Being the weekend before Christmas, I’ve noticed a bit of a recurring thread for some of The Girl Gang members – and that is that while for many of us Christmas is a time of love and celebration, this time of year can be really, really difficult for many people.
And this isn’t necessarily just because dealing with packed shopping malls can be anxiety inducing for even the most socially robust and outgoing of us, or the hyper-consumerism of the holidays. Christmas can be a truly lonely or isolating time of year for some, while for others the reality of forced interactions with family members can be really hard to deal with.
This year I’m actually looking forward to Christmas. It will be the first “Big Christmas” I’ll share with Jordan’s family, and we’re deliberately not going OTT with gifts so it’s a pretty chilled affair. Things within my own family Christmases are fairly relaxed these days too, although I have to admit that I haven’t always felt this way.
Having been single for literally ALL of Christmases except for the last one, I’ve sat through many an event as the token single person, and felt like the Crazy Spinster Cat Lady at more family barbeques than I care to count. Oh, and that doesn’t even factor in the awkward years of the “non-relationship” where I went to all his family things, but he wanted nothing to do with my family.
Only a few years ago, I was spending Christmas at home on my own with The Kittehs, and there was one year when I joined a friend’s family celebrations. The thought of extended family Get-Togethers was literally panic inducing, and I would absolutely avoid them as much as possible. So with that in mind, I thought I’d put together The Rad Bitch’s How to Guide to the Festive Season (for When You’re Not Feeling Particularly Festive).
I know we’re kind of at the pointy end of the event season, but sit down with your diary. Ask yourself which are the events that you absolutely have to attend? If you’re not feeling enthused – or worse, you’re dreading attending the work Christmas party and the sky is not going to fall in if you’re not there, then you officially have my permission to bail on it. Try not to be a dick about things, and at least let the host know that you won’t be attending, maybe send them a card afterwards.
Once you’ve cancelled out the events that you don’t have to attend, pop everything into your diary so that you’ve got a clear idea of what’s coming up.
Find out if you’ll need to bring anything.
If you’ve been designated dessert cook, and the idea of cranking up the oven feels like some kind of cruel torture, you can absolutely pick something up from the shops. It’s in no way cheating or scrimping when it’s a choice between store bought or going without. Besides, once you’ve served everything up, nobody will even know – let alone care. Who begrudges the bringer of cake?
Think About Logistics.
I’ve been known to turn down offers of lifts to family or social events from people who were literally driving by my front door and could easily pick me up and drop me home afterwards. This isn’t because I don’t like the idea of being able to drink so much that I’ll be able to forget the event, or that I don’t appreciate not having to drive.
While I do in fact love driving, and I tend not to drink too much these days – especially not around family, I actually prefer to drive for the same reason that I like driving to all parties these days: Being able to leave exactly when I’ve decided that I’ve had enough. Sure cabs and Uber are things I could use, but I honestly prefer being able to make a clean get away without the hassle of waiting around awkwardly, and without the fare!
If this isn’t an option for you, make sure that if you’re getting a ride with someone else that you agree upon a timeframe, and that they understand that when you let them know that you’re ready to leave they’re not going to pour themselves another drink and you’ll still be stuck at the event in two hours’ time.
Take Time Out.
If you’re at an event and you’re finding the conversation stressful, the people overwhelmingly negative, or you’re just feeling anxious or sad about the people who are missing, it’s okay. Don’t feel obliged to sit at the table the whole time. You also deserve to be treated with respect and to make your boundaries known.
It’s important to protect your own mental and emotional health. Unfortunately, not everyone you’ll meet will share your views – and we’ve all had horrible experiences at one time or another with an embarrassing or socially ignorant family member, or the workmate who has a tendency to let all sort shit flow out of their mouth without thinking it through. While it can feel awful to have to sit through events with them, and it can seem as though they’re deliberately trying to upset or provoke you, chances are that they just don’t realise how much they’re upsetting you – and unless they’re some kind of inconsiderate demon spawn, I doubt they intend to hurt you and ruin the event for you.
You can choose to engage and let them know that you would like them to stop a particular behaviour, or conversation. Rather than dumping blame (even if they are aware that they’re upsetting you), try to remind them of how it makes you feel when they speak or behave like that.
If they just can’t understand, it’s okay to excuse yourself from the discussion, and take some time out to re-group in the bathroom.
Contact someone you trust and can rely on (let them know beforehand if possible), even if it’s just to get your frustration out.
Remember, nothing anyone else says is actually about you.
While their words may be pointed towards you, and they may be seriously hurtful, barbed and seem kind of spiteful at times, they’re really just a reflection of something they’re feeling about themselves.
I know that this sucks and in the moment, it’s totally okay to feel hurt by them, but you can also decide not to react and throw their nastiness back.
Spend as much time with people who make you feel great as absolutely possible.
Yep, Real Self Care is even more important at this time of year. Make sure to show yourself some kindness in amongst all of the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and events.
Right now, I’m typing in a quiet corner of a busy shopping mall and ignoring all of the hectic madness of screaming children and stressed shoppers racing about behind me – it really is possible to create your own sense of peace wherever you are.
If you’re feeling a little lonely and you’re missing a loved one right now, maybe observe a moment to remember them and share a happy memory of them with somebody else who knew them. If you’re separated by physical distance, jump on Skype, or Zoom (my favourite video conferencing space) to chat and share some laughs together.
There are so many Orphans Christmas Events these days, with lots of pubs hosting Christmas Lunch – oh and if you’re heading “Home” for the holiday, I can guarantee that you’ll bump into plenty of friends – old and new down at the Local on Christmas Eve.
Make sure that you don’t push yourself too hard.
Do what you feel you can, and let the rest go.
Everyone deserves to enjoy this time of year – whether they’re religious, over the top festive, or prefer to keep it low key.
Just keep breathing and you’ll get through it all.
Share as many laughs and hugs as you can.
From my little family to yours, I’m wishing you a very happy and safe Christmas and a fabulous New Year.
I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any Christmas Tips? Let me know in the comments below.