This time of the year is always a time for reassessing the year that was, for getting together with family and friends and celebrating, It is a time for eating too much and drinking too much. However this time of year is not necessarily a happy time for all people. This time of year can actually be an extremely stressful and difficult time.
Those who have lost a love one would find this time of jovial celebration a very difficult time, or those who are not able to be with family and friends for whatever reason. There are those who cannot afford to celebrate as they are struggling financially for whatever reason. So while you are having a fun time celebrating, drinking, eating and generally enjoying life, spare a though for those less fortunate than yourself for whatever reason.
I though that this year I would write a few ideas down on how to survive the ‘silly season’ for those of you who dread the thought of another painful Christmas.
1. Be a realist: Truthfully, the only happy family get togethers at this time of year are the ones depicted in the media. Putting a group of people together in this situation of false jollity is an absolute recipe for disaster. Past history will always intrude and past unresolved issues are bound to rear their ugly heads. So when you look at that advert of the happy family sharing a perfect Christmas, comfort yourself that this is actually all lies and that all over the world on this one day, there will be more conflict, fighting, jealousy and disruption in the family dynamic than at any other time of the year.
2. Set some boundaries: There will always be those people who feel that being alone is the most terrible thing that they could imagine, therefore they become forceful and pushy about getting you to join in with them. Realise that this is their need. You might be quite happy to be on your own or make your own entertainment, and giving in to those who are pushy and demanding will only lead you to feel that you have been manipulated and controlled by the needs of someone else. If you’d rather not join into their festivities, say so. Don’t be afraid. This is your decision to make and being assertive about this will empower you to start taking control of your own life and doing what you want to do.
3. ‘Should’, ‘must’, ‘need to’ and ‘have to’. These 4 statements in my mind could quite easily be eradicated from the English Language. These phrases and words are control words and they effectively remove freedom of choice. “You really must go to the family dinner tonight” Do you see how this removes all freedom to choose. Rather try saying “I really want to go to the dinner tonight” or “I really don’t want to go to the dinner tonight” Do you see how this immediately gives you a choice. Start listening to the voice in your head. What is it saying? Is it taking away your freedom of choice? Are you saying things to yourself like: “I really have to go or I really must go…” What are those around you saying? Are they telling you what you have to or should do. Try this year to do what you want to do.
4. Become a active observer: This is my favourite game. Start watching how others react in different situations. There are two ways that this can be done:
a. COMEDY CLUB: Watch those around you, either in public places or at a family function or get together. Rather than allowing yourself to become caught up in the negative dynamics, start looking at the antics of those around you as if you are collecting material for your stand up comedy show. Look for the funny things that those around you say and do. You’ll be amazed how much more fun you will have than if you are allowing yourself to get drawn into the conflict.
b. DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY BINGO: This needs a bit of preparation. Draw a grid like a bingo board onto a sheet of A4 paper. Decide how many squares you want. I find 5×3 works the best. Into each square write some comment that you are sure you will hear when you are with everyone or write some activity that is sure to happen when you are with everyone. E.g. someone will ask you “when are you going to find yourself a nice man/woman? Or ‘Uncle Ian will get drunk and try to make out with some pretty girl” As soon as someone asks you this or this behaviour happens you mark it off. This can be done with a couple of you where you each draw up your own ‘board’ and then as soon as your board is filled in you call your fellow players and shout BINGO.
5. Get out and get active: Look into community activities. Maybe you could get involved in working with an agency where they serve Christmas dinner to the homeless, or maybe you could join the residents at an old age home and help with serving them dinner. Look around and find a place where you can be of service but also be involved.
6. Invite others over to join you for a fun lunch or get together. There are a lot of people out there who don’t celebrate Christmas, but why not just invite some friends over to have a fun relaxed get together. Make the focus on sharing your time together rather than on the actual food. Or you could invite some people over who are from other countries, and get each person to bring a plate of their traditional food to share with everyone.
7. Debrief: Make sure that you have a few friends that you trust that will be there for you if you need to talk. This can be a friend, a family member or maybe a professional like a counsellor or a therapist who is happy to be there for you if you need to talk.
So to end I would like to wish you a very safe and happy festive season. Relax, and try to be kind to yourself and take a bit of time out to look after yourself and also to pamper yourself. Happiness always and remember “You are OK just the way that you are”.
I hope that this gives you some practical ideas and thoughts. Wishing you a safe and an exciting Christmas.