Things can be challenging during the festive season. Therefore it is so important that we manage expectations and take care of our mental wellbeing.
Letting expectations go wild
When we think of Christmas it is very easy to imagine a fun filled season packed full of food, presents and parties. However the reality can often be very different. It can be so easy to allow our expectations to get the better of themselves. We so want them to come true and will end up following them blindly right up until the last moment. By which point it is too late.
Television and social media do not help things. They can lull us into building a quite impossible picture of what Christmas could or indeed should be? Though in whose eyes, I am at a loss to imagine? Millionaires? How much money or skill do advertisers really think we have?
There are also our memories. Seen through rose tinted spectacles, they can deceive us and are not always reliable. It is ever so easy for us to somehow remember an amalgam of different or incidents from separate Christmases, that combined makes the perfect reminiscence of how things should be. Our expectations do not allow us to recall the bad times.
Trying to keep up
Friends and family can also increase our festive expectations. Who is getting their Christmas tree first? What people will be doing, where will they be going or how many people will they be having over. Who has the biggest turkey? All these things can combine and turn it all into a bit of a competition. Sometimes we end up spending more and more money just to keep up. We believe the more things we have or buy the more fun or joy we will have.
Our expectations can be linked with be how others react. The kids are too loud or someone doesn’t have the positive reaction you were expecting from the present you gave them. If they do not act in the way we were expecting there can be a real issue. All sorts of unpredictable things will have a big impact on your mood.
Peace and goodwill to all?
The other trap that we can fall into is the expectation that Christmas will be a peaceful and relaxing time. We work hard through the year, frequently right up until the last days before Christmas. In doing so we feel that we deserve or have earn a relaxing break, free from all the stress of the last twelve months. And in that break our batteries will be fully recharged to allow us to face all the challenges the next twelve months may have in store for us. When that doesn’t happen we almost feel cheated.
A big ask
Meeting with all these expectations is a big ask. A massive ask in many cases; and one that is rarely achieved by the vast majority of people. It is a horrible feeling, in the middle of the festive period when you ask yourself ‘is this it?’. Or to end up more stressed than you were before the break. Worse still is feeling depressed in spite of all the festivities going on around you.
Active expectation management
What needs to happen? Managing expectations long before the holidays start is key. Though again, often this is easier said than done. We need to see which of our expectations are actually our own or are in fact placed upon us on by others or society. Once we have done this we decide if we give them consideration or not.
We also need to ask what these expectations are made of or where they come from? Can they really be achieved or are they just fantasies that we have built up over the year? Once we recognise them for what they are, they are far easier to either manage or let go of.
Planning for the break can also really help. This gives you the ability to really establish what is possible to fit in, a clearer idea of budget and will help cut the fantasy from reality. You can also ensure that you factor in time to genuinely relax.
Taking time out
During the break itself it is really important that you take some time out for yourself. It does not have to be long, just enough to find some time for self-compassion. A practice like meditation will work or if not going for a walk. Getting in touch with our feelings and reflecting on why we are feeling a certain way. Not only that but also the chance to examine how other people are behaving toward us and where needed fine the empathy required to give them.
It’s up to us
These things may just help us get through and with luck thoroughly enjoy Christmas. What is essentially worth remembering is that it is very easy to forget about our mental health at this time of year. We just assume that it will have a boost. Of course it can but we have to be proactive to ensure it. Where possible we need to actively maintain positive mental well being throughout. We will only do this if we make a conscious effort. Ultimately it is our responsibility and no one else’s.