Top tips for a positive Christmas

Written by Michelle Robinson

The festive season approaches. Soon the experiences that create the collage of our Christmas-memories will take their place beside similar collages from previous Christmases, and time will flow forward into 2022.

With that in mind, I have decided to focus this month’s column or my top three tips for creating a positive Christmas.

I know this is a big ask. It’s been a tough year in so many ways, especially if you are experiencing forced separation from loved ones, financial uncertainty, relationship destruction, loss, and any of the other challenges that provoke major life stress.

It’s not easy to face the Christmas season with a jolly, “Ho Ho Ho,” when your heart is aching for that special person you haven’t been able to hold close for a long time. I completely understand. I’m in that boat with you.

However, with that said, there are steps you can take to enjoy this time, even though your ‘ideal’ scenario may be flawed. I’ll share my top three tips below and, of course, you will try or discard them as you choose.

Tip 1: Set Some Personal Boundaries

It might seem strange to include boundary-setting in guidelines for a positive Christmas, but too often we get pushed into doing something we know won’t end well.

When there are Christmas histories of particular and predictable family members stirring up trouble, or stomach-churning memories of forced and uncomfortable Christmas gatherings, then boundaries are your friend. You have the right to decide how, where, with whom, and for how long you will expose yourself to stressful behaviour.

So do it.

Draw that line in the sand now that defines your willingness to participate in any event or gathering that you know will stress you out. If you feel sick just thinking about a Christmas occasion, then you’ll know what I am talking about. Be as reasonable as you can, and also, look after yourself. Set some boundaries so that arguments don’t ruin the day. Make sure your wellbeing remains intact.
Tip 2: Respond. Don’t React.

The Christmas period is often emotionally charged. We place all our hopes into something we really want to happen, and then, for many reasons, plans change.

Our hopes feel dashed. This is especially the case when we have been anticipating visits from loved ones or planning a holiday we so badly need.

Naturally, the easiest thing to do when we feel disappointed is to react with anger, blame, frustration, and dismay.

I understand. However, if we let these emotions dwell inside us, they feed on each other, merge together, and like a hungry giant, just keep growing.

Soon there’s a lot more than our original disappointment that seems terrible. The whole world looks grey.

When we choose to respond, we take the time to feel disappointed but do not wallow in the feelings long term. We keep our internal compass level with the horizon and make the best of the choices we have with what is left. We look for ways we can still create some happiness, and we take them. That helps not only us but also others with whom we share our lives.

Tip 3: Look for Little Blessings

Perhaps my favourite tip is the easiest to follow. Look for the small blessings in your life and feel gratitude. Don’t let the world-climate or other people’s bad weather affect your mood. Stay mindful of every kindness you receive and know that in offering kindness to others, you receive the pleasure of feeling good about yourself.

I like to ask myself, “What would Love do?” and then try to steer myself in that direction. It saves me from getting distracted by stress and reorients me towards the simple truth that I can choose to find beauty even in a difficult day.

Wishing you a joyous Summer.

See you next year.