I remember the first time I was aware of my ‘difference’ at Christmas. I was in my first year of university, and it was November 1st. Which, of course, means it’s Capitalist Christmas. The real Christmas season is actually in
Cah– pih-tall-is-mm criss– mahs Propernoun
Definition: when retail stores and your local council decides it’s Christmas time, the very second Halloween is done and dusted.
I’d walked through a very fairy light filled and tinsel-topped town, and arrived back at my student house, where I lived with twenty other people. If you’re someone who doesn’t like Christmas much, you’ll be all too familiar with the sound of Christmas festivities and excitement, and the pit in your stomach that witnessing it deepens.
The sound of the rush towards Christmas is always perceived as dizziness to me. Shoppers manically dragging jumpers down rails to find the perfect Christmas do outfit, carol singers flooding the streets singing, the planning of presents – it’s all presented to me in a blur of panic, making my palms sweat and my mind panic.
But the thing that unsettles me most about this time of year,is people asking me for my plans.
I’m completely overwhelmed by the approach of Christmas because I’m suddenly all-too-aware of all the people in my life and their differences. There are people that might want to see me, but I don’t. There are people where the situation is reversed. There are multiple friends I’d love to see that can’t be in the same room together. It’s like planning a wedding every year, only no one gets married and there are more people to buy gifts for.
Every year, I’ve panicked about Christmas. The appearance of decorations and town lights launch my in-advance anxiety, and leave me over preparing for worry that isn’t warranted yet. But this year, I’m ready to get Christmassy.
I’m fed up of always feeling left out of the spirit, and silenty wishing December away while everyone embraces the excitement.
So I’m putting a serious plan of action in place (I’m already taking the fun out of this. I’m moncia-ing all over Christmas)
Managing My Expectations
This year, I’m determined to get through Christmas. Not just survive it, but maybe even enjoy it. A huge part of disliking Christmas for me, has been the expectation. Come November time, I’m flooded with messages from family members and friends about where I’m going to spending the day, who I’ll be bringing, and what I want for gifts. Do I want to be part of Secret Santa? Do I want to come on a Pub Crawl? November and December are like two giant survey months for me, all just for one day of the year. It’s incredibly stressful. So, this year I’m going to be managing my expectations as much as possible, and if you struggle with Christmas too, I’d recommend doing the same.
I’ve started thinking of Christmas as if it’s someone else’s birthday. A day of significance, but without the pressure to perform or organise anything. Perhaps this is selfish but separating myself from as much of the Christmas admin and organisation as possible keeps me as calm as I need to be to face the season.Basically, if you want me to turn up to your Christmas do, you’re gonna have to not ask me to do anything. I’ll bring a bottle, but that’s about all I can muster.
Managing people’s expectations
Letting people know that you’re not prepared to do any planning falls under managing other people’s expectations. Try not to be a dick about it– just let your family and friends know, if it applies to you, that you find Christmas stressful and while you’d like to be included, planning so elaborately and so far in advance has a negative effect on your mental health.Anyone who’s worth spending your Christmas with will understand you and your needs and do their best to help you out.
Not being afraid to say no
I think a huge part of anxiety at Christmas is the expectation to please. For a lot of us, Christmas can feel a little like an entitlement parade from the people we know.
When I was younger, I used to find it difficult to please everyone because of family members that couldn’t be grouped together and honestly, family members I just didn’t want to see but felt obligated to. I’ll say it now and I’ll scream it until I’m dead: blood doesn’t equal entitlement. No one is entitled to your time or effort just because they’re your relative. If visiting someone is going to take a toll on your well-being this Christmas, consider not going. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
What I’m doing differently this year
A lot has been different about this year in general, and that will be coming in another post, but the unique year has resulted in a different kind of Christmas. One where I’m willing to join in, and I even feel excitement for it. So, after rambling about Christmas fear and sharing how I’m combatting it, I’ll tell you some of the things I’m enjoying now I have more comfort with festivities.
Keeping the purse closed
This has been my most affordable December ever, and yet I feel like I’ve got way more presents for people than any previous year. They haven’t opened them yet, of course, but I’m pretty confident that the presents I have arranged for select people are incredible, and I’m super excited to see them get opened.
Holding back on spending big this year has lead me to be more experimental with presents. My two main presents for my boyfriend are handmade (partly by moi) and most of my gifts are from second hand stores and independent stores (mostly through Etsy because ya girl hates in-person shopping).
Enjoying the little things
This Christmas I’ve made a conscious attempt to feel part of the community that Christmas builds, even if that just means going and looking at some trees! This time last year, I wouldn’t have even admitted it was Christmas time until about the 24th, so considering I’ve been to a few events already (and even pulled together this very festive shoot), I think I’m doing pretty well.
I’ve found the best thing for me to celebrate has been the little things that come with Santa season. The coffee shops switching to the Christmas menu and suddenly every coffee tasting like an elf made it,concession stores’ elaborate shop windows, and cranberry sauce magically appearing in most restaurant meals. Tiny joys like this have filled me with previously unobtainable Christmas joy this year, and I kind of love it.
Making plans with those who matter
This year, I’ve made plans with just my immediate family and that’s just about it. That’s in my comfort zone and I couldn’t be happier with these plans. I’m spending Christmas Day with my partner’s family and travelling back home the following weekend to see my mum, grandparents and uncles. These are the people I’m happy to see all the time, so it makes sense to see them at Christmas.
Making plans with those who matter
Ultimately, I’ve managed my expectations of Christmas, and the expectations of those around me, to be realistic. I’m having a realistic Christmas that’s manageable and enjoyable for me. I’ve abandoned any expectations of myself this Christmas, made the effort for those that matter,and not been afraid to turn down invitations and reject people’s offers. I’m putting myself first this Christmas, and so far, it’s paying off.
So, if you’re someone who finds the season anxiety-inducing or feels pressured by big Christmas expectations, I recommend you have a realistic Christmas too. Put yourself and your mental health first. Whatever budget is obtainable to you, work with it. Don’t get into debt trying to meet un-meetable expectations. Christmas should never be about the gifts anyway. If it all feels like it’s getting too much, treat yourself to a Christmas coffee and try to relax within the Christmas atmosphere. If you can’t beat it, drink it? I think that makes sense. And if a family member says anything shitty to you around the dinner table this year, wrap them up in bacon (or your favourite vegetarian substitute) and swallow them.