Make Christmas work for you

Love it or loathe it, it’s that time of year again, where Carols are piped relentlessly through shop sound systems, shopping centre car parks are jammed, our to-do list seems endless and queues to see Christmas Lights go to eternity.

By the time you come to sit down to Christmas lunch, you run the risk of being exhausted – physically, mentally, emotionally and/or financially. If you stop to look at what is causing you to be feeling tired and dragging yourself til the office shuts down over Christmas, you may find that you have more choice in the occasion than you think.

Viewing Christmas as an event you can participate in as much or little as you please, can help in managing the pace and often unrealistic expectations associated with this time of year.

If you think that Christmas Day should be a ‘Hollywood Fairytale’ – everyone in a happy mood, with copious quantities of food being served magazine style – this is a great way to ensure you are left feeling let down.

Just because Christmas is here, people don’t change . . .

Expecting those around you to be different than usual can add to disappointment; it is easier to be aware of what we are stepping into and finding ways to enjoy ourselves amidst that.

The quantity of social invitations during November and December may increase, however, it’s important to say yes to the events we consider to be the most important to participate in. You can catch up with people after Christmas or perhaps join a trend of celebrating Christmas with certain circles of friends in July, taking advantage of cooler weather to enjoy a big nosh up.

Why can’t we all be together?

Everybody would love to be together on December 25, but in reality this is often not possible. Try to minimise the amount of driving you do on Christmas Day so that the hours are spent enjoying people’s company, rather than travelling to where you ‘should’ be.

Be assertive in saying ‘no’ when required. Happy families are usually ones where everyone accepts that it is just another day in the calendar and a good time to catch up where possible.

I wish you were here . . .

Christmas may be one of loss or loneliness, perhaps for the first time, and nothing will change that. Organising something to look forward to after Christmas Day, whether it is a few quiet days at home, catching up with close friends or going to see a movie can assist in getting through what may be difficult circumstances. People you find most supportive may be the best to surround yourself with at this time of year.

Don’t stretch the budget

The idea of giving at Christmas doesn’t require credit cards to be maxed out. Set a budget, plan a shopping list, and don’t go over it.

You can ask guests to contribute a dish or to bring their own drinks to cut down the costs of entertaining a large number of people. Suggest a spend limit on presents given to friends and family, or give to children, not adults. It may not be what you’ve done previously, but it can save financial distress of getting out of debt once the day has passed.

As Christmas marks another year drawing to a close, people tend to reflect on what has been gained and lost over the year and whether they are where they ‘should’ be or thought they ‘would’ be by now in their lives. It is not helpful to make comparisons to other family members or peers. Focus on things in your life to be grateful for. This will help you take a positive approach to the day, as well as allowing you to reflect on your achievements and what you have.

You can make Christmas a time of year where the spirit of giving - not just of gifts, but of kind words and deeds - is enjoyed and is a pleasure. It’s worth taking this time of year by the scruff of the neck and putting in place measures to make it a good time of year, every year.

Janet Hopkins