The Christmas season is an extreme one. Though we know to expect it every 12 months, we still find ourselves with pressures and expectations which can produce some out-of-character emotions.
Balance can go out the window as we indulge in food and drink, have later nights and busier social calendars than normal, and take on the impossible task of all the extras the diary requires. When January arrives, we’re glad of the return to normal.
Whilst the season really is magical and most of us want to enjoy it to the max, our various life situations mean it looks quite different one person to another.
How we feel about the season is predominantly down to our past experiences and the meaning we attached to them. Whilst we may not be able to change our circumstances, we can certainly change our expectations and approach going forward.
If you find yourself continually at odds with the season, maybe your internal Christmas software needs updating.
No one needs mince pies in August…
Yet I kid you not, the local supermarket was selling them… in August! Subliminal forms of crazy like this, can add to the low-hum of stress that masquerades as normal.
There are the incessant questions we are asked at every till-point: “Have you got all your presents yet?… I haven’t even started mine!”, “Are you ready for the big day?”.
Turn on the TV and it’s advert avalanche as we’re reminded of the food, outfits, presents, house decor and sofas (because apparently, we all need those at Christmas) which all need to be bought ‘in time’ for THE PERFECT CHRISTMAS.
No one needs to be so prepared for Christmas they have to buy mince pies in September. NO ONE.
Recognise the noise for what it is and turn the volume down.
Life on your terms
In addressing the balance somewhat, it’s a good idea to reconnect with what Christmas means to us.
Is it all about family? Do you relish the variety of social occasions that arise this time of year because they give you the opportunity to connect with people? Perhaps it’s first and foremost the religious tradition you observe. Or maybe it’s all about giving and you are primarily led by doing whatever you can for others; be it volunteering at the dogs home, food banks or singing carols to brighten someone’s day.
Whatever it is, connecting to our purpose gives us a filter for all the stuff that doesn’t matter. Define the purpose, then design the season!
6 steps to a wonderfully imperfect Christmas
1. Settle that there is no such thing as the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Christmas is about PEOPLE and people aren’t perfect. This means we cut others some festive slack which free’s both us and them.
Embracing the wonderfully imperfect and letting go of preposterous expectations, frees us to simply BE in the moment.
2. Ask ‘why’. If you’re putting yourself under the gun to be or do anything – ask the question, ‘for whom am I doing this?’ Is it just because you’ve ‘always done it that way’ or is it time for it to go?
3. Delegate – don’t do it all. If Christmas isn’t about how wonderful a host you are (because you’re not perfect remember), then choose delegation over your need to be in control. Unless of course you really can’t (where releasing that thing to someone else stresses you out way more than if you’d just done it yourself) in which case, soldier on my friend!
4. Take some of your ‘normal’ into the unknown. At times when life looks irregular (vacations can be like this), deliberately injecting that time with a regularity, can be grounding. It could be something as simple as your specific brand of tea, an element of your exercise, being able to hit up full volume in the car whilst you drive somewhere, lighting a candle and having 5 minutes, time to read. It doesn’t matter what it is but keeping that element in your season and being mindful that ‘this is my bit of self-love’, can be incredibly powerful.
5. Get outside – even if it’s cold and no one else wants to join you. Lord knows cabin fever can set in where everyone is thrown together for a few days so take at least 10, and clear the airspace.
6. What other people are doing does not matter. It really doesn’t. We have social media to thank for the fact we know what everyone’s decorations, dinners, and outfits look like. Once upon a time, we kept all that stuff quiet, keep comparison out of it and if you want to go off the grid, do it and don’t apologise.
And finally… a word about grace
Not a word used often, but a favourite of mine because it really is all the difference.
That it is a different ball game for each of us.
That some people cannot wait to get lost in the magic of it, whilst for others it’s emotionally the toughest season of the year.
That we’re all out of routine which can make us say and do things we otherwise wouldn’t.
That some people LOVE the fact there’s mince pies in the shops in September.
Here’s to a great season!