How to take the stress out of Christmas

Teresa Johnstone is an experienced psychodynamic counsellor, teacher and trainer. She runs short courses in counselling and interpersonal skills at South Bucks Counselling in High Wycombe. Here she gives some tips on how to make the most of your Christmas break if you find this time of year becomes stressful.

Xmas Blues.....

It can be difficult at Christmas to acknowledge that we may have feelings that are quite out of step with the mood of celebration – loneliness, despair, anger, guilt or stress. We might feel we need to push these feelings away, to deny them or bury them by drinking, over-eating or over-spending. But taking the time to think about what you actually feel can be helpful. Furiously pushing away unwanted feelings can be exhausting, and if you manage to do it, it isn’t always the best approach.

Difficult family relationships........

What causes conflict in your family gatherings at Christmas? Are you stuck in patterns from the past that you could decide to change or look at differently? Whatever age we are, we can often fall back into treating each other as we did in the past.

The brother and sister who didn't get on well when they were growing up can find that they are stuck with relating to each other in a negative way, perhaps picking faults or criticising. This may have become established when they both were teenagers but adult relationships can change and sometimes it only takes one of you to decide to do things differently.

Reminders of Christmas past......

For some people, their childhood experience of Christmas was not the happy time they might have hoped for. Christmas can be a reminder of loss, of painful experiences from the past, of difficult relationships, and these memories can come back to us quite unexpectedly.

Try to make space for these feelings by giving yourself some quiet time or talking to someone close to you who understands, or talking to a counsellor can help.

The need to be perfect.......

Ask yourself where the high expectations about Christmas come from in your family. Is there really pressure from other people that you should make everything perfect for them?

Perhaps those high standards come from inside you, rather than from those around you. Try to let go of the feeling that you must make everything just right and things must be done a certain way.

Accept that things may not go as planned, that you and others will make mistakes, that difficult situations can be tolerated and that you can make the best of things. Let go of the need to be perfect. If you can’t let go, again consider talking to someone close or perhaps a counsellor about it.

Everyone must be happy......

Accept this is unrealistic. Think about how you have planned to spend time over the holiday. Is there space for your family to be together without too much pressure to have “fun”?

Christmas is one of the few times during the year when everyone has a break from routine but we often fill the time with lots of activities instead of relaxing with the people closest to us.

Making room for relationships, listening and talking to each other, can give a sense of renewal and hope for the New Year.

To find out more go to www.southbuckscounselling.org/training/courses or call 01494 440199.

Teresa is running a ten week course, An Introduction to Counselling and Interpersonal Skills, starting on January 7, Tuesday evenings, 7:30pm – 9:30pm in central High Wycombe - £195.

Closing date for applications is January 6.

South Bucks Counselling is an established charity that provides professional, affordable, one to one counselling to adults.

It offers a confidential place in which to explore problems, helping clients to see their situation more clearly and make the decisions needed to achieve a more satisfying life.

www.southbuckscounselling.org

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