Ahead of her reflective writing group session, Susanna shares her tips on how to approach the festive season in a calmer, less frantic way…
We associate Christmas with presents, Nativity plays, twinkling lights, Christmas trees and… STRESS! How can such a wonderful time of the year cause so much anguish for many of us? Data has been collected on why there is so much stress at Christmas and it is clear that overspending, excessive commercialisation and the need to please family and friends are top of the list for triggering anxiety and worry.
I hope that, in some small way, I can help you reduce your stress this Christmas, leaving you with just wonderful memories rather than a feeling of total exhaustion. Let us step back from all the commercialism and family pressures and look at what Christmas actually means to us. You may be religious and enjoy the traditions around the birth of baby Jesus. You may have magical memories of Christmas as a child when you first heard the story of Father Christmas visiting children on his journey from the North Pole. You may have enjoyed reading Christmas themed stories such as A Christmas Carol when Scrooge finally realizes what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.
Perhaps your memories include receiving your Christmas stocking complete with a book, chocolate, a toy and the obligatory orange. My childhood memories make me smile but then my heart sinks when I realise just how Christmas has changed – and not always for the better.
So how can we have a calm Christmas like the ones we used to know! (See what I did there?!) Here are my top tips for a calm Christmas.
Get a notebook and write down your own picture on how you would like Christmas to be.
Think about what you loved as a child or when you were bringing up your own children. Think about what you ate, what activities you enjoyed, what decorations you liked and what Christmas songs you loved to play. Why not try recreate your ‘perfect’ Christmas? Make cheap paper chains, make your favourite traditional food and play songs that bring back a taste of nostalgia in your life. You don’t have to follow the crowd. This is your Christmas and if you want to watch White Christmas on the TV while singing along with Bing Crosby then you do that! And when you do, just feel how wonderful it makes you feel.
Don’t get dragged into all the commercialism.
Write out a budget and stick to it so you don’t feel the stress of overspending. Think about alternative gifts rather than buying what is on trend or merely looks expensive. There is nothing more satisfying than making homemade gifts for your loved ones. You don’t have to be a skilled crafter to make wonderful gifts. I make all my Christmas cards presenting them as a small piece of artwork or a bookmark so the recipient can keep them. I make handmade chocolates and lovingly wrap them in beautiful boxes or bags, handtied with Christmas ribbon. I am just in the process of making soap which I will wrap in craft paper and tie with string. So simple but heartfelt. You can find great ideas for Christmas gifts online. Try YouTube for ideas and step by step tutorials.
Spend more time outdoors.
Walking outside can really help calm our nervous system during a stressful time. Try and find somewhere green to walk such as a park or, if you are lucky, the countryside. Just enjoy nature and the fresh air and see how your mood lifts and your stress reduces. I love to sit and watch wildlife going through their day. Notice how calm the birds are, listen to their tuneful songs and enjoy watching them fly effortlessly through the sky.
Don’t accept every invitation you receive, if you really would rather stay at home.
It is easy to say yes as we don’t want to feel that we are letting people down but overcommitting to activities can really increase our stress levels. Start by only accepting the invitations that excite you and learn how to say no when your heart is telling you to do so. We all need relaxation time where we can curl up at home with a good book and a nice bar of chocolate. Pace yourself this Christmas and remember self-care is so important to our health and wellbeing.
Let go of what others think is the perfect Christmas.
We often put pressure on ourselves to live up to others’ standards. Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be enjoyable and memorable. Lower your expectations and enjoy each precious moment, whatever you do. Sometimes the simplest Christmas can be the most enjoyable and certainly less stressful. Try simplifying your Christmas and watch how calm you and others around you are.
I hope you find these tips useful this Christmas and my wish for you is that you all enjoy a calm and peaceful Christmas, whatever you do. Wishing you a Happy Christmas full of joy and precious memories.
If you’re looking to have a calmer Christmas this year, please do come along to Susanna’s ‘Women’s reflective writing group’ on Tuesday 20th December 3.00pm.