It’s okay to feel crap at Christmas
Christmas may be the most wonderful time of the year, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t its own specific festive challenges to contend with.
Is it normal to feel sad at Christmas?
Let’s be honest, Christmas can be tough. There's so much expectation on one day to be perfectly perfect. To look amazing, have the best decorations, the best food. Having to buy lots of presents and if you don’t throw yourself wholeheartedly into the indulgence of it all, you’re labelled a bah humbug-ing Scrooge.
There's so much pressure from society to be happy and joyful, and often a lot of pressure comes from yourself too. I am definitely guilty of this. I have fallen for every TV advert, magazine article and Christmas film telling me Christmas is the most special time of year and you have to do everything to make sure it's completely flawless. Anything less than perfection is unacceptable.
Of course, that's complete rubbish. Christmas is just a day. One day out of the year. And as much as it is nice to celebrate it all just feels too much. The more I try to get into the Christmas spirit, the sadder I feel. Christmas just doesn't have the same magic as it used to. And I know that’s on growing up: I’m 27 I can’t still expect to leave out a mince pie and a carrot on Christmas Eve and have it disappear with a pile of presents there instead. Shout out to my mum for making Christmas so magical when I was a kid, but this year (and for the past few years) I just haven’t felt super Christmassy.
Why is Christmas so challenging?
If we’re all honest, there’s a lot to make you feel anxious at Christmas. A dwindling bank account from all these presents, the overindulgence that feeds into my body issues, having to see family you don’t really like and just generally trying to be happy when you feel meh. It’s a lot to take in, especially when it's cold and dark and everyone is crazy busy at work too.
So this is a little sign to say it's okay if you’re not always super jolly at Christmas. It's okay to feel anxious, sad or down this December. And it's not a new thing either, the holiday blues have been around for a loooong time. So if you’re sat there thinking “Everyone is having a great time except me” - that's just simply not true. You’re allowed to feel disappointed you’re allowed to feel sad and you don’t have to be happy all the time.
How can I feel happier at Christmas?
If you’re feeling a hit of the festive anxiety, there are a few things you can do to help deal with any negative feelings during December:
Adjust your expectations
This is easier said than done, but I’ve definitely had to have a few stern conversations with myself. Christmas just isn’t going to be the same now as it was when I was 7 years old It just isn’t. And that's okay, not everything is going to be happy and perfect and there's not a lot I can do about it. Being realistic about what can happen and accepting that things aren’t always going to live up to what's in my head or go to plan can really help avoid feelings of disappointment.
Get some self-care
Self-care means different things to different people, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed by Christmas make sure you take time to do things you enjoy. They can be festive if you want them to be - like cuddling up with a Christmas movie or going to look at Christmas lights - or have nothing to do with Christmas - just make sure you look after yourself.
Focus on what actually matters
What is important about Christmas to you? Is it spending time with your family? Enjoying a day off work? Or cracking into those Xmas chocs? Whatever it is that you actually enjoy about Christmas, make sure you focus on that and remember that Christmas looks different for everyone. If you don’t like any part of it, then just treat it like any other day!
Reach out to family and friends
I bet everyone else is feeling the same too, and talking about it can be helpful, especially if you’re feeling lonely. Don’t feel bad about telling your loved ones you don’t feel festive, maybe they can help you feel better.
Ride it out!
Christmas will be over before you know it. In a few short days, the festive season will be finished and it’ll be back to real life quicker than you can say January. Of course, then there's the New Year’s blues to contend with, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.
That's Christmas to me
Just remember, a perfect Christmas doesn’t exist! You’re allowed to have emotions that aren’t “jolly” - trying to push them down or dismiss them just makes it worse.
Adjust expectations, focus on what actually matters to you and try to have as much fun as possible. No matter what happens, there's always next year.