Although Christmas is 'the most wonderful time of the year' for many, there are also many who suffer from stress and worries relating to this time of year. Here are some tips on how to deal with the most common issues.
Loneliness during the festive period
No one should be lonely at Christmas. Christmas is a time when we celebrate with friends, neighbours and family - however many people face the festive season and later life alone.
In 2014 Relate, the relationship support charity, conducted a report, 'The Way We Are Now', and found that while 90% of people would like to spend Christmas with immediate family, only 54% believe that including extended family members is a priority.
In some cases, the familiar ideal of having the ‘perfect’ Christmas spent with loved ones at family gatherings causes people to feel even more isolated and lonely. This is often exacerbated by shorter, darker days and poor weather conditions that limit opportunities to enjoy getting out and about.
Whilst some people do not have a lot of family, friends or money, it can also be a testing time as we remember loved ones who are not around anymore. Bereavement at Christmas can seem more painful than usual.
But the reality is that if Christmas isn't something you look forward to, you’re not alone. It might be useful to start thinking in advance of how to combat loneliness at Christmas for yourself or someone you know.
- Have a plan. Don’t avoid thinking about it. Your plan could be anything such as cleaning your home, taking a long walk or reading that big novel with your feet up. It doesn’t have to be Christmas related. Have a plan. Don’t avoid thinking about it. Your plan could be anything such as cleaning your home, taking a long walk or reading that big novel with your feet up. It doesn’t have to be Christmas related.
- Do something different. You could take that trip you always wanted or practise a recipe out of your cook book that isn’t turkey.
- Give to someone else. Volunteering at a shelter or a soup kitchen is incredibly rewarding and makes you appreciate what you’ve got.
- Think about the future. You could start researching new employment, study courses or hobbies for the New Year to keep you busy.
Relationships at Christmas
People often find that tensions in their couple or family relationships can really come to a head during and after the Christmas holidays.
Sometimes spending lots of time together without any distractions – away from the daily pressures of work or taking the kids to and from school – can mean you find yourself confronting issues you’re usually able to avoid.
This can be compounded by having really high holiday expectations – hoping for a chance to finally spend some quality time together – which can leave you feeling frustrated when they aren’t met. But spending time together doesn’t need to push you apart. You might like to think about the following.
- Reflect on what’s causing the tension. Arguments are often rooted in some issue that we’re having trouble dealing with. Are there any underlying problems in your relationship that you’re avoiding talking about? Reflect on what’s causing the tension. Arguments are often rooted in some issue that we’re having trouble dealing with. Are there any underlying problems in your relationship that you’re avoiding talking about?
- Talk about it. The best way to get to the bottom of a problem is to talk openly and honestly about it. Find a time when you’re not both already feeling emotional (not when you’re already arguing, for instance) and give the conversation the time and attention it deserves.
- Family time. Children pick up on more than we realise and it’s important to see how they’re getting on, especially if there have been arguments over the holidays.
- Time away. If your house is full or you are staying with other people, plan for the two of you to spend some quality time together as often as possible. That might be with ‘an early night’, a stroll to the park, a midnight feast, an early morning start, or any other way to ‘escape’ children, family and/or friends (however much you love them). It’ll help to ‘anchor’ you and your relationship and give you time to discuss or problem-solve any potential issues.
Whatever your Christmas looks like, reflect on what you would like to get from that time. Whether it’s a cool and controlled Christmas dinner or a family frenzy of wrapping paper; plan and aim for your goal and set those expectations with others as well as yourself.
How to avoid arguments at Christmas
It is almost as obligatory as turkey with all the trimmings to have at least one blow out with a family member at Christmas. However, they are never fun and always at a time that we are supposed to be enjoying and could be doing without the stress. Most arguments come from the same places of frustration, misaligned expectations or just sheer tiredness. Try the following to avoid the blow outs.
- Plan in advance and open up discussions early on how Christmas will happen, where it’s going to happen and who’s going to do what. Make sure there's equal input and that tasks are shared fairly. Most people groan about bringing up the festive season while we are still all seeing sunscreen in the shops, but is it worth it to avoid conflict?
- When issues come up, find a time to sit and discuss them calmly. Do not allow them to simmer and then turn into a heated argument.
- Make compromises. If you are so adamant that something should happen your way, go away and sit with it. Is there a way that you can show flexibility that satisfies everyone?
- Remove yourself before you react. Remind yourself how grateful you are. Remember some people would do anything to be in your shoes.
- Have an “If in an Emergency Break Glass” plan. This could be a box of the most luxurious chocolates squirrelled away or something which demonstrates compassion and self-care for you. Reward yourself for not exploding, by going away where it’s just you and your secret prize.
It’s important to know that you are not alone. If you are feeling isolated this Christmas, Health Assured are here to help and offer whatever support you need. Whether you just need someone to listen or for proactive advice on resilience and mindfulness.
Please get in touch through the helpline and we will support you in whatever way we can.
You can also visit the health and wellbeing portal for more information www.healthassuredeap.com
. If you are worried about your relationships over Christmas, or want to know more information in general, you can visit the Relate website https://www.relate.org.uk/