Christmas is universally depicted as a magical and hopeful time of the year, in everything from songs and movies to advertisements. But for many people, it can be the total opposite.
You don’t have to be a Grinch or a Scrooge to be a Christmas skeptic. For so many people, the pressure for everything to be perfect can do nothing but magnify everything that isn’t, and this can mean that for many people Christmas is a really difficult time of year.
We've got some advice from our Deload Sidekick, Dr. Mike Banna, on how to deal with some of the hurdles that can come your way during the holidays, and how to cope with some stresses and emotions that may arise.
Dealing with Stress
Ever ended up having a massive falling out with a family member over the best way to peel carrots? I have. When we feel like we have a million things to do, it’s so easy to inflate their importance, and forget that not very much will happen if we don’t get everything 100% spot on. To-do lists, prioritizing, accepting that we can’t do EVERYTHING, and remembering that some things (carrots) matter less than others (our relationships with loved ones), can help temper this stress.
Loneliness and Isolation
The focus on togetherness at Christmas can be hugely unsettling for some people. And this is not just those who don’t have families, but those who may be separated from loved ones for any reason, or those who may be bereaved or lost people important to them in other ways. If you know someone going through this, reach out to them, and consider whether you could include them in your Christmas. And if this sounds like you, there are some things you can do that may help - volunteering and helping others can be hugely powerful, as can connecting with people virtually if you cannot be with them in person. But it’s also important to remember that you don’t have to celebrate it at all. If you want, it can be just a day like any other. Give yourself a gentle reminder that not everyone around the world even celebrates Christmas, let alone has a magic one; you're definitely not alone.
The pressure to create the perfect Christmas can not only be mentally overwhelming but for some can be financially crippling. Many people struggle to balance their income with their spending at the best of times, but at Christmas, we are expected to spend more money on everything. Presents, trees, decorations, lights, stockings. I mean, we’ve even somehow been convinced to pay for small paper explosive devices containing bad jokes and paper hats as part of Christmas Dinner. Being honest with ourselves about what we can and cannot afford to spend at Christmas, as well as budgeting in advance, is key because going into debt is not a gift worth getting for anyone. Setting spending limits for gifts between loved ones, Secret Santas, etc can also be helpful. People who love us will understand.
Another aspect of Christmas that can be tough for many is the tendency of everyone wanting to see everyone and feeling guilty about how we spread our time. Feelings of obligation, as well as over-commitment to social plans, can increase stress and anxiety and can lead to Christmas being a far less relaxing time than it’s meant to be. I think the key here is that while it’s tempting to try and please everyone, it’s also YOUR Christmas, and you need to be realistic about what you can manage doing, what’s important to you, and also what you WANT to do in the first place.
Food and Training
At this time of year, everyone will have an opinion on what people should be doing about food and training. The fact is, it’s entirely up to you how to approach things. You don’t need permission from random Instagram accounts to relax and eat however you like; equally, you don’t have to overeat just because everyone says you can. And if you love training and want to keep doing it at a time when you’re supposed to be doing things you enjoy, crack on. Equally, if you need a break, take one. But please try and avoid training excessively to punish yourself for overeating, or over restricting yourself; it’s important to try and be honest with yourself about this, and seek guidance from professionals if you’re unsure.
Ultimately, we need to be realistic. Christmas isn’t for everyone and doesn’t need to be your favorite time of the year. But while you don’t need to love it, there are still some things you can do to make it a little bit better, and hopefully, by implementing a few of these points it’ll be a little more manageable, and maybe even enjoyable. And if not, it will pass and we can always try again next year.
To find out more about Dr. Mike Banna, our article writer and Deload Sidekick, take a look at this article.
Someone will always be on your side, and if you need someone to talk to about your mental health, please take a look at the resources on our Deload Hub on Gymshark Central.