If the songs are to be believed, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. And I can see why, what with all the gifts, food, the stream of social events, family gatherings and pretty decor. Make no mistake, I flipping love Christmas, I really do.
But I also find the whole festive period just a little bit overwhelming when the usual shit ton of extra responsibility – emotional, mental, practical and financial – lands at my feet with a heavy thud.
My internal monologue throughout November and December tends to go something like this (and the irony that this post has been sat unedited in my drafts for five weeks as I’ve had no time to even think about blogging is not lost on me):
Better buy advent calendars soon before the good ones sell out. Hmm, I wonder what day we should put the tree up? It can’t be next weekend as we’re visiting Uncle Tom in Nottingham. Then we’re in out in Manchester with friends and it’s my works do the week after. Shit, I forget we’re going to Wales that day too. Guess we’ll have to rejig something.
Of course the Christmas lights are broken! Is Asda still open? I should make a start on buying gifts. Is Auntie Gina vegan now? Where can I find eco-friendly gift wrap whilst I’m at it? Did Emily say she didn’t want to do gifts this time? Should probably think about when to do the food shopping for Christmas dinner soon.
When will I find time to wrap everything? I should do it after work on Thursday but I’m at an event and won’t be back til late. Where did I put the girls Christmas stockings? Do they even need stockings any more? It’d save me a few quid if not! Must remember to buy them PJs for Christmas Eve too.
Is that a Christmas card on the doormat? Better send some out after all. Where is the address book again? How much for stamps?? Oh look, the neighbours bought us a gift. And I haven’t got them a thing. How did I forget that we’d promised to go ‘out out’ for New Year’s Eve? A ‘low balance’ alert from the bank already? Brilliant.
I just really want to get in bed and eat four chocolate oranges and watch ‘Let It Snow’ on Netflix but the laundry hasn’t been done for two weeks now, I should really sort that out. If that cat climbs the tree one more time, I’m just going to take it down early. I’m really, really tired. I forgot to buy a cheeseboard for tonight and the shops are shut. Fuck me, is it January yet?
By the time Christmas Eve rolls around, I just want to run off into the mountains with my fictitious dog, Max, and scream at all of the holly jolly people who are having a cracking time, unaffected by all of the festive admin that I’m personally drowning in alongside the usual pressures of day to day life.
So how can we deal with all of this stuff without giving in to the urge to have a quiet cry to ourselves and hibernate until it’s all over and done with?
Me and Adam are lucky enough to be surrounded by some pretty splendid people who live all across the UK. The problem is that we’re also knackered 90 per cent of the time from working full-time jobs and travelling around so much, meaning that if we don’t plan ahead, we burn out fast.
It’s important to make yourself a priority and set boundaries. Don’t be scared to say no if it’s all getting a bit much and you don’t even have to say why. Simply listen to your body and mind, making sure that you book in some time to recoup and refresh inbetween the festivities.
Also, I barely drink these days and the pressure from other people to get blind drunk can be shocking. I’ve been asked if I’m pregnant, on medication, the designated driver, in recovery or get mocked for being ‘boring’ when I’ve refused a boozy beverage in the past. If someone says no to drinking alcohol, don’t be a dick, stop being intrusive and offer to buy them a decent substitute instead.
The pressure to spend, spend, spend is insane at this time of year. To buy the biggest turkey, to host the perfect party with decadent food, to buy the most luxe, exciting gifts to leave in a big pile under the most majestically decorated tree on Christmas morning. To buy yourself a whole new wardrobe and hire a professional MUA for every single party and drink champagne for breakfast and then sell both of your (now pickled) kidneys to fund the entire month.
I’ve learnt in recent years that actually, no-one really cares if the gift wrap matches the tags. Or if their presents didn’t cost me a week’s wages. In fact, I know that the thing my own kids remember most about Christmases past isn’t how much stuff I bought them but the time spent reading ‘The Night Before Christmas’ together on Christmas Eve or picking out the perfect mince pie to leave by the fireplace.
On a practical note, I now set myself a strict budget based on what I can realistically afford and have created a Google Sheet to keep track of every single penny I spend at Christmastime, including food, gifts, travel costs, nights out, etc. Boring perhaps but this one has really been an eye-opener (panic buying £300 worth of food and drink on the 23rd and sticking it on my credit card is not something I ever want to repeat) and helps me remember that putting myself into debt just for one day is not even remotely worth the stress it causes longer-term.
Being bombarded by images of perfect family units on the TV and via social media can make you feel like maybe you’re the only one in the world who doesn’t have that network but I can promise that you’re not alone. Not everyone has a loving family to go home to or spend Christmas Day with. Some people have unhealthy, toxic and triggering relationships with family members and avoid going home for a whole host of other reasons.
Families can be made up of anyone who makes you happy, whether you’re related or not. It could be that you prefer to spend the day with friends, pets, working or alone with nothing but the telly and a box of biscuits. If it makes you happy then does it really matter what other people think?
The expectation to make things perfect can be extreme, whether that comes for yourself or others. It’s so important to keep a healthy perspective and honestly, by the time March rolls around, most people won’t even remember if they had crackers on the table or even what gifts they received.
However you choose to spend your Christmas, make sure that it’s right for you and again, remember that not everything you see on social media is real. If you do need help, ask for it.
If you live with other people, make them accountable for taking on their own fair share of the load, splitting up the responsibility of the not so fun tasks so that you don’t end up utterly bogged down (harbouring months of resentment and exploding into a rage by Boxing Day isn’t ideal, trust me).
If you need to talk, the Samaritans are available 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 116 123 for free or visit https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/.