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5 Simple Ways to Survive the Festive Season
Why do the holidays feel so difficult?
For a lot of people, the end of year festive season isn’t the picture perfect, hallmark movie experience that it is sometimes made out to be. Family, end of year work pressures, obligations and expectations, plus the lack of pleasant weather. These can all make the holiday season a ‘less than perfect’ experience. Coming to terms with the fact that life is almost always not as romanticised, warm and shiny as it is made out to be is a lesson that most people have to learn. But, coming to terms with it can be difficult no matter how many festive seasons you have under your belt.
That’s not to say that you can’t enjoy all the fun traditions and spending time with your loved ones. We encourage you to get the most out of every experience in life! Even if you’re not always the biggest fan of the end of year celebrations. It can be a great reminder to reflect on the things you’re grateful for. All the experiences you have had, and the people who love you. Finding a way to make it a meaningful experience is key. And making the most of whatever your holiday season looks like is the best way to survive.
Don’t make yourself feel worse
It’s important to not add on a sense of guilt or shame for not feeling the most optimistic or enthusiastic about the festive season. Not looking forward to it? Or finding it a particularly stressful or cumbersome? Thats a very valid response. You shouldn’t make yourself feel worse for how you naturally feel about it. There can be a lot of external and internal pressures, expectations and assumptions. These can all make this time of year stressful.
It is completely understandable why some of us feel stressed, or find it difficult to navigate this time of year. We are all trying to do the best that we can. That said, there are a few things you can do to help yourself cope with the obligations and things you will get up to. Here is our holiday survival guide:
1: Practise gratitude
If we sound like a broken record, we’re totally (not) sorry! Practising gratitude is almost always an applicable solution for when you don’t feel your best. It can also be a fun way to amplify your good feelings when you do feel good! The end-of-year celebrations and the festive season is no different. It can be a timely reminder to practise expressing your gratitude for the things you have, the experiences you’ve had, and the people around you.
Whether that’s just taking some time each day to think about what you’re grateful for. Or maybe writing it down, and telling your friends and family that you love and appreciate them. Or, taking time to write genuine, meaningful notes of gratitude to people who have given you a gift. Remember, time, love, and attention are considered gifts too. Practising gratitude comes naturally during this time of year.
Practising gratitude can help strengthen your social bonds and connections with those around you. It can help raise others up and also give you a better frame of mind to start, or end, your day. We often spend extended time with family members during this season, so there’s never been a better time to put your best foot forward. Even if you’re spending the end-of-year season alone, practising gratitude can help raise your mood and you deserve to feel good!
2: Do one thing at a time
Along those same lines, there are often lots of traditions or time spent with other people doing certain activities. These may sometimes not be our favourite thing to do. Maybe you don’t really look forward to the family board game night, or watching a cringey Christmas film. But, see if you can try going into the experience with complete openness, presence and mindfulness.
If you give all your attention and mental energy to one thing at a time, it is often easier to make that experience more joyful and pleasant. Maybe you truly don’t enjoy the thing you feel obligated to do, so consider if it’s reasonable for you to skip it completely. But, maybe you can approach it with a little light-heartedness too – it won’t last forever!
Even in little moments of downtime, maybe when you’re alone doing the dishes or relaxing with a book in the evening, see if you can bring a complete sense of being fully in the moment. In times of relaxation, you are likely to destress even more compared to if you were doing two things at once. So no checking your phone while watching that film!
3: Practise being present
Being completely present in the moment helps our bodies relax, our minds calm down and can help let you get more out of whatever thing you’re doing. These days we live very fast-paced lives, so slowing down, even if it’s just in that moment will help you get back into a more natural pace of life.
Being as present as you can also opens up the opportunity to connect more deeply with others. Even if it’s over mundane things. Not being distracted by things (especially our phones) during communal moments and shared experiences allow us to get more out of those experiences. It can help us find ways to appreciate and enjoy them even more than if we were trying to disengage from the experience.
It is a common new years resolution to spend more meaningful time with family and friends. So, get a head start on your January goals by actively curating some quality time with others. ‘Family’ and spending time with those you love is often the whole meaning behind the celebrations and traditions in the festive season. So embrace it!
4: Practise setting your boundaries
One of the non-negotiables I have, that I recommend you all implement, is having some uninterrupted alone-time. This is especially important if you’re visiting family, or you have family staying with you. A lot of people find the festive season stressful because all our normal routines, especially alone-time, are thrown off. We do not get the usual downtime that we would usually recharge with. This can make us feel a little frazzled, stressed, and drained. therefore, making us more irritable, and when confined to a space shared with others, makes conflict more likely.
Setting some clear, and respectful, boundaries with those who are around you is an easy way to ensure you feel fully rested, recharged and ready to tackle the next day. This allows everyone to make the most of their time together. Without feeling tired, cranky and like our social batteries have completely flatlined. Maybe for you, that looks like having an extra 30 minutes in the morning. So, you can take some time for yourself, and feel more balanced.
Whatever it is that keeps you sane and doesn’t negatively impact others is worth honouring. It isn’t always the easiest to set boundaries. Especially with family members. But, see if you can explain why you are setting the boundaries, listen empathetically to what they have to say, and see if you can, with kindness, come to a happy agreement.
5: Do your maintenance
In the same way, keep up with your usual habits and routines that bring you joy and peace of mind. Whether that’s journaling, meditating, getting enough sleep or making time for a walk outside. It’s important to not completely let go of the very things that keep us stable during a stressful season.
Allowing yourself and respecting yourself enough to give yourself the things you need to be your most optimal, present and happy self is important in general. But it becomes especially important during the extra stressful festive season. It can feel tempting to let go completely of all the things that are healthy and good for you. Particularly when the fresh start of a new year is right around the corner. But, maintaining your well-being is not something worth throwing away, just because it’s Christmas.
Your friends, family and guests are hopefully respectful of the boundaries you set and understanding if you need some alone time. However, if you do not have your own space to retreat to (hello shared bedrooms…), you can do other things to get a bit of mental alone time. Even if you’re in the presence of others. Try popping into the kitchen to do the dishes, maybe offer to make dinner for everyone and enjoy some alone time while cooking, or offer to go do the grocery shop. Doing something physically with your hands helps keep our minds relaxed. Offering to do something helpful has multiple benefits, plus you’ll be seen as super helpful!
A final reminder
The festive season can be as fun, meaningful and joyous as you make it. It often isn’t as picture perfect as we would like. And maybe you wish you didn’t find it as difficult as you do. But, the thing to remember is that you are in control of your mindset. There are plenty of things you can do to give yourself the best chance of enjoying and breezing through the end of the year. Afterall, it is only for a short season. Soon it will be a brand-new year! Keep trying your best, be gracious and kind to those around you. And most importantly cut yourself some slack – you probably deserve it!