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Feeling under pressure to have the ‘perfect Christmas’?

Feeling under pressure to have the ‘perfect Christmas’?

After the restrictions and disappointments of last year, Christmas 2021 can’t come quickly enough for some people, with many planning to go all out with the celebrations. Others have never been a huge fan of the festive season, while some will find this year difficult – perhaps because they’ve lost a loved one, or still can’t spend it with the people they’d most like to.

Expectations are already high, with adverts telling us this will be the ‘best Christmas ever’. This can lead us to feel under pressure to make everything perfect, which could result in stress and anxiety. For people who experience social anxiety, Christmas can present a lot of triggers anyway. Being surrounded by people for extended periods of time can be difficult, especially for those of us still getting used to socialising again.

There’s also a certain amount of uncertainty remaining about the pandemic, and what will happen next, which could lead to worrying or low mood.

The festive season will never be stress-free! But it’s a good idea at this point in the run-up to stop, breathe, take stock of how you’re feeling about things, and come up with a plan that will make the time enjoyable and relaxing for everyone.

Don’t put pressure on yourself. There’s no such thing as perfection; you might have to make tough decisions about who to see and when, and Christmas Day might involve burned sprouts or an argument! Sometimes simple is best, and cherishing quality time with loved ones or being able to relax can mean more than an expensive or complicated celebration.

Examine your expectations, and ask yourself how realistic they are. How important is it really that everything is flawless? Is that even possible? What will happen if something doesn’t go perfectly? If your plans don’t work out exactly as hoped, that doesn’t mean it’s ruined – you can have a great time anyway. And don’t compare your Christmas with others’, especially on social media: people only tend to post the good bits!

Focus on what matters most. What do you, and your nearest and dearest, most value about Christmas? What does it mean to you? Which bits do you really enjoy? Try to spend time doing the things that make you happiest. Is it time with the family, time off work, enjoying a great meal, choosing and giving presents? Talk to your family in advance about their expectations, and involve them in planning.

Pace yourself. Try to spread out the fun – and the stress! This time of year can feel like a relentless whirl. If you find the socialising exhausting, decide how many events you’d be comfortable with attending. If the most you can handle without feeling drained is three, don’t feel bad about saying ‘no’ to the fourth.

Set a budget, and stick to it. Spending can easily get out of control, which adds to the stress. Consider how much you can afford to spend on gifts, food and fun, and don’t go over it.

Practice self-care. It’s important to conserve your energy and protect your wellbeing. Alcohol can be tempting if your mood is low – but it’s a depressant, and could make you feel worse. Lots of rich food and not enough sleep also take their toll, making you lethargic. Taking time to get outside and get some exercise will give you a boost.

Be mindful on the ‘big day’. There’s so much happening, it can all go past in a blur! Try to notice what’s going on around you, and relish the ‘moments’ rather than worrying about what needs doing next. Ground yourself in your senses. Watch people opening gifts. Savour the taste of Christmas dinner. If you go out for a walk, take in your surroundings.

Plan something to look forward to in January. Once the festivities are over, January can feel like a dreary month. Book tickets to a pantomime, plan days out, have a family Burns Night supper…whatever makes it a bit brighter! If you tend to feel down in the winter months, our recent blog on coping with the ‘winter blues’ might help.

If you find yourself getting really down, anxious or stressed about this Christmas, online CBT can provide effective strategies for managing your feelings and improving your emotional wellbeing. Find out more about what to expect during therapy or read about how CBT can help with stress.

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