Christmas is one of my red flag trigger times – during my CBT I had to collate a list of times when I felt I was beginning to show signs of anxiety and stress and to then list them in order according to the most difficult. Holidays came right at the top – Christmas in particular, was a pressure point for me. From my Twitter feed I can see that I am not alone – over recent weeks I have seen numerous people tweet their worries over the festive season. When you take a closer look at Christmas it’s not hard to see why the Christmas holidays can throw some of us into a state of Christmas stress and anxiety. I personally have always thrived on routine – I like it – it is familiar and safe and I can live my days in this safety net of predictability and sense of control. I love my job ( I know how lucky I am believe me!) it allows me to do something I feel confident and good at and after my 3 days at work each week I really appreciate my days at home as mummy so much more. Christmas is a busy holiday with lots of social gatherings and all sense of routine pretty much goes out the window. If like me you already struggle with perfectionism the holiday season can be particularly difficult to manage ; there are often higher expectations, more to do, more people to please and more pressure to put on yourself.
How can we help manage these feelings and enjoy the holidays more ? Here as some things to remember and try to stick to this Christmas :
1. This is good enough
If something is worth doing its worth doing …………… Good enough!
This has to have been the hardest mindset for me to change and one which takes a lot of practise – that tree is good enoughly decorated , I didn’t manage to buy 2 types of stuffing for Christmas Day but one is good enough, my child does not have a fancy Xmas eve hamper box (like some of the mums on Facebook) but he does have new Xmas pjs and we can all watch a movie as a family – good enough. Stop comparing yourself to others and try to go easy on yourself – take a look around is everyone happy and healthy ? Check ! then it’s all good enough.
For the previous two Christmases I have put pressure on myself to have everything perfect – I never felt it was – no matter what I did I always felt I had fallen short of my own expectations. Even worse when I did meet them I would just set new higher ones and the circle would start again. This year I will be working on the ‘good enough ‘principle and it feels pretty good.
2. Focus on family not things
This is what truly matters at Christmas – it is all about the memories you will keep for years to come. Not the number of presents under the tree or having matching table cloths and napkin rings. Spend time expressing gratitude and making memories with those you hold dear.
3. Delegate tasks
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness – it is a sign of knowing what is important and helping to look after yourself. I never used to let my husband help – it was quicker and easier if I did it – this applied to most Christmas related tasks form wrapping to present buying , writing Christmas cards – the list would go on. Sometimes (on rare ocassions) he would get to address the envelopes but even then I knew my writing was neater and I should really do that too. This quest for control put a huge amount of additional pressure on me – put on by myself – none else . When I started taking steps to delegate tasks suddenly I felt much better .
4. Take a step back
Look at what you have achieved – I would bet it’s all pretty fab but you were too involved to notice . Take time to slow down and take in the magic of an amazing season.
5. Give yourself permission to say no
Christmas is a very busy time with lots of family gatherings and parties with groups of friends. Give yourself permission to say no to some invites if you feel your doing too much or if you just want to slow down and have some quiet time at home. People who care about you will understand and if they don’t are they really worth worrying about? My guess would be no.
6. Practice self care
As anyone who has suffered a mental illness knows only too well, it is really important to practice good self care. Looking after yourself is important every day but especially so in the holidays when life gets really busy. Being self aware of your moods and taking time out for yourself is one of the most important things to do. Self care is a very personal thing – for me I like to take an hour to myself – head out for a coffe on my own, read a Book or plug in and listen to music – time to be alone, to relax and to recharge. Do what works for you and do it often.
I remember during therapy I used to tell my CBT counsellor that I felt guilty about this ‘me time’ and that I felt I just couldn’t justify this hour away to others and more importantly to myself. She explained that in airplanes when the cabin crew demonstrate what to do in the event of an emergency landing they instruct parents to put on their oxygen masks before their infants – why? Because how can they help their children efficiently if they are unable to focus as they are struggling for air themselves The same principle applies to motherhood – to look after and be there for my family I need to be well myself and that means looking after me too. So actually it’s important I do it for not only me , but them too – when I started looking at it this way I suddenly felt much less guilt about time away.
I plan to try and stick to these steps over the holidays and let myself relax and enjoy time with my nearest and dearest over the holidays. This will be my little boys third Christmas and the first one I consider myself in a good place for – I am recovered and feeling good and so excited to spend it together with my family and friends.
Happy Christmas xxxxx