This is the first of a three part blog post about avoiding letting Christmas overwhelm you. It is motivated by my realisation that it is five weeks until Christmas and I haven’t started shopping. (Augghh!)
I can’t deny it anymore. The end of this year is drawing closer. But before we get to watch the fireworks and make a toast to 2016, most of us have one major festive season to go. Some call it the holiday season – I call it Christmas. Christmas is coming! The Christmas season has already started (based on sales, on end of year get togethers, on invitations which are filling up the calendar), but still has a long way to go. Yay! (and sigh).
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. It can also so often be exhausting, frustrating and lonely. Why is this? Maybe because our ideals and our realities don’t always match up? I know mine don’t.
- Lots of opportunities to get together and celebrate, in a relaxed way, the friendships and family that we have (or remember those who are no longer with us),
- A chance to show our love for one another (which we should do all year, but may forget) through what we do and say.
- A marker to reflect on the year that’s been and what is ahead, and how we might shape the coming years.
- For those who are Christians, a reminder and an opportunity to reflect on the birth of Jesus, what it meant for those who were part of his life, and what relevance his life and death has for us nowadays.
Beautiful, isn’t it? But then – reality comes into play …
What is often my reality
- I’ve crammed too much into the Christmas season (which, by the way, appears to be growing ever longer. Starting in October? Really?). Too much of a good thing can be bad – we can lose the fun, we can get run down, we can start to resent being involved.
- I’ve made the elements I think are essential to Christmas – activities, decorating, presents, end of season or schooling events – more complicated than they necessarily need to be (and some of them, to be honest, aren’t necessary for Christmas).
- I’ve expected others to share my expectations of Christmas, and have become resentful if they don’t place the same importance on Christmas Day, or the amount of time we spend together, or the details of any gifts bought. (note – this happens in reverse too. Just saying).
- I am still buying last minute presents the day before, wrapping the night before, feeling worn-out as a result on Christmas Day, and therefore not feeling as festive as I would like to be.
- Sometimes there are family tensions – not too much, fortunately, with our family – which can make the whole ‘happy happy joy joy’ feeling hard to swallow ##.
- I can forget about some people who are not swept up in it all and leave them out – those without families, those who are grieving or in pain, or those who, for whatever reason, we don’t see. ###
I am going to try – this Christmas – to focus on being more ‘present’ at Christmas. There are lots of ways to do this. None rocket science, but it may take some thought not to jump in and get trapped into overwhelm territory. Some of my thoughts are:
- Not everything has to be finished by the end of the year. This is something I always struggle with – I have a calendar year mentality drilled into my psyche which I find hard to shake#. Yes, it can be good to have deadlines as motivators, but, unless something is really, unavoidably crucial, the world might not end if you don’t meet one or more of your deadlines (which are sometimes arbitrary, anyway). Plus, do you have too many deadlines?? It’s worth questioning yourself on this.
- Do you actually need to attend every event – and is it worth rushing in and out briefly to multiple activities on the same day? Question what your motivation is, whether it is relevant, and if it is, whether there might be a better way to achieve the same outcome.
- Have you left yourself time for the things that matter? To look after your health, your need for (some) time to yourself, your sleep? Is your family suffering a bit as you rush around?
- Are you so focused on getting through that you can’t look outward – and are you missing key signs where you could be helping others?
- And have you left time for the things that Do need to be done? Have you worked out your priorities?
At the moment, my Christmas priority is to get on top of the Christmas present issues, because, as I said in the introduction, I’ve just acknowledged to myself that a) it is just over five weeks until Christmas Day b) I haven’t bought any gifts and c) if I don’t get cracking , I’m likely to start getting stressed.
My next post will be about how I intend to do this – stay tuned!
What are your thoughts about the Christmas / holiday season?
Do you love it, feel overwhelmed, feel both, and do you have any tips to share?
# I have a theory about why. The again, I have a theory on most things. One day I might write a book – ‘Helen’s theories on almost everything. Some might also be true!’. It’s an option I have tucked away at the back of my mind …