How to survive when you can’t stand Christmas

copingwithchristmas1There are many reasons for approaching the Christmas season with trepidation rather than relish.

This time of year may have sad associations for you. You may be involved in painful decisions and compromises about visiting arrangements. You might worry about the expense involved. You may hate the pressure to be sociable.

It could be that you dislike the prolonged break in your usual routine and being unable to access the patterns and habits which normally sustain you. Eating food you wouldn’t eat at any other time, spending time, maybe a lot of time, with people you wouldn’t normally want to see, spending money, maybe a lot of money, that you don’t have…oh, come on, we’re all in there somewhere, aren’t we, just a little bit?

Ration your rant

You hate the commercialism, people wearing reindeer antlers, relentless Christmas songs in every store (from about August), It’s A Wonderful Life, not being able to get a quiet drink anywhere, tacky merchandise, garish decorations…

There isn’t a single thing you can say that hasn’t been said before, and railing against the inevitable is just going to wind you up and make you feel worse.

If you need to let off steam, choose a framework for your outburst. Maybe once a week with someone who feels the same way? Set a time limit — you don’t want to waste a whole evening.

Be a detached (and benign) observer

Think of the Christmas shenanigans as part of a tribal ritual, which indeed they are. There are lots of traditional rites which many of us will never take part in — some initiation ceremonies, addressing the haggis on Burns Night, the Japanese Tea Ceremony, enrolment procedures in Scouts and Guides, the Eton Wall Game (oh, you have? Well, hello to you, sir!), but which we accept as part of the way we identify the groups to which we belong.

Instead of spluttering about how ridiculous it all is, think:

Oh, how interesting. It’s one of their tribal traditions:

  • to exchange meaningless items wrapped up in shiny paper

  • to dress up as a mythical creatures

  • to drink until they become argumentative

  • to drape bits of coloured paper and shiny lights in their homes and criticise each other’s efforts

  • and so on.

Don’t be sneery. Just smile.

Choose the enjoyable bits

Select the seasonal stuff that you like. There will be something that you can enjoy.

Those yummy marzipan and chocolate thingies that you never see at any other time of year, gingerbread latte, a carol concert, ice-skating, glowing lights on a dark night, midnight mass, taking kids to a pantomime, staying in all warm and cosy with the non-Christmas themed entertainment of your choice…

You could make a list, and decide to build in as many of these particular experiences as you can.

Focus on what you enjoy, and cut off from the rest. Let others do their own thing. Don’t let it get to you.

Take advantage of the pause

The elongated holiday season (it does seem to get longer every year) can throw us off balance.

Gain a little control by deciding to embrace this period as one of reflection and renewal. The emphasis on goodwill, the inclination to make contact with people and renew old acquaintances, the sense of the year ending and the memories of Christmases past, all tap into our need for connection and our desire to understand ourselves.

Make opportunities for reflection to sustain you through this season and the year to come. Go for a walk, listen to music, do some drawing, have a proper conversation, clear out the loft.

Make plans for mid-January

Ignore the rush to do everything before or during the Christmas period. Ignore the arbitrary deadline of ‘Christmas’, which only imposes pressure. People and things will still be there once the tree has come down.

Plan some specific activities for when it’s all over. As life picks up its familiar rhythm, that’s the time to catch up with friends, to start or finish projects. Having things to look forward to in January is a great way to beat the Christmas blues.

Oh, and give It’s A Wonderful Life another go…