For many people the Christmas and holiday season is the highlight of the year!
Time off work and school, good weather, social events and general frivolity.
However, for others it’s a time of stress, increasing financial strain, the overwhelm of too many commitments, family expectations, or isolation and loneliness.
The ‘silly season’ can be a real pressure cooker of emotions!
If you are not filled with joy at this time of the year, it’s easy to feel guilty and inadequate.
But many people find the festive season to be the most difficult time of year emotionally.
This year it may be particularly difficult because Christmas 2021 also marks the second Christmas since the pandemic began, and the second year separated from family and loved ones for many of us.
If you have family interstate or overseas who, once again, can’t be with you for Christmas, I feel your frustration!
I’ve been separated from my little sister and miss her terribly.
We can only hope next year is different, with less restriction and uncertainty.
To those who are bereaved by the loss of a loved one, Christmas can feel like a day where you have to endure just another painful reminder of their absence.
But it’s also an opportunity to talk about your loved one and share special memories with others who knew and loved them.
Grief is a difficult and complex journey and I hope you feel wrapped in the supportive arms of your family, friends and community these holidays.
Whether you love the festive season or absolutely dread it, it’s a time of year we can all try that bit harder to be patient, tolerant and kind.
There are things you can do to make it more enjoyable for yourself and others.
Have a look at the ideas below and see which ones fit for you:
Slow down and try to avoid rushing from one thing to the next!
Not only can it be extremely stressful and make us irritable, it can also make travelling on the roads hectic and unsafe.
Look out for each other.
Keep an eye on those you know may be having a hard time.
Invite your neighbours and friends who are isolated from their families to share Christmas or New Year with you.
Plan a virtual Christmas get together with loved ones in other parts of the world.
Seeing their faces and sharing part of the day together can help you feel connected.
Avoid drinking too much alcohol as the reduced inhibitions can lead to saying things and doing things that you might regret later.
Don’t dwell on contentious issues.
Instead, put on a Christmas comedy movie after lunch or have a game of backyard cricket to keep everyone busy and smiling.
Be respectful of people who make different choices to you and who are on their own life journeys you know nothing about.
If certain topics cause anger and division, agree to disagree and talk about something else.
If Christmas day is going to be emotionally challenging, try having it somewhere different than usual.
Have lunch at a restaurant, a picnic at the beach or go camping.
A different routine can provide a welcoming distraction.
Take time to reflect on the year that was 2021 and make a conscious effort to list all the positive things you did or experienced.
Feel grateful for these things, it will improve your mood and sense of optimism.
Set some intentions for 2022.
I don’t mean make resolutions you are unlikely to stick to (which only lead to feelings of failure), I mean think about what sort of world you want to live in, the world you want your children to inherit, and how you can be part of the solution and not the problem, as they say.
If you’re currently estranged from someone important to you, consider making contact and take steps towards reconciliation.
Acknowledge that any negative feelings may be due to a combination of Christmas related factors including money worries, the pressure of last-minute shopping and unrealistic expectations of festive cheer.
Find a listening ear and remind yourself that many of these negative feelings may pass once the New Year is underway. Or even by Boxing Day.
Be kind, welcoming and helpful to the visitors who holiday in our region.
Be kind to other drivers also trying to score a carpark at the beach or the shops.
Be especially kind to the people serving you in workplaces that are managing the holiday rush without adequate staff.
Most importantly, practice being kind to yourself!
Self-compassion is one of the most valuable gifts you can give.
Jacqui Barnsley is a member of Mindful Margaret River and Suicide Prevention Margaret River. She works as a Specialist Support Coordinator for people with disability who receive the NDIS.
Mindful Margaret River is an alliance of mental wellbeing professionals, government agencies and community members aimed at promoting health and wellbeing in the AMR Shire.
Mindful Margaret River is funded by Lotterywest and supported by the Shire of Augusta Margaret River. You can find out more on our website mindfulmargarteriver.org.au and follow us on Facebook.
First published in the Augusta Margaret River Mail December 20 2021