8 Tips to get through Christmas if it’s not the happiest time for you

I bloody love Christmas, love it. Love the cooking, the decorations, the songs, the eating, the man in the red suit, all of it, just love it. But, it wasn’t always this way, there was a time when Christmas for me was quite miserable and dull and I know Christmas can be a funny stressful time for lot’s of people.

Christmas is meant to be all about families coming together, sharing food, gifts and happy moments, you know, it’s just like the pictures in the Country Style or Women’s Day magazine right? Or all those gorgeous social media shots of celebs having ‘so much fun’! Well, for some people it is like that, but for lot’s of people it can be a really sad, stressful, anxious time. Perhaps a loved one is missing, you can’t stand your mother- in- law,  your husbands family are just really boring or maybe you are alone.  Maybe it’s even a scary time for you – I’ve read that the rates of domestic violence sky rocket at Christmas time as families who are forced to spend the day together end up in brawls over the dinner table.

I remember a time when Christmas wasn’t all that fun for me. The first Christmas after Dad died was pretty horrible. Not only were we all missing Dad terribly but my Auntie had been diagnosed with cancer so everyone was pretty miserable.

Christmas’s became very quiet and pretty dull after Dad died and I missed (and still miss actually) the big Warne Christmas’s with Dad’s side of the family, with 40 odd people for Christmas lunch on the verandah at my Grandparents house in the Mallee. We stopped having Christmas with them after Dad died because it was too hard for Mum.

So for some years Christmas was really quite a sad time. It wasn’t until Tim and I started having Christmas’s together and then having kids that I rediscovered my love for Christmas and now it’s my favourite time of the year.

So how is Christmas for you? If you are someone who doesn’t look forward to Christmas and it’s not a happy time, I get it. Is there an Auntie, a sister, a brother in law, a mother-in-law that you dread having to spend the day with? Is it your first Christmas without a loved one? Are you anxious just at the thought of it? Are you struggling with anxiety or depression and you are dreading a day with so many people around and having to “pretend” everything is OK? It’s OK, you are not alone and I’ve got some tips to help you get through the day and ease the stress.

  1. Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up because you can’t stand your sister/mother/brother-in-law. We all struggle with different relationships in our life and that’s OK. Forgive yourself and accept that we can’t love everyone, all we can do is be as kind as possible and be polite and just get through the day.
  2. Make a plan and give yourself space. If you get anxious at the thought of seeing certain people, then have a plan for the day, tell your partner about it and then break the day/festive period up. Be honest with yourself about what you can cope with. Don’t force yourself to spend 3 nights in a home with your sister-in-law if she shits you to tears. Give yourself a break and just go for lunch or book in to some accomodation close by, but don’t stay there. Only plan to have one meal with them and then organise something with a friend for the other part of the day so you don’t have to spend too much time together. You are far better to do this than to force yourself in to a situation that makes you and probably everyone else around you feel uncomfortable.
  3. Take some time to remember the ones that aren’t there. If it’s your first Christmas without a loved one as it is for us this year without Tim’s Dad, then try to do something different, even go somewhere new. Do something that reminds you of them and acknowledge them and that you’re all missing them and then have a toast to them. Accept that it will be sad without them and let yourself be sad but don’t let it ruin your whole Christmas, think about the good times and be grateful for them.
  4.  If you’re hosting, don’t go overboard. This is probably a case of me really needing to listen to my own advice too!  I just love it all so much and I definitely do have a tendency to go overboard!  Delegation is key. People love to help, it makes them feel useful, so get people involved as much as possible!  It really should be about the family time and the fun not just about the food!
  5. Plan some activities to keep people busy. If you know that there are certain “complex” relationships in your family, not necessarily with you, but maybe your sisters don’t get along or your sister-in-law can’t cope with her mother-in-law then it’s good to be conscious of this and help them out as much as you can. Give people jobs, or plan an outing to the pool, or maybe a tennis match or some boulle after lunch.
  6. Be happy! As much as you can try to be the one that lifts the mood and stays upbeat. We all have the ability to spread the love and the good stuff and help others to have fun too. If we can be happy and up beat then it’s infectious. Think about how you are putting your energy out there on Christmas Day. Are you adding to the fun or bringing people down? If you notice some tension between someone then try to divert the conversation and avoid seating them next to each other!
  7. Be grateful and focus on the positives. It’s very easy to focus on the negatives and what we don’t like about other people or what we don’t like about Christmas or what makes us sad or what we haven’t got but focusing on what we have got, what we are grateful for and what the positive things about our family or life are is really, really powerful and can change our entire outlook. When you wake up on Christmas morning, (if you have time before the kids are running around the house with their Santa sacks) spend 3-5 minutes thinking of 5 things you are grateful for. Even do it Christmas Eve before you go to bed. This is actually something you can try daily and I’ll write a blog about it soon! You would be amazed at the power of feeling grateful. Everyone, no matter what situation they are in can find things to be grateful for.
  8. Take Action! Lastly but most importantly if you are feeling really depressed or suffering with a mental illness or severe anxiety or if you know someone else that isn’t coping  then please do something about it and go and see your Dr or make a call to Lifeline or PANDA and get some help or encourage them to get some help. It’s really important, especially at this time of year.

Well,  good luck for your Christmas Day. I hope it’s fun and lovely and just like the picture in the Country Style Mag, but if it’s not that’s OK. Just do your best to get through it, be kind and try to make it as much fun as possible!

Have you got any tips for getting through Christmas that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them!