Let’s face it – Christmas, if you celebrate it or the holiday season, if you don’t – sometimes sucks. This time of year is often tougher than we anticipate. It’s easy to get caught up in the whirl of preparations: decorating a tree, wrapping gifts, planning and cooking celebratory menus, attending end-of-year parties and travelling to meet up with family. But the reality so rarely reflects our plan. Each year, a handful of new Christmas comedies play off that mismatch in our expectations.
There’s the seemingly inevitable conflict that arises when extended families who don’t see each other regularly (and who don’t share a high level of emotional intelligence) meet up and attempt to maintain good cheer for hours or days at a time. If anyone’s drinking heavily, the energy can quickly start to feel less festive and more grim.
There’s the loneliness often felt by those who have nowhere in particular to go and no-one they love to spend their holidays with, due to divorce or estrangement or distance. Feeling like an orphan when everyone else is with family can be tough – especially if you’re believing the story that everyone else is having a great time.
There’s the pressure to spend and buy and consume as an expression of love. When we can’t quite afford the new iPhone or branded-fashion-must-have-for-this-season the kids have been lead to believe they desperately need, shame can arise that feels unbearable for parents. Given easy access to credit we can’t really afford to repay, many families feel the weight of their pre-Christmas overspending for months into the new year.
And then there’s the heightened sense of loss that arises when someone’s missing from the celebrations. This can be especially acute when it happens for the first time but it can go on for decades, with the holidays reminding us more strongly of who’s not here. When you remember any celebration you’ve experienced without a loved one, you’ll know the deep sadness I’m recalling. It can be triggered by a phonecall not received or one less gift under the tree or one less chair at the table.
Any one of these scenarios can turn our feelings about the coming holidays from eager anticipation to dread. And then there’s the real kicker: the post-holiday comedown. If there’s a part of our life we’re not completely happy with, we’ll often notice it more sharply around the end of the year. If we’re in the habit of making New Year resolutions and (like most people) not sticking to them, this can feel even worse. About a week into January, many of us slide into mild depression as we contemplate what’s not actually changed since we made our resolutions last year. And then we often double down – we use resolutions as a bigger stick to beat ourselves with, vowing to be tougher this year so it’ll be different.
What if we could take the pressure off ourselves? I’m proposing a different approach this year. Instead of wanting the celebration to be low-stress and then getting furious when Auntie Nat has too much sherry and holds forth about how she’s sure climate change is a myth, let’s send ourselves compassion for needing to be right. Instead of vowing to educate more girls in Africa or start going to spin class every day or stop eating the big bags of potato chips as dinner when we’re overtired, let’s first resolve to do just one thing: be more kind to ourselves. Let’s make self-compassion a part of each day. Because if we take better care of ourselves first, we’ll have a chance of changing our lives and serving our world.
To get started, here are some compassion phrases that might support you in preparing for the holidays. Sit up straight with your feet on the floor and take a couple of deep breaths down into your belly. Focus on your heart and solar plexus and imagine sending yourself the warm loving heart energy of compassion. Then repeat these phrases out loud, pausing in between to see how each one feels in your body.
I’m so sorry you just want everything to be perfect.
I’m so sorry you can’t control the outcome, no matter how well you prepare.
I’m so sorry you’re so busy you forget to check in with how you’re really feeling.
I’m so sorry you’re anxious about how it will turn out.
I’m so sorry you’re worried everyone won’t get along.
I’m so sorry some of them won’t get along.
I’m so sorry someone will push your buttons.
I’m so sorry their unconscious patterns bring you down.
I’m so sorry you can’t buy everyone all the gifts they want.
I’m so sorry you’re worried someone will be disappointed.
I’m so sorry you can’t have everyone with you for the holidays.
I’m so sorry you can’t be with all the people you love for the holidays.
I’m so sorry someone’s going to be missing this year.
I’m so sorry you’re sad they won’t be here.
I’m so sorry you sometimes feel who’s missing more keenly than you notice who’s here.
I’m so sorry you make resolutions you can’t stick to.
I’m so sorry you beat yourself up for not sticking to your resolutions.
I’m so sorry you can’t give yourself a break.
I’m so sorry you can’t be more kind to yourself, every day.
I’m so sorry your holidays can’t be filled with joy and laughter and love.
I’m so sorry all your days can’t be filled with joy and laughter and compassion.
In 2016 I’m building a private practice as a compassion coach. I help people rewrite old stories that create suffering and shape new narratives that support self-love. I want to offer my work to as many people as possible, because I know self-compassion has the power to create miracles in our lives.
So I’m offering free 30 minute calls and creating more space for them in my calendar during December and January. Even in a very short time, we can talk through your greatest concerns and create a little more room for you to breathe, leaving you feeling lighter as you step into whatever the new year holds for you.
If you’d like to spend 30 minutes on the phone with me please send me a private message. Let me know why you’d like a little extra support. And please share this post with anyone who might find it useful.
This day and every day, let there be peace and love among all beings of the universe.