Embrace the freedom to make Christmas whatever you want it to be, says Katie Piper

The festive season is upon us once more, with many busy making preparations to spend time with family and friends. Nevertheless, this time of year can be challenging and stressful. Here, Katie Piper shares some ideas on how to enjoy Christmas your way

by Psychologies

Katie Piper

For those with a Christian faith like mine, you’ll recognise Christmas as a festival celebrating the birth of Christ. For others, it’s more of a cultural celebration: a time for joy, family and togetherness. And, for others, Christmas means nothing at all. For me, it’s a religious and cultural celebration melded into one!

Every year, a huge amount of time, energy, attention and money is directed towards this time of year, causing it to occupy an ever-extending chunk of the calendar. My sympathy goes out to those who find Christmas a seriously challenging time, not due to the religious sentiment of the period, but because of the difficult emotions it can stir for those who aren’t able to reflect on the festivities with rose-tinted nostalgia.

The festive season is triggering for so many of us for a vast array of reasons: past experiences, traumas and loss, having to spend time with family members who are overly critical or disrespectful, food indulgence, alcohol consumption, poor weather, (not to mention the expense), to name but a few! So often these factors are glossed over or ignored, while everyone is encouraged to be ‘happy’.

So, my message to you this month is this: fear not. Difficult feelings and internal hurt sparked by Christmas is much more common than you think – and there is plenty that you can do to help combat these tough emotions:

  1. Welcome the season of giving. If you don’t want to partake in a ‘traditional’ Christmas due to personal reasons or mental health, you could give your time and volunteer instead. There is a big need for help in countless organisations at this time of year, so choose one that resonates most with you. Homeless shelters, food banks and churches are just a few that need volunteers at Christmastime.
  2. Keep perspective. While it can feel like Christmas goes on forever, it’ll soon be over and normal life will resume – without the carpet being covered in tinsel and carols being blasted out day and night.
  3. Turn off the box. From adverts and festive programming, there’s no escaping Christmas in TV land – so opt for on-demand streaming services without the ads, or go old-school and stick on a DVD.
  4. Find others who share your sentiment about Christmas. You could organise your own ‘non-Christmas Christmas Day’, sharing stories and memories, and enjoying the time together in a different way. Who knows, some of your nearest and dearest may jump on board with this, having faced similar struggles as you.

If you find Christmas a tricky time, I hope my column this month helps. And if you are one for festive cheer – enjoy it! Last year, so many of us went without seeing family and friends, so try and appreciate the togetherness that bit more this year.