Contented Life Coaching’s Jason Bishop shares helpful tips to overcome stress and enjoy the festive season

‘Tis the season to be jolly. 

Really?  Come this time of year, a lot of people feel anything but joyful.

Whether it’s anxiety about finding the right outfit for the Christmas Party, feeling rotten because you have a cold and the weather isn’t helping, or getting aches and pains as winter plays havoc with joints and the weather is grim, for some, Christmas is a challenging time, especially if you are lonely and don’t conform to the stereotypes of the season.

Christmas paints a picture of perfection, large family gatherings, the picture perfect table with stain-free happy children, the perfectly cooked turkey and endless smiles.  These stereotypes are unhelpful and can provoke anxiety in those who may spend Christmas alone, or in an unhappy relationship, who are struggling to conceive or who have lost loved ones and are struggling to cope with bereavement.  Some will have to go to work and feel guilty leaving families at home. Some families will be struggling with finances.

The ‘shame’ that you don’t meet the Christmas stereotype only adds to the pressure – so here’s a trade secret I’d like to share with you all:

There is no perfect Christmas! (Shhhh – don’t tell anyone… Tell EVERYONE!)

The real picture of Christmas is diversity, not unity.  It’s true, not everyone is clad in matching jumpers, having a wonderful time.  The kids (and sometimes the grown-ups) will argue, some will drink too much, most will eat too much, there will be rows over the remote, rows over whose turn it is on the x-box, and some armchair gamers (never mind people in Africa) won’t even notice it’s Christmas!  Kids will play with boxes instead of the new toys.
Someone will be bitten by their dog and scratched by their cat.  Some families will have nothing and will have to go to food banks to feed their children and provide presents.  Others will be homeless and grateful for a shared meal at a soup kitchen and an hour out of the bitter cold.  Some people will be sick, some will be well, some will break up, some will be lonely and spending the day alone – the rarest situation is a family where everyone has a perfect day – and those that do, will probably still find a way to feel inadequate.  That’s reality.
Almost all Christmas Days will be judged imperfect by the chocolate box standard – so why judge yourself?  Here’s some tips to try to reduce some of that ‘Christmas Anxiety’ and restore calm and positivity to your world:

1. Be honest and present

This is key to staying emotionally balanced and aware of your feelings, no matter what your situation.  That doesn’t mean to hide your emotions.

Pretending you are ok when you aren’t is never a good strategy – if something sucks, it’s ok to say so, but talk about it, don’t dwell on it.  Think about talking to a life coach or counsellor – and do it now, rather than putting it off.  Being honest with yourself is not the same thing as judging yourself – change is a choice, not a requirement. 

Be gentle on yourself and if you are alone and think you will struggle with suicidal thoughts over Christmas, keep the Samaritans number handy – so you have a coping strategy in place if you need it.  View their website https://www.samaritans.org/wales/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/talk-us-phone/  or call them on 116123. 
Remember: You are as worthy of their time and support as anyone else. 

2. Feeling left out at the Party?  Feeling ‘in’ is all a facade

The office Christmas party brings it’s own stresses. Women cramp their feet into uncomfortable high heels at the Christmas party and stress about their outfits, saying horrid things to themselves like ‘I look fat’, ‘I’m ugly’ ‘so and so looks prettier than me’.
Men get insecurities about their appearance too, thinking they aren’t good enough to talk to the pretty girl who just walked past (who probably spent hours in the Mirror stressing about not looking good enough), or worrying in case the person of your dreams has a partner already – men often look up to other men who seem to ‘have it all’ – trust me, most of them are just better at projecting success.  Behind the scenes, their marriage may be crumbling, their parents may be sick, bottom line, everyone has issues.

As for looks – everyone feels some degree of anxiety over their appearance, we ALL like to be complimented, so don’t make it all about you! 

Distract yourself from your own insecurities by finding things you like about others, and tell them – and make time to smile at people.
Don’t compliment with an agenda, like scoring a date, just focus on being a positive influence for change, recognising others have the same worries as you.  Let your own insecurities speak to theirs and make a human connection. You naturally find your own popularity increases and will feel less insecure as a result.  As for looks – have fun, enjoy yourself and feel great and you’ll automatically be one of the most attractive people in the room, no matter what you wear!

3. Set boundaries

Boundaries are one of the biggest causes of issues for adults – start by losing the word ‘should’ and replace it with ‘I could’.  Lose the temptation to do things because you ‘should’ and eliminate guilt as a motivator.
As adults trying to make Christmas perfect for everyone else, we often neglect our own needs and resent our families for it.  If you really don’t want to host a dinner for 20, then say so.  You can meet up after food and still enjoy family time, and you will enjoy it more because you aren’t pleasing everyone else.  Likewise, if you want to play host but can’t afford to feed everyone, then ask them for contributions!  People are often willing to chip in and bring something, and were just waiting to be asked – and they may be happy to share the prep too. It’s also ok to say ‘NO’ to requests purely because you want to – you don’t need to justify it (but if you feel the need you can tell them I said it’s ok!).

4.  Make plans not resolutions

As we end the year, it’s natural to think about making changes, but don’t berate yourself for the ones you haven’t made already – just make some solid plans for the things you want to change next year.  Want to join a gym? Don’t wait til January to do something about it or it will just join the list of maybes.  Book that Yoga class, sign up to see a dietician, join the running club, book that medical, dental or physio appointment you’ve been putting off, engage a life coach like me – do something that starts change rather than feeling guilty.  Making resolutions will make you feel a failure if you don’t follow them through, so focus on planning instead and you’ll reach your goals.

5. Don’t sweat the small stuff

What’s the small stuff?  It’s all small stuff.  If something is stressing you out, project forward to the middle of June.  When you look back, was it really so important?  If you ‘failed’, where will you be in June?  If the answer is not in jail, in hospital, or lying in a ditch, the chance is it isn’t important anyway, and even if it is, by not being stressed, you will be able to deal with it and make decisions more easily.  Take some deep breaths, re-centre, and remember, in the grand scheme of things, Christmas is just one more day.

However you spend your Christmas, I wish you contentment, happiness and fulfilment.

About the author

South Wales Life Coach Jason works with individuals and men’s therapy groups in Cardiff, Bridgend, Porthcawl, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea, helping them transform their lives, letting go of anxiety, stress, addictions and compulsive behaviour using Life Coaching, EFT, Mind-Body Therapy, Career Coaching and support.  For more information, visit Jason’s website: https://contentedlifecoaching.com/

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