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Christmas can be an exciting time to have fun, to reflect on our achievements and success, and to appreciate and enjoy what we have got. Why is it then the time during which many people struggle psychologically the most? In this post we will outline the main reasons why Christmas can be hard, which were frequently reported by our clients, and will give a few suggestions for self-care.

We summarised all of the reasons given to us about why Christmas is hard into these three main points:

Christmas often does not seem to be what is should be about.

Christmas is about emotionally safe and deep experience of joy linked to feeling of belonging, acceptance, sharing and love for every human being. However what we have in reality often seems to be the opposite of that, as it involves spending a lot of money: it is noisy, involves a lot of alcohol and tasty, but not so healthy foods, and most importantly frequently seems to be over the top externally, while lacking the actual meaning. It seems to be about showing yourself and having fun. Which is great, but it is not about the actual meaning of Christmas – simple love.

Christmas is a time when we feel sharply the discrepancy between where we want to be and where we actually are. 

This is the hardest one for many people. During the times when everyone around celebrates, we are also reminded of all of our important losses and sacrifices, our loneliness, the price we paid for our uniqueness. Most of us are forced to some extent to reflect on our path, meaning of our life and the sources of meaning in our life, and to look at the reality of our existence for what it is, while being reminded of our past and present dreams and aspirations.

The 3rd challenge is actually a combination of the first two.

It is hard to be introspective and self-soothing during the time when celebrations are so ubiquitous.

During the Christmas time everybody seems to be very stimulated and busy. Many of us are frequently having drinks and dinners, are acting in a “celebration way”, even when we do not feel like doing it, and being bombarded with adds suggesting what the perfect Christmas time should look like. We hear a lot of celebration noise around, including loud music that we might not like and loud drunken voices, and seeing a lot of pictures of our friends being very happy on social media. Here is in addition to having our emotional sadness we might feel even more pressure ‘to be happy’ and perhaps irritation because we don’t have enough space and freedom to be the way we want to be and to celebrate the way that would make us the happiest. This emotional pressure can then result in elevated levels of anxiety, depression and pain, and alcohol and lack of sleep and comfort, as well as constant exposure to the Christmas triggers can further exacerbate our existing problems.

Here is a few little tips, following which might help you to live through this time a little easier and enjoy it more.

Avoid being too busy – while being very busy can feel good for a little while and it can be a way to avoid how we really feel and what is really important to us – it is more of a band-aid than a solution to our struggles, and it can be exhausting. So give yourself a break – unless you already have some exciting plans, try not to be too busy and use this time to rest, so you can feel better after this period is over. It is your privilege to spend your holiday at your normal pace the way that it is the most helpful to you. You might do less, but you will gain more.

End of the year is a good time to look back and to evaluate results- both good and bad. If you are unhappy about something, let yourself be unhappy, think about the meaning of your feelings and if there are any ways that you would like to try to compensate yourself what is missing. Please note that when I talk about compensation we don’t mean just pleasure, as the compensation can only work when it is made from the same material as that what it missing. On the other hand make space for the things that make you happy and let yourself appreciate and enjoy them. 

Always remember that some losses, no matter how painful they are, are inevitable, but life is a gift, which is about having space for everything, including joy and happiness. Always remember that you are the most important person in your life. Start looking at yourself as you own best friend. Give yourself a freedom to be yourself in your own company. Dare to start taking a small steps being yourself with other people too.

Christmas is a good time to share – so share. Give an apple to a homeless person. Donate a toy to an orphanage. Bring some treats to a pet’s shelter. Make a small helpful gesture to make someone smile or be happy, but do it for yourself, for your own goodness. You are not alone – there is a lot of people who struggle through Christmas time.

Have your own Christmas by your rules, the way that it works for you. Be kind to yourself and others and don’t forget to take a good practical care of yourself.

Have a good time!


This page provides Melbourne Health Psychology Centre policy on how we currently operate due to coronavirus pandemic

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