It is virtually unavoidable: come the first of December, Christmas classics take over the radio, streets are lined with flashing lights and festive plans dominate conversations. While this is fine for those that enjoy the holiday season, not everyone does.
It’s a difficult time of year for many and the pervasiveness of it often amplifies those negative feelings. The media frames Christmas as a joyful family reunion with home-cooked food and an abundance of gifts; it’s a warm and inviting image but it’s simply not the reality for everyone.
It’s ok not to like Christmas
The worst part about not enjoying the holidays is often the feeling that you’re the outlier; if everyone else loves Christmas, why don’t you? When we are ‘supposed’ to feel a certain way – and don’t – it can be incredibly isolating.
That’s why, first and foremost, it’s important to recognise that not liking Christmas is perfectly ok. You can celebrate or choose not to in your own way. Ultimately, your mental health should always be the priority, not feeling as though you have to join in just because other people are.
Navigating the difficulties
It can be helpful to identify what triggers your negative feelings around this time of year. A lot of people encounter financial struggles, for example, or experience loneliness. Attributing your feelings to something more tangible can help you to prepare in advance, particularly when it comes to your mental outlook.
It’s the season of giving. Or in other words: the season of spending. Around Christmas, there’s an overwhelming pressure to buy gifts for those around us. This can be anxiety-inducing for many people, but particularly those with money worries. The increased financial strain can lead to feelings of inadequacy and shame.
The best way to manage these difficulties is by planning in advance. Be realistic about what is beyond your means and agree on budgets for presents. You need to be honest with yourself – and those you’re exchanging gifts with. Spending money you don’t have will only put you under greater pressure in the months that follow.
Loneliness at Christmas
There are many people who spend Christmas day alone, be that by choice or by circumstance. And at a time of year characterised by togetherness, this can be emotionally challenging. Although feelings of loneliness aren’t uncommon, spending the day solo doesn’t have to be a negative experience.
Putting a little structure in place can go a long way in helping you avoid feelings of aimlessness or isolation; you could sign up to do some volunteering or perhaps take advantage of the quiet streets and go for a winter walk. Ultimately, Christmas day is a day like any other and you can choose exactly how to spend it.
Coping with family differences
Spending a concentrated period of time with your relatives – or just about anyone for that matter – can be a huge cause of stress; generational differences, divided political opinions and cultural clashes come out of the woodwork and this can lead to uncomfortable tension or even rows. As difficult as it can be, it’s best to pick your battles. Sometimes that means avoiding a subject altogether or perhaps just tabling it for another time.
We don’t all get along with our relatives and although the odd squabble is normal, it is important to recognise and implement boundaries. Crucially, if seeing your family comes at a detrimental cost to your mental or physical health, know that you are not obliged to spend time with them.
Be kind to yourself
Even for those who love Christmas, December can be a rather draining month – emotionally and physically. Remember to check in with yourself and allow time for rest and recovery. It may seem like your to-do list is never-ending, but the world will keep on turning even if you don’t tick everything off. It’s far more important that you schedule some restorative time than accomplish every last thing you set out to do.
And don’t be ashamed to ask for help if and when you need it. An overwhelming number of people struggle at this time of year, so even if you feel alone, remember you’re not the only one going through this. We’ve included some links below which you may find useful.
As a parting message to Christmas-lovers everywhere, please be mindful that not everyone shares this enthusiasm. We don’t know everyone’s experience of the season and it’s best to be cautious and respectful when approaching the topic.
If you would like further information or need someone to talk to, please take a look at the below resources:
Age UK befriending services
Cruse - coping with grief at Christmas