhere. Do you feel that? That’s how powerful our imagination is.
Simply the thought of what may happen can actually lead to a state of angst and that’s often what happens around Christmas. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
What the festive season is all about
A lot of celebrations from Diwali, bonfire night and Hanukkah in November right up to Christmas, celebrate with light. I love that especially because at this time of year many people can suffer from S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder). Others are simply put off from going out, but having light around us can really help to lift our mood.
Many traditions at this time of the year also base their festivities around thanksgiving and gratitude, being happy and grateful for what we have. We give presents not to show off, but simply to say thank you and I appreciate you, to others.
We don’t have to be elaborate. Thanks, can be given in a note, card or simple message. The gift is in the meaning that we’re trying to convey. So, instead of being stressed about giving a large gift, consider scaling it down and finding things which are under £5 or £10 but which you know will mean a lot to the receiver.
What could a wonderful alternative festive season look like?
‘The Family Man’ with Nicholas Cage is one of my favourite Christmas films. In it there’s a sliding doors moment when Nicholas Cage’s character finds himself in a parallel universe that looks nothing like the life that he knows.
Although it’s a Christmas film, it’s more about the choices that we make and whether we’re really happy with them. Especially those ‘shoulds’ rather than the; ‘my heart sings when…’ actions. We don’t always have time to think or even question whether the Christmas that we have is the one that we really want. But what if you did? What would you yours look like?
Jonathan Lockwood Huie has said ‘Joy is a choice – but not an easy choice.’ And
Nelson Mandela said ‘Let your choices reflect your hopes not your fears’.
So, what would you choose your wonderful Christmas to look like? What food would you eat? What would you drink? What would you wear? And who would you want to share your time with?
Being true to yourself and having the kind of Christmas that you really want, is a sure way to ensure less stress, but also a happy time for all.