With the holidays well and truly here, many people (like myself) can find it difficult to stay positive. Yes, Christmas can be fun. It’s filled with presents and family and delicious food and bulging bellies and arguments from yesteryear and inappropriate jokes made by your uncle about ginger-haired people that make you grimace. Good times. Fun times.
But it can also be a time of stress, worry, exclusion, and isolation. Christmas can be a reminder of how imperfect your family was growing up, or of how disappointing life has turned out, relative to our expectations. The incongruence is simultaneously felt between what was, what is, and what could or should have been. Often, we have fall outs, or perhaps we make a conscious choice to steer clear of family to avoid bringing up old hurts, or simply to protect ourselves. And that’s OK. It’s our right to protect ourselves from the toxicity of others.
But what to do over the holiday period when hanging out with your family is simply not an option? Ah, well! That’s why I made this list. Let’s start with something obvious.
- Volunteer. Said everyone who ever got asked what to do over the Christmas period. Why’s it obvious, though? Because it’s easy to get bummed out and bitch about what you don’t have during the festive season, and to forget what you do have. Volunteering is a great way to remind yourself that you might actually have it pretty sweet. Got a roof over your head? Tick. Got enough income to pay for food and bills and rent? Tick, tick, tick. You’re doin’ better than you thought. Volunteering’s a great way to be reminded of this.
- Get some friends together and do your own thang. Oh, you thought you were the only one with a dysfunctional family? Guess again. It’s likely you have at least one other friend trying their darndest to avoid their family this festive season. If you’re blessed enough to have one of these people in your life, now’s the time to bond. Where is it written that you have to do the family thing and the turkey and the presents and the panic attacks while singing christmas carols with distant relos? We forget that, as adults, we can make our own rules, and create new traditions. And isn’t that just fucking fantastic? Hallelujah, indeed.But what to do with your friend on xmas day? Well, I’m a movie geek, so I always opt for the movie marathon. Get your friends together and pick a theme. Do you have a penchant for laugh-out-louds? Pick your favourite comedies and binge on ’em! Or do you got a thing for a bit of gangster violence? Get some Scorsese and Tarantino in to you. This year on boxing Day I’ll be watching back to back Monty Python movies with some mates at the local cinema. I really am a lucky bastard!
- Travel. Go on, get out of town. Scam. Be gone! You deserve it. Sometimes our holiday hurts aren’t just familial, they’re geographical too. Given this, it makes perfect sense to skip town until the festive season has simmered down. The pros to this are of course that you get to meet new people, try new foods, and see new sights – even if it’s just in the next city or suburb over. Who knows? Maybe the lettuce tastes a little different in the Frankston Subway than it does in your neck of the woods. Changing it up, meeting new people and placing ourselves in novel situations are all good things for our routine-obsessed brains. What’s that saying? Variety is the spice of life? Mix it up.
- Go on a meditation retreat. From time to time, I harp on about meditation on my blog. Why? Because it’s good for you. Many of the biggest and most successful people in the world were meditators. Ghandi, Jesus, Ozzy Osborne (probably). When you have a mental illness it can be tough to sit with intense feelings during the holiday period though, so you may want to find a retreat to do with a friend rather than by yourself. And if the thought of sitting by yourself meditating over the holiday season bores the shit out of you, what activities do you currently do mindlessly that you can instead do mindfully? It’s good to start simple.
- Treat yourself. Because you’re worth it. At least L’Oreal got that right. Or maybe it was it Maybelline? Who cares. The point is that if you’re not going to get that festive fix from your family this holiday season, it’s perfectly fine to give it to yourself. Obviously, most of us have to work within a budget, so it pays to be mindful of your fiscal situation. But it doesn’t have to be a colossal spending spree. If you enjoy going to the movies, why not treat yourself to a movie or two? And some popcorn and a soda big enough to drown in? Or if you’re a foodie, why not take yourself to a fancy restaurant and just enjoy it? Have you ever taken yourself out to dinner? They say you can’t have a relationship with someone else until you’ve established a relationship with yourself. So – dinner date? Table for one, thanks.
- Be gentle with yourself. Really. Because it’s very likely that the way we treat ourselves over the Christmas period –abusively, full of self-reproach, self-loathing and self-destruction – are behavioural echoes of how we were once treated as children by the people who were supposed to show us unconditional positive regard. Recovery doesn’t happen by repeating the behaviours we learned from our troubled pasts; it occurs by breaking the cycle, and by replacing such behaviours with positive, life-affirming ones. In this light, perhaps it’s easier to go easy on ourselves this holiday season, and let ourselves off the hook and show some (or a lot of) self-love.
Take care and go easy on yourself these holidays!