Updated: Dec 27, 2019
Happy Holiday Hassles & Merry Misgivings.
Christmas! Time off the job. Giving and receiving gifts. Eating and drinking with a justified excuse. Seeing friends, loved ones, and family. Gratitude and happy feelings. “In the air, there’s a feeling of Christmas"... but is there? On the contrary, for many, it is a stressful and overwhelming time.
We may be dealing with loss, isolation, separation from loved ones because of work commitments, family conflict, financial difficulties, loneliness or mental health issues. Mental health does not take time off at Christmas, and therefore, we must keep taking care of our mental health and wellbeing during this time of year.
Drinking Too Much Eggnog: Behaviour Awareness
Given how traumatic Christmas can be, it is not surprising that people readily turn to behaviours that are known to momentarily reduce stress like consuming lots of food, drinking, and maybe even doing drugs. It's important to be aware that our bodies seem to store more fat when we are stressed, and alcohol consumption can quickly leave us bloated, hungover, miserable, and with a worse overall state of health than before we ever engaged in these behaviours.
Research suggests that staying active can help to overcome stress and fatigue. Instead of engaging in behaviours that are not of benefit to us in the long-term, why not attempt a stroll around a Christmas market or a brisk walk around the countryside? As entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said: "Take care of your body, it's the only place you have to live".
Do You Hear What I Hear?: The Importance of Mindfulness
Before Christmas, do you have too much to do? We can often be so focused on our growing to-do list that we fail to pay attention to what’s happening right now. Christmas allows us to pause and reflect on the important things around us.
Christmas arrives with its usual sounds, smells, sights, tastes, and feelings that can quickly piss us off even if we don’t want them to. We can't speak about Christmas without remembering that it occurs in winter when the days are shorter and the weather can be frightful. Note that research shows that our mood and wellbeing are associated with the environment.
But it’s not just visual. Take Christmas songs, for example, which we are exposed to almost on a day-to-day basis during the Christmas period. While it is more common for people to interpret these songs favourably, some claim that at a point, these songs become repetitive and make them feel uncomfortable.
Instead of letting our environment get us down unconsciously, be aware of it. If you are being disturbed by what your senses are being exposed to, acknowledge it. Once you're aware of the environment around you, you can tap into the environment of your mind, and that is the first step to greater wellbeing.
It’s Beginning to Look at Lot Like Christmas: The Reality
Nearly every portrayal of Christmastime shows a cheerful, tastefully decorated home where a happy family gathers to share a large dinner cooked to perfection. Sadly, life if just too complicated and chaotic to promise a flawless Christmas. Many of us have a perfect vision of what the holidays should feel like and are frustrated when they don’t measure up to our expectations. Hope is innate to our brains but unfulfilled expectations can cause a great deal of stress. Moreover, social media does not help these days when we see how great everyone else - APPARENTLY - is at 'doing Christmas'.
The truth is that no one has a flawless Christmas or a perfect family, so don’t try to keep up with unrealistic standards. While it’s nice to think about all the pleasant aspects of Christmas, they don’t just happen or pop out of nowhere because you wished hard enough (despite what all the Christmas movies tell us). To put it all together, somebody has to do the work.
On that note, it’s important to mention that workload and stress are linked. Just because it's Christmas, it doesn't mean that the daily pressures of everyday life go away. If anything, such pressures increase. If you do feel that you are experiencing more than you can deal with, ask a friend or family member to assist with your activities or speak to a mental health professional who can provide assistance, guidance and information.
Do They Know It’s Christmas?: The Importance of Connection
Loneliness is not an uncommon feeling during the festive season. That being said, we each have the power to make someone else's Christmas just an ounce less miserable by doing something for someone in need. It doesn’t have to break the bank - something as easy as a smile or an act of gratitude or kindness will aid someone else's wellbeing. Start a conversation. Whether it’s parents, colleagues or a genuine 'Merry Christmas' to the person standing in line behind you at the supermarket or shop, communicating with the people around you can be of benefit.
N.B. Christmas is not just about receiving but also about giving. If you’re stuck for ideas, remember that Studio 18 has a donation box for those of you who would like to donate to a charity. We sincerely encourage everyone to donate even if it is something small. Remember that every action, not matter how small, can make a difference.
God REST Ye Merry Gentlemen: Dealing with Anxiety & Making ‘Me Time’
While social support and involvement can often be an important facet of wellbeing, in
the short- term, social dos can be a cause of stress. Particularly this year, political or cultural conflicts triggered by the current political climate may culminate in volatile atmospheres or angry rows over the dinner table. Nevertheless, even if there is no obvious source of discord or even dispute, a prolonged period of engaging with others may be a source of anxiety for some.
If you struggle with social anxiety, coping with anxiety-provoking Christmas parties and events can be stressful. Do not feel pressured to say ‘yes’ to any invitation - you are allowed to decide which festive events and traditions are more important and enjoyable for you and decline the activities that cause you unnecessary stress. Don’t forget that it is extremely important to set aside any ‘me time' to curl up to read a favourite book or to enjoy watching your favourite series.
Fa la la la la la la la la...
All the above doesn’t mean Christmas is a hard and stressful time for everyone. It can be brilliant, offering all the good things we’re looking for and more. Yet, this is not a given, and understanding that it may not be the most wonderful time of the year for everyone is crucial.
In the wise words of Edwin Osgood Grover, “Santa Clause is anyone who loves another and seeks to make them happy; who gives himself by thought or word or deed in every gift that he bestows.”
Studio 18 Support Team