Be kind to yourself this Christmas season

But hang on, isn’t that ummm … kind of selfish?

Yes, but I am giving myself permission … to be kind to myself … this Christmas.

Spoiler alert – this post has more to do with my mental health status than tips on saving money.

The days leading up to Christmas

The days and weeks leading up to Christmas is the most stressful and hectic time of my year. I work in retail so I am immersed in the endless commercialisation of Christmas – buy, buy, buy … did you forget anything, anybody? Buy, buy, buy …

We are constantly looking at our sales figures; are we doing better than last year? What else can we do to attract more customers? Are our offers comparable with other retailers? There are deadlines to meet, Christmas cards to post (we are old fashioned at my work). And on and on it goes. 

To make matters worse for an introvert like myself, it’s Christmas party season – not only my workplace but also supplier Christmas parties which I routinely turn down … Oh you can’t make it to the party? No worries, we’ll come out and have lunch with you. NOOOOOOO!!!!

Unfortunately, I can’t say no to everything. So juggling various work commitments plus trying to organise my own personal Christmas demands usually create a very stressed out me. Quite frankly, I don’t like me right now.

The perfect Christmas gift beautifully wrapped by an angel

Everywhere we look, be it on social media or in the physical shops, there is the reminder to gift the people we love expensive presents. The more expensive the gift, the better sister, daughter, friend, you are. 

So begins the anxious search – what is the perfect present for so and so? How much should I spend? Suddenly it is the middle of December and online shopping is no longer an option, that is if you want your presents to be available on Christmas Day. So now you have to brave the mega shopping centres with their unceasingly cheerful carols and visual barrage of Christmas decorations.

This is where I fail – because I am not organised in my immensely harried world, I miss the opportunity to shop at Black Friday sales. (These sales are certainly gaining in popularity in Australia) When I am desperate at the last minute, days before Christmas, I really do not care what I spend – I just need to get the job done and buy something, anything. So note to self, next year start my list in October.

Even when I choose to gift non store bought items, there is the organisational nightmare of buying ingredients to make the mince tarts, cake and biscuits etc. First I have to find the various recipes. Every year at around this time, I think I should have been more organised. I should have looked up recipes by September. But invariably, I never achieve this goal so every year I go through the same chaos. Then I have to schedule in the prepping time, the baking time … and coordinate it all so gifts are still edible by the time the recipient gets it. 

When I finally get around to wrapping my presents, I am so tired that I just do a perfunctory job. At work, our gift wrapping is accompanied by beautiful bows & loops. My personal gifts are just wrapped. Full stop. No embellishments whatsoever.

Oh, and what is it with Christmas decorations?

We must have the perfect tree, decorated according to colour themes and elaborate ornaments. What happened to decorating with hand crafted wonky ornaments that the kids made in Grade 3? Or the ‘heirlooms’ that Grandma had on her tree?

Every year, I am bombarded with new ornaments that I can buy, different ways I can decorate the tree. But I save so much money, just reusing my ornaments. I may add something from my travels, a souvenir but that is all. 

My tree is still sitting in its box on my floor. Hey, I got it out of storage – that is a start. I love the after effects of putting up my tree – admiring my ornaments nestled among the twinkling lights. But I procrastinate until it becomes a matter of urgency to put it up. That is when something fun becomes stressful. 

So, what is the perfect Christmas for you? 

If this question conjures up anxiety and heart palpitations, then we are in the same boat!

For me, it is spending time with my family and friends. But even in this simple wish, there is the pressure and expectation of making everything perfect. Thank you, Pinterest & Instagram. 

I am not sure if the expectation is from others or from within myself but I desperately need to let go. 

I am a generous host and take pride in my Christmas lunch being a feast. Traditionally, it is abundant with seafood such as lobster, prawns and oysters plus turkey, pork and side dishes. It is not unheard of that I spend upwards of $500 just for lunch for 6 adults. We all end up eating too much and I am left with lots of leftovers. Which I love as I don’t have to cook for the next week.

But the pressure of getting everything just right and serving food that is instagram worthy is killing me. I place so much pressure on myself on having the perfect setting, the perfect food. Often after the event, I am so exhausted that I always collapse in a comatose state on my couch. In part, it is physical exhaustion as food preparation often begins the day and night before the big day. But I am just as mentally exhausted and relieved that it is all over.

I know others experience this too. Someone commented recently “Oh and Boxing Day is when I have to perform; that is the day the family comes over and I have to present a feast” Perform? That is what serving food to the people we love has become? But the fact that I understood immediately when she said it was troublesome. Others around me thought she was performing in a musical or theatrical event.

So this year, I will reduce the number of dishes at Christmas lunch. Not only will it be good for the budget, it will be good for my mental health.

Please be kind to yourself this Christmas

I know my snapshot above is only my version of how stressful Christmas can be. I don’t have children – but I know parents who are stressed out preparing for and attending Christmas plays or concerts. Even debating what to buy for teachers is a recent facebook discussion.

I desperately want to enjoy the time leading up to Christmas. This year I am taking ten days off as extended family arrive from overseas. I hope to spend it not worrying about Christmas lunch or rushing around maniacally doing last minute Christmas shopping. Instead, I will bake till the early hours of the morning in a zen like state with choral Christmas carols playing in the background. I want to decorate Christmas ornaments with my niece so I can add them to my tree.

I am sure my family appreciates the immense effort required to host Christmas lunch – it’s only my own expectations of how I should do it that is putting undue pressure on me. If my friends quibble about how my presents look, they are not really my friends. If I don’t get all my Christmas baking done in time, oh well … gingerbread cookies taste just as fantastic in January.

So I am giving myself permission to let go of my own expectations of myself and be kind to myself for a change. Everyone else will cope. And everything will fall into place.

Happy Christmas everyone! May you all enjoy a stress free time with people you love and care about!


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