The Christmas Conflict
Christmas can be a difficult time of year for many people. If it’s supposed to be the most joyous time of year, why do so many people feel so stressed and miserable?
It’s the time of year we are flooded by images from all forms of media of smiling, happy people surrounded by loved ones who give the appearance of being in wholesome, harmonious relationships, and who manage to have the perfect Christmas tree with all the presents bought and wrapped well ahead of time.
If this time of year triggers dread of the obligation of meeting up with difficult family members, reminders of painful memories, the loss of close ones, or a reinforced sense of loneliness, then you are not alone.
I believe the media has a lot to answer for in making us feel guilty, not good enough, and is also responsible for fueling the feeling of missing out – particularly at this time of year. I avoid going to the shops as much as I can to avoid hearing the usual Christmas music being churned out, and sitting in queues of traffic. Nor do I wish to see all the special Christmas dinnerware and settings I could have on my Christmas table. For some reason they make me feel inadequate for not having my Christmas table Christmassy enough.
Then there’s pressure to find the right gifts for the people in your life. If you have kids, then this pressure can be feel intensified. How long after the unwrapping frenzy before the novelty of the new toys wear off and they are swiftly pushed to one side when the next glittery must-get thing comes along? What are we teaching our children about consumerism and how we spend money?
The effects of the pressure to spend can be felt well in to the new year when the credit card bill comes due.
Statistically, there is also a spike in the rates of domestic violence as a combination of family troubles, increased financial stress and alcohol consumption, along with hot weather can be a trigger point for violence to occur.
There are so many cultural ‘norms’ that are so entrenched within us that we don’t even question them. Is it normal to spend way over and above our means to feel like we’re keeping up with appearances?
Is it normal to feel stressed, guilty and pressured to have everything ‘perfect’ for this one day of the year, and to be in the same room with people that you know full well will cause a pressure cooker of tension and misery?
Sure, this time of year can mean looking forward to some well-earned time off, but if your time off is precious to you, are you choosing how you spend it, or is it being dictated to you?
It can be super difficult to resist the collective pressure to say no to the social events you’d rather not attend. And I’m not denying that it’s fun to give a gift you know someone wants, but how would it be to be more mindful around how you spend your time and money at this time of year? If you are feeling stressed out, anxious, irritable, or more depressed, this is your body communicating with you that it’s time to step off the hamster wheel for a while.
As for me, my family has collectively agreed to not buy each other Christmas presents. This may sound miserly to some but it works well for us as it takes a heap of stress and pressure off. And as for the Christmas table – it’s paper plates and last year’s tablecloths and decorations.
If you struggle emotionally at this time of year, give me a call to discuss if counselling might assist you get clarity around the issues you are facing. I am available for appointments all through the holiday season.