Happy December & Happy Holidays! We finally made it to the end of the year...
As exciting and as joyous as this time of year can be, I want to take a moment to explore the other side of it too... Have you ever found yourself feeling overwhelmed and out of your depth in the run up to the Holiday season? I recently found myself feeling just like that... Seemingly out of no where, I found myself feeling quite ambushed by my own emotions! So I've been reflecting on the cause for this and have come up with several possible reasons which I'd like to explore with you here as I'm sure they don't only apply to me... And then I'll share my top tips for navigating the festive season with the least resistance!
NB I'm aware that it's not only Christmas that is celebrated at this time of year but as this is the only holiday I have experience of, this letter will be Christmas-centric. That being said, I imagine that most of what I share here can be applied to other occasions, especially those that are socially expected and so I hope you can find something in here that is of use or is relatable.
1. The energy changes gear
Recently, I've been working on being purposefully slow and embracing the change of pace that Winter brings. Everything slows down and rests and it's been quite delicious... So to find myself clambering through websites to find ideal presents and confirm them before ' SALE ENDS MIDNIGHT ON MONDAY', well it's been stressful to say the least. And that's without my inbox pinging every other minute with an email.... Usually, I have a pretty good idea of what people want or need but this year.... I really had to rely on my powers of telepathy (that I don't possess!) to guide me through. And that was the biggest battle - deciding WHAT to buy not so much the process of purchasing itself.... SO. MUCH. PRESSURE.
I well and truly got caught up in it all and I don't know about you but I've found it more difficult not to this year. I think this is mostly due to the change in physical shopping. My experience has been that shops just aren't holding much physical stock at the moment so you have to order online anyway or that the shopping experience is more stressful in itself because of COVID restrictions. So I've felt kind of forced to go online, where it's impossible to avoid the pressured sales tactics....
And lets not forget the countdown. Even if you've bought everything you need, there's still the pressure to get it all wrapped and posted to be ready in time for the 25th. It's a lot isn't it?
This is a big one. I was thinking about this as I was pondering what I wanted to release at the last Full Moon. I settled on expectations, especially for Christmas. We all have our own ideas of how we envisage the festive season will be but in my experience, it's very rarely ever happened as I imagined (or wished) it to. And I've learned that creating unrealistic expectations for myself can be the quickest Christmas mood killer!
Then there's the expectations of others. Most of us are probably expected to adhere to family traditions which may or may not be ideal. Most of us are probably expected to spend time at a certain place with certain people. And these expectations might not always be aligned with what we want for ourselves. This can be SO tricky. It can be really hard to navigate this time of year in a way that's supportive to ourselves but also mindful of others and their expectations.
I'm going to bet that many of our expectations for Christmas have completely changed this year - even the expectations we've taken for granted like spending time with family. Many of us won't be able to see our loved ones this year or have had to make the impossible decision of choosing who we will see and who we won't, which adds to the existing pressure.
3. Christmas Past
As well as being the most wonderful time of the year, it can also be the most difficult. Christmas can be wrapped up in sad memories as well as sweet ones. It might be bittersweet that we are spending this Christmas without loved ones, which I imagine will be even more significant this year. We may be haunted by terrible past Christmas experiences that prevent us from really embracing the present. We may be holding onto amazing past Christmasses, unable to recreate the joy there once was. Whatever it is, the past has a habit of spilling into the present (not just at Christmas!) which can leave us feeling less than festive.
On the whole....
And upon my reflecting it seems like pressure is everywhere. In the time pressure. In the financial pressure. In the pressure of expectations. And in the memories we wrap our Christmas up in. It seems to me that the most beneficial question we can ask ourselves is:
How can I ease the pressure on myself?
These are my top tips for holiday season self-care and how I will be navigating the festivities:
1. Take each day as it comes. Tomorrow is always a new day.
2. GROUND yourself. When it all feels too much and all consuming, it's more important than ever to carve out some time for yourself.
3. Release unhelpful expectations. This isn't to say you can't have any expectations at all but try and work out what's helpful and what isn't. How could you be more flexible?
4. Honour yourself and what's best for you, as best you can. You don't have to say yes to everything - what can you decline if you need to? You also don't have to have conversations you don't want to - how can you change topic or assert your boundaries? You ARE allowed to put yourself before others, even over the Holidays.
5. Be in the present. How can you embrace where you are today? Gratitude might help with this!
6. Find your own joy. What can you do that brings yourself joy? For me this year, I'm finding joy in opening a special advent calendar each day!
I hope your Holidays are as enjoyable as they can be and I'm sending wishes for a smooth ride through to New Year's!
Happy Holidays everyone! (and don't forget to look after yourselves!)
MIND - Why Christmas can be hard + tips for coping
BEAT (Eating Disorders)
ALCOHOL CHANGE UK
WE ARE WITH YOU
Amy is a UK Tarot reader and trainee counsellor. She is passionate about mental health, emotional support and living in a way that’s authentic and sustainable. She combines alternative tools like Tarot with tried and tested, evidence based strategies to give people effective self-help and personal development tools. Amy wants to support others in empowering them to take control of their mental and emotional health so they can be the experts on themselves!