Managing emotionally at Christmas

Managing emotionally at Christmas
sunbathing Santa Claus relaxing in bedstone on tropical sandy beach - Christmas concept

Some people can never get enough of the Christmas season. Others will take a deep breath as they look down the tunnel of time pressures, stress, and emotional challenges this season might bring. And some may choose to avoid it as much as possible. Whatever your situation and perceptions of Christmas, there is often a cocktail of emotions to manage.

We cannot assume everyone participating in the Christmas festivities are freely enjoying themselves. Often, they are battling with the loss of a loved one, and in some instances, the loss is unseen, for example the loss of an unborn baby. Others feel alone because they are living away from their family and cannot make it home for the family celebrations. Others may believe this will be their last Christmas due to a terminal health condition. And some feel they cannot afford the expense, and Christmas will, therefore, be a time of disappointment and embarrassment. So many things can cloud a person’s perceptions on what is, stereo-typically, meant to be a happy occasion.

The key to getting through a maze of emotions is to govern your thoughts by choosing what you think. It is important to enable yourself to manage the emotional challenges, while still being true to your situation. We also need to consider the need to be more sensitive to others who may be struggling? How do we do that?

A good way to start managing our reactions to Christmas is to accept what has happened and discover ways to make the best of the situation. Let go of the thought that it is inevitable that your Christmas will be too hard. Be creative and do things differently this year. Adapt your plans and approach Christmas in a way that you feel you can manage.  Make Christmas simple and easy, perhaps try a different venue.

You see, how you choose to think about Christmas now will automatically convert into a belief in how Christmas will become. For example, it is never easy facing Christmas, or any other special occasion, without a loved one.  Sadness is a natural emotion to be experienced and should be expressed. Talking about this loss, often through tears, is so important and brings healing. Sharing just how much you miss that person this Christmas, allows you to be real. Finding ways to acknowledge the memory and affections of that loved one in the Christmas celebrations can bring healing and stop you from having to hide from the realities and the emotional pains that come with it. A photo printed onto a bauble (even an ultrasound picture of an unborn child) and put onto the Christmas tree brings inclusion; to write a ‘therapeutic letter’, (written for your own benefit, not to send) that can be then tucked behind a photo in a frame; to include favourite foods of the deceased, or to have a Christmas picnic at a place that was valued by the loved one – all these suggestions allows one to embrace the absent person and keep their memory close and loved.

This does not mean the Christmas celebrations become a memorial time or a wake. Christmas can be still celebrated, albeit in a more mellow way, but still acknowledge the grief and loss. Remain happy about the other aspects of Christmas that can bring a smile. A subtle acknowledgement of grief and loss is often sufficient to balance out your day.

Sadness at Christmas time can come through being alone. Living away from home and not being able to join friends and family can bring a sense of loneliness. As when people have passed away, there is a feeling that they are the only ones without loved ones around to share the day with. The fact is that many individuals are in this situation and battling with the same thoughts of all the other ‘happy family’ scenarios being played out. Well, you have the ability to choose not to accept this belief. Listen to other people’s stories, and ask what they are doing for Christmas. You will be surprised how many will have no plans because they are alone.

Our attitude and perceptions effect our expectations of occasions like this. Instead of feeling sorry for ourselves, seek out others and chose to make your own Christmas happen possibly with them. You may even join a charitable organisation as they cater for a Christmas celebration for those without a home nor means to make Christmas a celebration. It is amazing how, as we shift our thoughts away from our own demise and focus on putting a smile onto other people’s faces, that we too can be uplifted.

Finally, avoid becoming isolated, even though you feel like doing so. Having time out for a short while can be good. We all need this to catch up with the world around us. But to isolate oneself for a long period of time means missing out on the benefits of having others around. It was once suggested that we should seek the company of those who can make us laugh when, in fact, we feel we can’t even smile. I encourage people to position themselves with those who are uplifting as well as empathic and comforting, and who can distract others from the difficulties in life. They provide such a relief from pain and bring us closer to healing.

Another thought: how can you be instrumental in uplifting those who will find Christmas difficult this year? Be mindful, for example, when shopping for toys, that some may not share your joy and find shopping for other children extremely painful because of their loss. Some may not have finances enough and are embarrassed at the little they can share. We all need to open our hearts and minds to a positive, caring and generous attitude, being real about our own pains, but also assisting others to find their smiles this Christmas.

by Pamela Johnson