Christmas cheer or misery?
There are numerous of reasons for getting excited about Christmas. Be it giving and receiving presents, attending parties, playing games, eating nice food…the list can be endless. But the season’s greetings are not always welcome. Eating too much leading to regret, arguments over games or who sits where and gifts that are not pleasing are at one end of the Christmas negatives. And for many the cold and darkness that appears never ending in winter can mean a life of hibernation and disconnection from others. Here are a few thoughts I have around the effects of the holidays.
Christmas is a time where we recall happy times which can leave us feeling like something or someone is missing. It might be traditions that are no longer experienced, children are grown up so the magic is no longer there, or thinking about family we always spent Christmas with. Hearing someone’s favourite Christmas song (often over and over) can really highlight the sense of loss and grief when they aren’t around any longer. Plus, we may feel guilty for feeling sadness when others want to have fun, be cheerful and not experience your sadness, so put on our happy mask and avoid difficult emotions that are still there.
Stress and anxiety
Expense and ensuing debt can cause no end of issues by trying to “keep up with the Jones’”, particularly for parents when they feel forced to purchase expensive games consoles or designer clothing. Gosh, have you seen the advent calendars nowadays that can cost hundreds? Showering loved ones with expensive gifts is not demonstrating love; time, thought and maintaining connection is all we truly need to feel loved and appreciated. And the household with the most outdoor decorations are not necessarily going to experience more cheer (especially when they receive a record electricity bill the following month). Then there is the huge amount of planning and preparation that goes into one day of the year. I think calling it a holiday is apt because for many a holiday is needed to recover from it!
Problems in relationships can be highlighted leading to bad situations. Domestic violence increases over the holidays and many relationships come to an end after realising you are no longer in love or have been in an unhappy relationship, highlighted by spending more time together than normal.
There are many who experience estrangement in families, whether they chose to or not. There will be parents and grandparents denied access to children/grandchildren at a magical time, missing out on experiencing valuable memories. Then there are those who have decided to remove themselves from toxic relationships with relatives; how often do we hear Christmas is a time for forgiveness and being with family and guilt tripped into making up with our parents/siblings/etc when we are still suffering from the harm caused by them? Often when we decide that we can no longer put ourselves through harmful relationships, it leaves us needing space, time and compassion to heal from the experience.
When it is all over
This can represent an ending whether it be the party season is over, a year passed which took loved ones away from us, the packing away of the decorations and return to darkness. Maybe the ending is preferable? Being able to stop pretending we are enjoying ourselves and return to our normal ways of life. The dying down of alcohol intake and domestic abuse. No matter what your experience of Christmas is, it is yours and you are entitled to make it as cheerful or miserable as you wish. But do know that there is help and support available should you need it.
Samaritans 116 123
Age UK 0800 678 1602
Anxiety UK 08444 775 775
Family Line 0808 802 6666
No Panic 0330 606 1174
SAFA Self-harm awareness 01229 832269
NHS Wellbeing Helpline and Texting Service 0800 915 4640
Text 07860 022846
Lancashire and Cumbria NHS Mental Health Crisis Line 0800 953 0110
NHS 111 or 999 for emergency services