The ads on the TV make it all look great. Christmas is just one big party with happy smiley families, lavish presents, decorations that shimmer and sparkle and a table full of food that leaves no room for plates and cutlery. Everything is merry and bright but what if you are not feeling it? What if you happen to be dealing with illness, grief, loss, loneliness, money worries and other social problems? How do you get into the festive spirit of Christmas? Well, the short answer is you don’t have to but what you do need to do is keep up your own spirit by taking care of yourself and focus on ways you and your family can enjoy the festive holidays without succumbing to everyone else’s idea of Christmas.

There’s a huge pressure on people to conform at Christmas to have a super duper happy time.  It’s worth remembering there is often a wide gap between the world as it is presented to us, and the actual world we live in. Worries and strife are airbrushed out of the glossy consumerist vision that creates images in our head of happy families sitting down to a turkey from Tesco, or party treats from Iceland and ‘soap’ families seem to open their doors and ovens to anyone down on their luck but the reality is Christmas magnifies all sorts of feelings for everyone, positive and negative. At this time we often feel compelled to wrap up our worries as well as our gifts and put on a brave face because we are supposed to be ‘festive.’

In the current climate many families will have to mask their money worries, such is the pressure of providing material proof of love and affection. Christmas can also cause heartache for those who don’t have a traditional family circle. Some folk, for one reason or another, find they have no option but to spend Christmas on their own. This does not mean you can’t celebrate alone. It is all about how you perceive the time alone. Solitary celebrations can be very “spa-like” and rejuvenating for your psyche! There’s a world of difference between solitude and loneliness. Do not assume large groups of people and lavish gifts make for a less lonely, happier you!

Honour yourself this Christmas and let a little joy in whether you are alone, in company or anxious about Christmas time. Resolve to value yourself and take enjoyment in the day, no matter what your circumstance. Treat yourself to something comfy or special. Buy what you can afford. Have it gift wrapped or do it yourself. Set your gift aside for Christmas day. Stock up on a few treats…your favourites. On Christmas day, unwrap your present and enjoy the special treats throughout the day. Find ways to enjoy your day, attend a service, take a walk, have a hot bath, listen to uplifting music, rest. Focus on the moment. There will always be stresses in life, don’t let all of them invade the moments you spend with family, friends or on your own this Christmas. Savour that warm cup of hot chocolate for what it is. Enjoy the sparkly lights, the robins in the garden and the smiles on children’s faces. Don’t let the rest of the world and your worries weigh you down. Ask for help if you need help. Talk to a friend. Keep warm and well. Don’t worry too much about being in the festive spirit. Take care of your own ‘spirit’ this Christmas time.