Halloween and bonfire night have been and gone, it’s starting to get dark around 4pm and the Christmas songs are being played on the radio. The countdown to Christmas is truly on. Society assumes we are all looking forward to Christmas and why could we not? After all it’s the most wonderful time of the year. But for many people, Christmas is a time with is fraught with difficulties.
Recently there were reports which claim watching Christmas films such as Home Alone and Elf can trigger the release of dopamine, the feel good hormone. It can boost a person’s happiness, reduce anxiety and stress. Whilst this may well be true, it cannot speak for everyone. For some people, watching an idyllic family all sat around the dinner table only serves to remind them of what they don’t have.
During my time working in mental health services I found many clients would dread Christmas. It’s sold as a time of togetherness and belonging, yet what happens when you have a family which is dysfunctional, difficult or toxic? In some families, feuds and difficult relationships can lead to estrangement leaving certain members which no contact at all. This makes Christmas a painful time of year.
The realisation that spending Christmas with your family will a be challenging experience can leave people feeling conflicted and adrift. Acknowledging that tensions exist within your family relationships can highlight the loss of having the “perfect family”.
So how can you survive Christmas with your family? Here are some simple steps you can take:
- Don’t compare yourself – We are all guilty of looking at other families and thinking they seem perfect. The reality is you never know what happens behind closed doors. There is no such thing as a perfect family so don’t beat yourself up by comparing your situation to others.
- Avoid boredom – Boredom can be the biggest source of tension. Try and break up the day by getting out for a walk or plan some family games.
- Don’t bring up old arguments – Long term issues between family members can exist but try to avoid bringing these up on Christmas day. Maybe you need to avoid talking about certain topics or simply ensure you don’t spend too much time talking with a particular member of the family.
- Take some time out – It can be hard being cooped up all day, in close proximity of family members. Perhaps schedule a phone call with a friend, spend some time in a different room, go for a walk on your own, offer take time out and to do the washing up.
- Watch your alcohol intake – After a few glasses of wine our inhibitions can go out the window and we may find ourselves saying or doing things which we will later regret.
- Remember its only one day – Keeping in mind “this day will pass” can be a helpful thought to hold onto.
If you are interested in exploring some of these themes or simply just want to talk, please do not hesitate to contact me via my website www.gemmaantcliffe-counselling.co.uk or call on 07432 835468.