“And so this is Christmas, I hope you have fun,
the near and the dear ones, the old and the young…”
– John Lennon, “Merry Christmas (War is Over)”
Ah, Christmas – an enchanting season of celebration and wonderment…and hectic shopping trips and online deliveries, endless food preparation and overeating, feeling bloated and uncomfortable.
Wait, let’s try that again.
Ah, Christmas – a magical time of enjoyment and togetherness….and non-stop visits and family tensions, squabbling and snarky comments, feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
Does that sound familiar? It certainly doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun. And holidays – especially Christmas – are meant to be fun.
If you have the diet mentality, Christmas represents The Mother of Making the Most of It Opportunities.
So how come so many of us end up not having a great time?
Doing too much. If you’re not good at delegating and even worse at speaking up and asking for help if you’re struggling, Christmas can feel like it’s entirely your responsibility. You spend your days rushed off your feet trying to get everything done so everyone else is taken care of, ignoring your needs as you go.
As the pressure mounts and you feel increasingly frazzled it can take just one thing to push you over the edge. That’s when you find yourself sobbing in the kitchen because you forgot the cranberry sauce or hurling the turkey carcass at Uncle Tony because he broke wind during the Queen’s Speech.
Eating too much. Many people will overeat at Christmas and it’s not a big deal. But if you’re a serial dieter or still have the diet mentality, Christmas represents The Mother of Making the Most of It Opportunities. If you label food as “good” or “bad”, Christmas is the perfect “excuse” to eat all those “bad” things you think you’re not “allowed”.
The whole festive season becomes one big blow-out session, especially if there’s the threat of the usual January diet on the horizon. Rather than enjoying the food on offer, you feel over-full and uncomfortable, while berating yourself for being “greedy” and threatening yourself with restriction when Christmas is over.
Difficult people. Christmas is a time of giving and receiving. Unfortunately, you can find yourself on the receiving end of insensitive remarks from your “nearest and dearest” about your weight, you eating behaviour and your life in general. Shaming comments from others can stop fun in its tracks, as their negativity connects to your own inner critic.
Rather than looking forward to catching up with friends and family, you can dread Christmas get-togethers. Instead of enjoying yourself, you feel tense and ill at ease as you brace yourself for the next insensitive remark.
Your time is best spent with those you feel good around – the ones who love, accept and appreciate you.
So what can be done? How can you make sure you have fun at Christmas? You might like to consider these suggestions:
Delegate. Don’t be a martyr. You don’t have to do everything by yourself. Dish out tasks to others if you’re feeling swamped. People often feel more comfortable if they can help in some way. Speak up if you’re in danger of feeling overwhelmed. Other people have needs but so do you and yours deserve attention.
Set your intention when you eat. Repeatedly overeating isn’t fun – remind yourself that you can eat Christmas food any time you like. It’s not off the menu and you’re not going to start dieting in January (why would you?). Slow down, relax and enjoy what you’re eating and listen out for the signal from your body that you’ve had enough.
Limit your exposure to toxic people. It’s your life and you get to decide who to spend it with. We can often feel obligated to meet up with others but some people have a negative impact on us. Your time is best spent with those you feel good around – the ones who love, accept and appreciate you, not the ones who criticise and demean you.
As you read this, some other ideas may be coming to you – if so, pay attention to them.
Fun doesn’t have to be earned. It’s yours by right. We’re all entitled to fun, including you. If there’s a side of you that dismisses fun in favour of doing more (remember the Drill Sergeant?), then tell it where to go.
Having fun is an essential part of looking after your mental wellbeing – and a lovely gift to give yourself this year.
So, I hope you have fun this holiday season. Proper fun, dammit – lots of it.
And I wish you all a very, very Merry Christmas.