How to manage the Ghosts of Christmas Past.

By Paula Meir

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I don’t know if it’s me but Christmas seems to come around faster and faster each year. Just as you get through one you hardly have time to blink, summer is done, and it’s back again! For many it’s an exciting, if not slightly stressful, time of year where all the rituals, habits and family expectations appear, and we have to navigate them like a ship in a sea of pirates. For some it’s magical, but for others it can be a  difficult time of year for many reasons.

While it is a big celebratory marker in the year,  bad things happen around this time just like any other day of the year. People die, relationships break up, accidents happen, and lives can change forever, and if you have a disease or condition it doesn’t suddenly just get better at this time of the year. So, it can be a tricky time of year if you have ghosts of the past (or indeed present) haunting you while everyone else seems to be full of Christmas spirit.As someone who had difficult childhood, being at home at Christmas wasn’t a special time in our house, all it did was remind me of how ‘abnormal’ we were. And, as a child, you really do want to be like all your other friends. So why do some of us struggle with Christmas and why can it have such an impact on us ? Christmas is very ritualistic, and there are what we call ‘triggers’ everywhere, which can immediately transport us back to that difficult or upsetting time. It can be a particular Christmas song, it can be a film that we associate with a person, it can be a  multitude of things which remind us and associate us back into that difficult time, and we access all those original feelings and thoughts. The expectation of what Christmas time should look and feel like suddenly falls very short of our own personal experiences of this time of year. The good news is there are things you can do for yourself if you are feeling a bit sad this Christmas.  Here are a few tips to help you navigate the festive season.;

 

  • Don't pay attention to the idealised Christmas portrayed on TV -  it is important to understand that no family is perfect (despite what the Marks and Spencer advert might tell you!).
  • See Christmas through a child’s eyes, they have wild imaginations and no negative filters, their wonder, excitement and joy is incredibly powerful, and you can feel their joy in place of your own
  • Stay in Christmas present (rather than Christmas past) -  if you have a particular sad anniversary or difficult memories, acknowledge it, and then move back into the present time. It really is a day where we have more of a posh roast dinner and we open some presents and there is fairly dodgy programmes on TV.
  • Plan what you are going to do on Christmas day - break it up with getting outside and retain your normal routine where you can, most importantly don’t sign up to do anything you don’t want to do, but equally connect with others where you can.
  • Remember and acknowledge what you are grateful for - we can’t feel grateful and sad at the same time.

Wherever you are and whatever you are doing to close the end of the year, may it be restful, and peaceful.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

 

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