12 tips for the 12 Days of Christmas

1. Missing someone special?

When you’ve been bereaved or broken up with your partner, facing Christmas can be hard. Accept that you feel this way and lower your expectations. There is nothing wrong with taking time to remember and to shed a tear or two.  Don’t try to feel some way you are not feeling. If you are not already seeing a counsellor or hypnotherapist it may be worth seeking support at this time.

2. Remembering happier Christmases?

Perhaps your life has changed and you feel that Christmas won’t be the happy occasion it once was. Happiness is subjective and no-one feels happy all the time.  Feeling content might be a better goal.  Nurture yourself, take care of yourself.  Tap into the Danish idea of Hygge which is all about being cosy in the long winter months. Snuggle up with your favourite movie, a warm drink and blanket by the fire and enjoy the moment.

3. Gonna be lonely this Christmas?

Big family Christmases are what we all imagine – if this isn’t what it will be like this year for you, it will help to take responsibility for this. Plan ahead.  If you want to be on your own, then use the time to do something you really enjoy.  If you don’t want to be alone then tell people or invite people to spend time with you.  People aren’t mind readers, they might not realise you will be alone. If you don’t have any family or friends available think about volunteering on Christmas Day or joining a lunch club in the local area.

4. Feel like you should be having a better time?

There is a lot of pressure for Christmas to be the best day of the year and it’s easy to assume that everyone is having a better time than you. But lots of people find it difficult and just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean your problems will go away. The first thing many people learn when they come for therapy is that there is no ‘should’, only what you yourself experience.  You are having the time you are having and can make the best of it.  If you are feeling down, try doing something for someone else as this can make you feel better.

5. Memories of difficult Christmases past?

Memories are triggered by similar events and if something significant happened at a previous Christmas then it is likely that you find this on your mind.  Just accept that this is how your memory works. Seeing a counsellor who can support you to practice mindfulness can help you to cope – mindfulness is all about accepting our thoughts and memories and letting them pass.  Remember that Christmas is traditionally celebrated as a time of new beginnings, whether we are religious or not we can all take comfort in the knowledge that the days are getting longer from now on.

6. Feeling under pressure to be cheerful when you’re not?

Most people who experience depression or anxiety by the nature of their experience put themselves under a lot of pressure to feel a certain way or to do things a certain way.  Be kinder to yourself if you can.  Prepare in advance if you expect to feel low, let people who understand know how you feel.  Remember that help is always at hand, and if friends and family are not around, the Samaritans are there for you if you want to talk even on Christmas Day.

7. Coping with Christmas when you are not feeling well?

From serious illnesses to a heavy cold, if you are feeling very unwell Christmas is exhausting and not much fun. Christmas should be a time to relax, so take it easy. Let people know if you are not up to things and then ensure you are taking care of yourself.   Many of our Christmas traditions, like the Yule Log burning and putting decorations on the trees are efforts to bring in the warmth and light at the darkest time.  Treat yourself with the same kind of care. You are important and so is your health and wellbeing.

8. Agreeing with your ex where your kids will be?

Working out who will see who and when with an ex-partner can be incredibly stressful – particularly if it’s your first Christmas after a break-up. Try to bear in mind that the idea of a big family gathering on Christmas Day is a myth for many. Most people either have a small dinner or seem to spend most of the day travelling between houses to fulfil various family obligations. Christmas is special for children and it’s important they get to enjoy the magic.  If you and your partner are not together, work out in advance and in an adult way how the children will enjoy things the most. Stretch Christmas out over a few days if it means everyone is happy. If you are seeing a counsellor to cope with relationship break-up, use your sessions to talk through these issues.

9. Trying to make Christmas perfect for your family?

From presents to food and entertainment, there’s a lot to organise at Christmas and it can seem overwhelming. Try to remember there is no such thing as perfect, especially when it comes to pleasing a group of people.  If your friends and family will criticise, then that is their problem.  A smile and a warm welcome will mean more to most people than an expensive treat. Ask and expect guests to contribute their time, food and entertainment.  This will all make for more warmth and more fun. In therapy many people learn that they can choose to be stressed and anxious or they can choose to let go.

10. Feel unable to switch off?

Many of us are so busy in the run-up to Christmas with Christmas parties, all the preparation and tying up work projects. It can be hard to suddenly stop and relax. Plan ahead and have a stopping point where you simply tell yourself enough is enough. Let Christmas be like taking a holiday abroad. Once you are on your way there are limits to what you can do so you might as well relax. Don’t forget to delegate tasks to your friends and family when you can.

11. Stressed about seeing family?

Squeezing in visits to all your relatives and spending a lot of concentrated time with family you may not get on with can be incredibly stressful. Make sure you are being realistic -  Christmas Day is a day of no public transport and you can only do so much and be in so many places. Communications like Skype have made a big difference for families living apart and you can send video messages to each other. Don’t make it all about this Christmas Day – agree to visit the in-laws in the New Year or to spend next Christmas with them.

12. Worried about the financial cost?

It’s easy to get pulled into the hype that everyone should have an expensive gift.  Very often they are unwanted and end up in charity shops or on ebay. Yes, you may want to buy someone special a special gift but otherwise remember it is the thought that counts.  A simple gift given with thought and love is so often appreciated more than an expensive present.  If you are worried that people won’t appreciate your gift is that your problem or theirs? Try not to get carried away on the food shopping either – many of the supermarkets will only be shut for one day so you don’t need to stock up for weeks on end.

These 12 tips were brought to you by Chrysalis Courses, the UK’s leading counselling and hypnotherapy training organisation.