Is it Normal to Dread Christmas?

dreading christmas

Do you dread Christmas?

First, the good news. You can relax. You’re not a grinch if you’re not excited about Christmas. Actually, if you dread Christmas, what you’re feeling is totally normal. Especially this Christmas.

A touch of the festive blues is quite common at this time of year. It can come for all sorts of reasons.

Some years, I worry that our little, slightly broken family can never measure up to that picture-perfect family Christmas you see on TV.

Kids just get to enjoy Christmas but mostly parents get to *do* all of the Christmas. At this time of year many of us are simply overwhelmed with things to do. We’re buying gifts, we’re preparing for visits to family (even if all we can do is stand in the garden and wave through the windows). There’s extra food shopping, wondering how we’ll make our reduced income stretch far enough. Added to that the mental load of just coping with lockdown. Is it any wonder we feel frazzled, or worse?

I have friends who have deeply unhealthy family relationships, with warring in-laws or divorced parents who don’t speak. I have other friends struggling with the economy, or the impact on government policies on people they’re trying desperately to support. Maybe Christmas means more work, or less work, or worrying about if you can afford what the kids want.

It’s a lot.

If any of this sounds familiar, I wanted to share five pieces of advice that might help you if you are dreading Christmas this year.

It is (Completely) Normal to Dread Christmas

Although you might be surrounded by people who love Christmas and all it brings, be assured you are far from the only person feeling stressed or anxious. ESPECIALLY right now.

Think about it this way. One in five families has a split that means at least one family member isn’t speaking to another. Almost half of families have a divorce. One in three adults struggles with poor mental health. Trust me – all of those people probably have a moment or ten when they dread Christmas just sort of wish it was all over, already.

when your child finds christmas presents

You Can Do Christmas Your Way

I don’t think there’s any time of year as laden with expectation and guilt as Christmas, and I blame television.

If you believe what you see on TV, everyone is sitting around a huge table, with gorgeous table decor, surrounded by a loving family, eating a perfectly cooked turkey before someone plays the piano and everyone sings something sentimental.

Part of the beauty of being a grown-up is that a) you know this is hogwash, and b) you can do what you like.

Yes, sometimes you need to balance your wishes with those of partners or children, but if you’re over 18 and you want a quiet Christmas Day at home, then you are perfectly entitled to have that.

It’s Only for Now

One of my favourite musical numbers is a song called, “Only for Now” from Avenue Q. Do you know it? It’s all about how things in our life can be hard and painful but that mostly, they’re only for now.

Considering it’s a musical based on filthy-minded puppets, I find this song deeply soul-soothing on a bad day.

Maybe this year your mental health means you’re not up to a long journey or extended visit to see family.

Maybe this year you don’t have a celebration in you, because you’re grieving a loss, or the end of a relationship. Whatever. Just remember that, just because you feel that way THIS year doesn’t mean it’s forever. Take what you need now, and let next year take care of itself.

You Can Make Positive Changes

Christmas is laden with tradition, but it’s okay to switch things up. As previously mentioned, you’re an adult.

You want to go on holiday at Christmas? You want to eat out and escape cooking for 12 people? You want to ask another member of the family to host this year? You want to open presents on Christmas Eve and fly to Sweden on Christmas morning to swim in the Arctic? Go for it. Do Christmas the way you want. (check out this post for ideas to make a family Christmas in lockdown a bit more special).

Life isn’t static. The first Christmas after your kids leave home, or someone dies, or after any big life change can be tough. The same applies to Christmas when you’re broke, or can’t meet up with family, or friends. Don’t feel you have to keep doing it the way you always did it, if that won’t bring you comfort. Part of the joy of family life is that it evolves and changes, and new traditions can become just as beloved as the old way of doing things. Just please don’t feel you CAN’T make changes, and wind up dreading doing something you’ll find painful.

Christmas at GRaceland movie

Self Care isn’t just treats and pyjamas

Mostly, if you’re dreading Christmas this year, please be kind to yourself.

So many of us struggle with difficult family dynamics, bereavement, poor mental health and similar issues at this time of year. My advice is to treat yourself as you’d treat anyone struggling with those issues. With patience, and kindness, and understanding.

There’s a lot of nonsense talked about self-care as though it’s just a matter of hot chocolate and cosy pyjamas.

Actually self-care for me tends to be about looking after myself physically, by taking exercise and getting fresh air. It’s reminding myself to talk to trusted friends about how I’m feeling. It’s giving myself permission to set boundaries around what I will and won’t take on. It’s also a bunch of Hallmark movies, but that’s just festive icing on the cake.

If you LOVE Christmas and you’re feeling nothing but festive right now, that’s fantastic. Some years, I feel that way too.

Other years, the Christmas spirit sort of sneaks up on me, as we get closer to the holidays. But for those of you who might be feeling stressed or lonely or anxious about Christmas please don’t feel you’re alone. And you’re definitely normal.

Do you have any tips for avoiding festive overwhelm or stress?  Do you ever dread Christmas? 



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