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Struggling with the thought of Christmas?

15th November 2022


Christmas can be a wonderful time of year for many, but for some it can be a particularly difficult, anxious and stressful time. You may be finding this poignant time of year especially difficult if you are bereaved, no matter how long ago this was, Christmas has habit of opening old wounds and hurts.  It can also be challenging if you have experienced the loss of a relationship or going through life changes, health issues or traumatic circumstances.  With the current world/financial climate and rising cost of living, many will find this Christmas a worrying time, may feel anxious and stressed about world affairs and managing extra expenditure or adjusting to more realistic expectations.

With the festive season being publicised widely many weeks beforehand and cards and gifts filling the shops, it’s extremely difficult to avoid and not feel ‘pressured’ to be having a wonderful time. Often, powerful emotions, expectations and memories are bought to the surface, making it hard to keep rational and control anxiety and stress levels.

So, if you are amongst those who are struggling with the thought of Christmas, for whatever reason, here’s a few suggestions to help you survive the weeks ahead:


Self-care - be kind to yourself:

  • Recognise that this may be a difficult or stressful time for you, so be kind enough to not put yourself under any extra stress, commitments or financial pressure.
  • Listen to yourself, acknowledge what you are finding difficult, maybe write things down to help get clarity or explore options and plan.
  • Make self-care a priority - whatever normally helps you, do this tenfold to help you manage your stress levels. This may include taking time out in nature, writing things down, meditation, relaxation, listening to music, pampering yourself, eating comforting foods or talking to friends etc. 


Think what would work best for you:

  • Consider what you can afford to do emotionally, physically and financially.
  • Would you find being with others a comfort or support? Would joining other family member’s/friends/community groups help you emotionally or financially to spread the cost of Christmas/heating/food etc?
  • Maybe you just want to be left alone or do Christmas completely differently, especially if bereaved or feeling unwell. You don’t have to do anything - maybe scaling things down, listening to music, watching a movie, pampering yourself, focusing on housework, painting, gardening may feel the right thing for you.
  • If you’re struggling with health issues, again listen to yourself, what’s honestly possible and what you can or cannot manage.


Be realistic:

  • If you’re struggling with a change of circumstances or health issues that makes Christmas difficult, focus on your needs and any positives where you can. 
  • Should you be struggling with financial hardship, try to be kind to yourself and be realistic. Don’t feel guilty for doing things differently this year. Make adjustments and changes to how you spend the festive period, keep things in perspective, don’t go into further debt for just a couple of days. It should be the thought, not the financial value that counts. The best things in life are free, laugh and make memories!
  • Look into money saving tips and energy reducing ways to help manage bills and your finances - there’s lots of advice and suggestions out there.
  • There are also many charities and local food bank schemes that are offering support right now, there’s no shame in reaching out.  If you’re struggling to pay bills, speak with your provider, the Citizen’s Advice Bureau or debt helplines, it’s best to tackle the situation rather than avoid.


Don’t feel guilty:

  • Try not to feel guilty for speaking up or doing what feels right for you. 
  • Don’t feel guilty for doing Christmas differently, in line with your circumstances or budget.
  • You may even feel uncomfortable or guilty for doing your ‘normal Christmas’, in light of world events and knowing that others may be struggling.  Maybe you could make a charity donation or scale festivities down, so you feel more comfortable with things.  Reflect on those less fortunate, say a prayer, donate or do a kind gesture.
  • Don’t feel guilty for putting up decorations, enjoying parts of the festive season or realising that it wasn’t as bad as expected, you are allowed to laugh and smile.


Allow yourself time to grieve or feel overwhelmed, it’s ok:

  • Recognise that it’s normal that this time of year may heighten the complexed emotions you may already be experiencing whilst grieving or experiencing a difficult time. 
  • Writing down how you feel or writing to the person you have lost can help.
  • Often the anticipation of Christmas can be worse than the actual days, so be kind to yourself on the lead up, allowing yourself time and space to grieve, reflect, think, plan and share your feelings if you can.


Make time to remember those you have lost:

  • You may wish to visit your loved one’s memorial or indeed celebrate your loved one’s life in some way.
  • Talking about your loss to friends or family can help. 
  • Reflect on or write down your thoughts and feelings, write to the person you have lost.
  • Remember the ones you have lost by lighting a candle, attending a memorial or Christmas service, placing flowers, writing a card, releasing a balloon in their memory, sharing photographs and memories, or raise a glass or two.


Sending Christmas wishes:

  • You may struggle to send Christmas cards if you have lost someone close or your circumstances have changed.  Listen to yourself and do what feels best for you, don’t put yourself under pressure to send them if it’s just too much.
  • You may be struggling to write a card to someone you know who has been bereaved - sometimes it’s nice to acknowledge the person they have lost; say how you will miss them or just that you understand it may be difficult for them and you are there if needed.  Try to think how the bereaved person will feel on reading your sentiments.
  • You may feel more comfortable with not sending cards, making a charity donation instead, calling or texting those you care about.


Do an act of kindness:

  • Volunteer, help a friend, neighbour, the elderly - sometimes helping others, even when you’re in difficulty, can help alleviate your own distress and help you feel of value and purpose.
  • Lots of places offer Christmas lunches for the homeless, elderly, or those struggling, you may wish to spend your time volunteering and supporting others.


Remember this difficult time will pass:

  • Re-assure yourself that you have already overcome many difficult days, you have the resources to get through.
  • Remember you have inner strength and draw on things or people that have helped you before.


Seek support:

  • If things feel too much, talk to friends and family or seek professional advice or support.
  • There are many 24-hour support lines who offer support 365 days a year – Samaritans, Cruse, Mind, Young Minds, Childline, The British Red Cross, National Debt Line, Christian Aid Against Poverty etc. 
  • Therapy may help you to process complex emotions and enable you to cope better with loss, anxiety, stress and trauma. Bereavement counselling can be extremely beneficial, at any time, following a loss. 

Please remember you are not alone in finding this time difficult.

“Christmas isn’t just a day.  It’s a frame of mind”

 - Valentine Davies


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