Christmas celebrations: A time for reflection and gratitude

It feels like just the other day we were taking down the Christmas decorations in my home. But here we are again, on the cusp of the “most beautiful time of the year”.

But in between the Christmas tinsel of past, and the hot-cross buns and chocolate eggs that followed, these past two years have felt like a blur of rollercoaster emotions, fatigue, and deferred hope if I must be honest. What with lockdowns, working from home (although I have loved the casual dress code) and the home-learning for schoolkids that ensued. And now, here we are – at the dawn of a season that can bring mixed emotions for many.

What makes this year different though is that for the first time in almost two years, many of us in NSW get to celebrate and cherish with those closest to us – in person. Almost miraculously it seems, we have weathered a challenging few months of early morning news conferences littered with statistics and everchanging restrictions and safety rules. And so, as if by divine intervention, it feels as though we have been blessed with gifts so apt for this time of year – the gifts of love, family, and fellowship. This surely feels like good grace. So, with these looming celebrations on the horizon, mindful planning and preparation in our approach could be key allies in combating the inevitable stress that often accompanies this special family time. Indeed, this festive season can herald the advent of a new dawn for our mental well-being.

Here are some useful tips to ensure that we feel less overwhelmed and yet still able to enjoy the holidays celebrating with those we love.

1. Remember that you don’t have to do everything on your own.
It is important to share the responsibilities and ask for help when you feel you need it as you plan for those family and friend celebrations. The old saying “many hands make light work” couldn’t be more appropriate and could potentially be the difference between you feeling overwhelmed or being able to enjoy the company of loved ones as you create new memories.

2. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect
Who doesn’t love to have that special party with just the right amount of everything? But pulling that off often comes with a large dose of pressure, and if you’re already feeling the strain after this challenging year, remember that the desire to pull off that perfect party or celebration doesn’t have to be the unrealistic standard you aim for. Just do your best.

3. Set a budget and stick to it
We all know that once the celebrations are over, the New Year will come and there will be financial responsibilities to be met. One of the best ways to ensure that we don’t start the New Year experiencing financial pressure and feeling overwhelmed is to set a budget and to stick to it. Financial discipline can save you from a great deal of pressure as you head into the New Year.

4. Stick to your normal routine
It was the uncertainty during the lockdowns that contributed towards triggering anxiety and stress for many. Keeping our normal routine of regular exercise, mindful eating, and sleep patterns can help us remain focused and feeling energised these holidays.

5. Moderation
The celebrations that we share can provide the perfect temptation for us to indulge in excess food and alcohol – almost as reward for the restrictions we’ve had to endure. Remember, this excess may help with easing the painful memories of the year that has been, but this relief may be short-lived if we struggle with guilt and regret later. Celebrating in moderation can help us avoid the dread of having gone too far.

6. Let your values guide you
As the advertising ramps up and the pressure to please mounts, it is easy for our emotions to influence us. The pressure to compete with what we see others doing on social media, or the pressure of our emotions jerking us around can cause us to commit to actions that are out of character. Always let your values guide you. Simply ask, what is important to me? What do I value most? You can use these reflective questions to help guide your decision making rather than being swayed by big emotions such as guilt or frustration.

Finally, be mindful of those around you who are lonely and in need of company – perhaps not able to be with loved ones – or just doing it tough. Kindness towards others can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things you do this season.

Author: Gerard Ogle, Registered Psychologist at The Rosewood Centre

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