Deck the halls or don’t. Feel free to pick and choose this Christmas


As the festive season approaches, many of us are inundated with images of perfectly curated Christmas scenes – sparkling trees, beautifully wrapped gifts, and families gathered around tables groaning with all the traditional treats. While these scenes can evoke feelings of excitement, some people feel anxious because they set themselves unrealistic expectations and feel like they have to do the same.

Dispute the Dickens out of Christmas!

One of the central ideas of Rational Emotional Behaviour Therapy (REBT, the type of CBT we teach at here the College) is that rational, healthy beliefs are key to our emotional wellbeing. And one of the ways we identify rational, healthy beliefs is by asking the disputation questions ‘how true is that?’ and ‘how helpful is that?’

By applying this rational, sensible way of thinking to Christmas, you might be able to, paradoxically, inject some more magic and wonder into your holiday season.

If you feel more stress than joy about certain traditions, you can say no. How true is it that you have to have a big turkey dinner, or spend a fortune on presents, or put your tree up early? How helpful is it for you to believe you have to see people you’d rather not, or go to the work’s Christmas party, or even celebrate at all if it’s not really your thing?

All traditions were new once

And where is the rule that says you can’t invent your own traditions, ones that you’d really enjoy? All traditions had to happen for a first time some time, so feel free to start your own. Lasagne for dinner on the 25th? Sure, who says you can’t? ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ every New Year’s Eve? Where’s the rule that forbids that?

REBT is inspired by the Existentialists. We are free to choose. So, embrace the opportunity to create your own meaningful traditions if you prefer. Focus on what truly bring you happiness and remember, Christmas is not about conforming to external standards but about enjoying the spirit of the season in a way that fits with your own values and preferences.

You do Yule

REBT also puts forward the idea of unconditional self-acceptance, emphasizing that our worth is not determined by our achievements, adherence to society’s norms or what others may think of us. This principle extends to our participation in Christmas traditions. Don’t worry about acceptance by performing certain rituals or meeting arbitrary expectations. Our worth remains constant, regardless of our choices during the holiday season.

As you navigate the upcoming festivities, remember that you have the freedom to choose the traditions that bring you joy and meaning. Try and let go of any rigid expectations or obligations.

Embrace the Christmas traditions and give yourself permission to be more flexible; create a holiday experience that reflects who you are. In doing so, you can transform your anxiety based attitude about it and turn it into a celebration of personal fulfilment and connection.

Nick Jones

REBT / CBT Therapist

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