Christmas List with a Difference

Here are my Top 5 items you need on your Christmas List if;

  1. You're on a roll with some healthy changes to your life and you're worried Christmas will take you off track
  2. Christmas is a difficult time of year for you
  3. You struggle to manage feelings of being overwhelmed at this time of year and 
  4. If you feel like you get lost in the chaos and want to keep grounded

These items don't just apply to adults, children also struggle to manage their emotions at this time of year; so to help you take full advantage of this, I have separated my ideas for adults readers and for your children.

1. Maintain Healthy Habits

It's highly possible, that if you're reading this, you have a good idea of what works for you and what doesn't (even if you don't think you're able to control them). You get the sense of what triggers difficult times and what makes you feel good, so I'm inviting you not to change the good bits and avoid the triggers as best you can.

Arguably this is obvious, but it seems there's a huge invitation at Christmas to let everything go and fly by the seat of your pants. The trouble with this is, at times of stress (be that financial, ill health/hangovers or lack of sleep/hangovers) we are less likely to make healthy informed decisions, we'll go for what seems easiest at the time. You can understand why then, if you're not feeling too good, you're less inclined to get up and go for that walk each morning, or to eat breakfast, drink enough water or keep that social appointment you've been waiting weeks for.

Can you factor in your healthy habits when making plans over Christmas and New Year? If you've got a gym class on December 27th but you've just been invited to go out; can you suggest another date, and would it be so bad if that date was in the New Year?

For children it's really important, where possible, to factor in routine. It's what helps them manage the flow of the day, it breaks their day up and gives them opportunity for down time. There's a huge focus on high energy, people and visiting - what would it look like to create some me time for your children and how do you think it would impact your days?

2. Pick your People Wisely

If you struggle to maintain boundaries for yourself and within your relationships i.e. you can't say no or you party until you drop as standard, then this is about having a think about who you don't have to try with. Which friends or family energise you as opposed to drain you? Which ones are able to maintain safe boundaries for themselves meaning you don't have to try so hard in their company? Which ones will respect the boundaries you're trying to keep instead of trying to persuade you?

You may think that all your friends and family energise you and if that's true - then great. Ask yourself though, do you feel energised on the build-up, during and after; or solely in the moment? Sometimes we feel like we're having a great time in the moment but the back-lash can be really difficult.

For children, this feels like a really important one, especially for young ones. They go here there and everywhere with us and that's part of being their age, but consider if there are some relationships that create negative experiences for your children. Sometimes families can feel as though they have a 'right' to see children (sometimes if the courts have been involved this is true), but the right should be with the child. Do they want to go? Do they enjoy it? Do they feels safe? If they answer no - can you make it so they don't have to?

3. Good Sleep Hygiene

This definitely falls under the category of boring self-care but it's a big one at this time of year. 

Good sleep hygiene benefits physical and mental health, improves productivity and overall contentment but what is it?

Food hygiene includes behaviours which promote a good, well rested nights sleep. Here are some ideas to consider (I did warn you this is boring)...

  1. Avoid caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime
  2. Exercise during the day, but avoid close to bedtime
  3. Avoid foods that can disruptive to a good nights sleep, like heavy or rich food, fatty or fried foods and carbonated drinks
  4. Try and get an adequate amount of natural light exposure during the day - this helps maintain the natural wake/sleep cycle
  5. Create a relaxing bedtime routine which helps you wind down and gives your mind enough time to stop
  6. Create an environment for optimal sleep i.e. not too hot or cold, quite, dark and comfortable

The same applies for children, however, they need more sleep than us. Whilst this isn't always achieved, over Christmas particularly, it's useful to use their lack of sleep to help them understand the importance of it, but also to help them understand their emotions and how it affects their behaviours.

4. Permission

I could create a huge list of permissions, they come in my therapy sessions daily with clients and I think we all need a good dose of them over Christmas time.

I want you to consider you, in all that is Christmas; the expectations, the favours, the importance of being in a good mood, of being happy and the need to enjoy. If we think about all this and factor ourselves in, before it all starts to happen, then we're more likely to manage expectations more successfully. We are all wonderfully unique, as are our expectations, or needs and wants - for that reason, we often feel like we are chasing our tails. Resentment can start to build and we feel lost; consumed.

Think about what feels OK for you and what doesn't, think about how you might manage the people that keep asking for more - how are you going to say 'actually, that won't work for me right now', or 'I don't want to' and 'no'.

Children are less well rehearsed at putting people first and I envy them for this. In adulthood we're more socially aware and have learnt to adapt; perhaps you can be playful with the permissions to be themselves this Christmas - would it be so bad for them to go dressed as batman or to eat in front of the TV for a night?

5. Shift the Energy...

...and get grounded.

I can't advocate the power of reflection enough. Often we struggle to make the right choices for ourselves in the moment, but we can use reflection to notice it and think about how we would want it to be different next time, and what needs to happen to achieve it.

Being reflective throughout Christmas will help you stay grounded; notice, think and feel and make the change (by giving yourself permission). Go somewhere new, take in new sights, smells and sounds to help shift the energy; devise your new perspective and direction.

Children can often feel overwhelmed and not understand why. Sometimes they need to shift the energy and take a break to be able to gather some clarity too. If we're feeling less grounded, we're less likely to recognise that our children are struggling, less likely then to guide them and perhaps more inclined to see the negatives.

There's so much you can do to take care of yourself this Christmas; do your best and have a little self compassion.