Many of us can experience the sense that Christmas must be ‘perfect'. And as a result, we often put way too much pressure on ourselves to be a certain way or feel things we are not really feeling.
With Christmas adverts and all the movies selling us a version of Christmas that is full of people being relentlessly upbeat, the knockbacks of life might seem harder to deal with. And this can make us feel we are failing in some way if our experience doesn’t match the fantasy.
But there are ways to beat the festive blues if you are lonely this Christmas. Here are my top tips to manage expectations, find pleasure in the season, and maybe even feel by the end like you’re coming out on top.
5 tips to beat the festive blues
Look after yourself
Good self-care is vital at any time of year, but particularly at a demanding season like Christmas. Taking your sleep routine seriously is a great way to stabilise your mood and feel grounded. Avoid any tech like phones or TV for the hour before bed. Instead, wind down by taking a long bath, or reading a book before turning out the lights. This way, if you do socialise, you will have more energy in the tank to get through the event.
What you eat can boost your mood too. Choose fabulously colourful foods like citrus fruits or pumpkins and squashes and peppers, that not only brighten the plate but give you lots of vitamins to boost your immune system. And consider making your own mince pies this year, to fill your kitchen with the gorgeous smell of warm spices.
Break your routine
The first Christmas without a loved one, whether through divorce or bereavement, can be especially hard. Every time you sign a Christmas card you might be poignantly reminded of your loss. And the increased number of social events taking place might add to those feelings of loneliness.
This is a time to be compassionate with yourself. Tell yourself that ‘for this year’, you’re doing things slightly differently, such as taking a holiday instead of attending family events. Breaking your old routine will give different energy, and will remind you that your grief won’t always feel this sharp.
If you’re spending Christmas on your own, plan something special for each day. It will be like having a virtual advent calendar. And buy a present for yourself - a proper treat that means something to you. Take time to wrap it beautifully and place it under the tree. This way you are honouring yourself and everything you are currently going through. Whether it is some luxury chocolate or something linked to a hobby, this gift is a reminder that you’re valuable.
Have a giggle
Laughter is a fabulous way to meet the festive blues head-on. It can be such a stiff time, with all the traditions and expectations. So indulge in some time to watch comedy shows or movies, or seek out some stand-up comedy in your area (I had a client once who got over a break-up by taking a course in doing stand-up comedy, but you don’t have to go that far!). Better still, organise to do this with a friend or two, as being in the company of others can really boost our mood.
Focus on the now
Focus as much as possible on the now. Catch yourself if you start dwelling on past Christmases or worrying about how to pay for presents, and gently bring yourself back to the now.
Focus on the feel of your back on your chair, or take a series of breaths where you inhale for a count of 5, hold for a count of 5, and then exhale for the count of 5. Really smell that satsuma as you peel it, or listen to the crunch of leaves under your feet when you go for a walk. And at the end of every day, make a mental or actual list of the things in your life that you are grateful for or can appreciate – even if it is just that your bus came on time. It’s a great way to close the day on a positive note.
Lucy Beresford is a psychotherapist, relationship expert and broadcaster.