So here it is, Merry Christmas?

Another Christmas, another holiday season blog post…

The last couple of festive season blogs have been overshadowed by COVID, lockdowns and the various worries all of that brought. This year, lockdowns may not be with us, but COVID still is. Plus there are other, new things threatening our Christmas cheer, not least the cost of living crisis leaving many of us counting the pennies more than usual.

This means, naturally, many of us will once again be facing Christmas with mixed feelings. It can already be a stressful time, with the demand for everything to be ‘just right’, or wishing it would just hurry up and be over making it less than jolly. But now, with extra worries of what we can afford, or spending too much, it might start to feel even more stressful than usual.

Acceptance is key

What then can we do to get the most from Christmas, which will happen whether we want it to or not?

First of all, accept ‘what is’, rather than focussing on ‘what if’. We might not be able to buy our loved ones everything we would like, but instead of thinking ‘if only I could do more’, concentrate instead on ‘I can do this’. Our friends and family are probably not that concerned about what we can get them, but rather on how nice it is to still be friends at the end of another year. And they too are probably having to be a bit more careful with money this Christmas.

Try to accept that wanting more money to spend does not mean we will have it. Refusing to accept the reality of the situation will simply add to our negative emotions. By accepting that things might be a little different again this year, a little smaller, a little quieter, you might actually begin to enjoy things more.

Instead of having to either host or attend a party or meal as often or with as many people as you may like this holiday season, accept and embrace the reality of a smaller, more intimate and cosier Christmas. Doing less is not doing nothing – it can also be an opportunity to relax more.

Manage your expectations

Secondly, begin managing expectations, your own and others’, sooner rather than later, to avoid hurt and disappointment. If you don’t feel able to spend what you usually would on food and presents, let people know. You might be surprised by how many others feel the same or are in a similar boat. It’s OK to be assertive and make your thoughts and wants known. People are more likely to understand, agree, and perhaps be a little relieved themselves than you may think!

Why not agree that presents should be small, or skipped altogether this year, and instead make sure you spend some time in each other’s company over the holidays – this is, after all, the thing we like best about our friends anyway.

And ultimately, whether they understand or not, neither of which is in your control. You are responsible for your feelings and actions, not theirs.

This year, just like last, it’s important to realise just what we do have, as well as accepting without resentment the things we might not. Holding on to our rigid, unrealistic demands about a ‘perfect’ Christmas might only result in us missing the ‘perfectly good’ Christmas that’s just waiting for us to discover it.

Nick Jones
REBT / CBT Therapist

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