CHRISTMAS can be a wonderful time of connection, family and tradition.
Nonetheless, the coming weeks demand extra planning, socialising (even within the remit of current guidelines) and keeping up with the Joneses too, if you let yourself be sucked into all of that.
The pressure to have a “perfect Christmas” can be palpable, and ultimately takes away from the magic.
A once simpler time, like everything else in life, Christmas and all that comes with it is becoming more increasingly complex. What used to be one Christmas tree in the window has grown to a tree in each room accompanied by an impressive outdoor lights display. An advent calendar that required the simple opening of a door each day has grown to the need to plan and execute daily mischief for the Elf on the Shelf.
Traditions relating to time spent at Christmas has expanded from circling the programmes you want to watch in the RTÉ Guide to now needing matching PJs, Christmas Eve boxes and Insta-worthy pictures of the food. The trip to see Santa should be as magical as possible, complete with reindeer and snow machines. Santa himself is under extra pressure too, with the lists becoming longer and the expectations ever growing.
Fuel the joy rather than the overthinking
These Christmas developments are fabulous if they bring joy as opposed to financial or mental stress. Many happy memories can be created as a result. But often the combination of all of the above just adds to the strain of the Season, especially for mums and parents who are creaking under the weight of expectation and pressure.
Rather than getting caught up in the comparisons, focusing on your own Christmas experience can reduce the resulting overwhelm.
Imagine the flurry of overthinking associated with creating the perfect Christmas to be like the pieces of snow in a snow-globe. Late at night when your mind is racing, it can feel like that swirl of snow – dimming the view of the image or figurine inside. Being consumed with “what if’s” and “I shoulds” is exhausting, and as long as you engage with those thoughts they will continue to obscure the important message within.
Instead, see if it’s possible to occasionally just pause and watch them slowly settle. Noticing that they’re there, but not getting swept up by them. Gradually, the thoughts will run out of steam, and float downwards.
Put “perfect” into perspective
What that pause will do is give you a clearer view of what’s represented in the snow-globe – the Christmas you would actually like.
What is high on one family’s priority list, doesn’t have to even feature on yours. Getting very clear on how you would actually like your Christmas to be, rather than how you think others feel your Christmas should be, will greatly reduce the pressure.
Is the Christmas dinner your family’s absolute highlight? Then put the effort into that and don’t worry that you forgot to buy Christmas crackers. Are loved ones coming home for Christmas? Then focus on creating memories with them, rather than curating perfect posts for social media. Can’t afford Christmas Eve boxes on top of everything else? A night on the couch as a family doesn’t need all those extras, and costs nothing.
The Smyth’s catalogue contains every possible toy to buy, but nobody is going to expect Santa to deliver all of them. In the same way, we need to remind ourselves our Christmas could never possibly include every single tradition and trimming, outing or present.
We need to choose what’s right for us and our family, matching to budget and taste, and forget the rest. Be open with little people as to the limitations around what is deliverable, and emphasise the pricelessness of the less-material aspects of Christmas.
They’ll see all of that unfold for themselves if you embrace it.
There’s no need to keep up with the Joneses when you’ve got the perfect Christmas in the making right here at home.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr Michelle O’Driscoll is a pharmacist, researcher and founder of InTuition, a health and wellness education company. Her research lies in the area of mental health education, and through InTuition she delivers health promotion workshops to corporate and academic organisations nationally. See intuition.ie