To be blunt; I find Christmas a difficult time, particularly for my anxiety. Yes of course, Xmas 2020 has been very difficult for many this year and the impact on wellbeing and mental health has made it very hard for many people, especially those who have ended up on their own for Christmas and continue to miss out on vital contact with family and friends.
Personally, I find Christmas hard, but this year has been easier for me; because of the restrictions on seeing people, to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
I find the pressure and panic generated by: predominantly the retail sector pushing for us to buy and spend excessive amounts of money on material goods, the pressure of missing out and not making the best Christmas by buying things and the pressure to see all your family and friends aggravates my anxiety.
Take food for instance, we are talking about a roast dinner on a specific day, which really is just the same as any other Sunday roast one might have at any time in the year. That Sunday roast takes a little thought to purchase the required food and a couple of hours to cook and less than an hour to consume. But, Christmas dinner seems to be so different; we have to plan for weeks ahead, booking a delivery slot with a supermarket, which becomes a military operation with a research into when slots will be released and an alarm clock set to ensure that you are at your device, logged into your account in good time to book a delivery slot. The panic that seems to be generated if a slot is hard to get and then the need to add certain items, such as the turkey and any special entertainment food by another given date or you miss out. Then the worry that you have got everything, for a meal that has been successfully organised every year without failure and to be frank is the same as any Sunday roast. For me, we would normally visit my mother and my sisters family for a few days from boxing day; this, because my mother wants to get it ‘perfect’ (and I understand this is her way of showing that she loves us), then means numerous messages and calls to check what people would like and what my (grown-up) children and grandchildren would like to eat and drink. So just the food element of Christmas involves numerous questions and planning for weeks in advance.
Then there is the presents, the marketing by retailers, generates anxiety by playing on the fear of missing out and not being able to get the right present in time for Christmas. I noticed this year Amazon was running advertising banners saying ‘last minute Christmas shopping’ from early December. I hate the excess and pandering, no promoting, of materialism that Christmas stands for, not one gift – but many, plus the increasing cost of presents for kids. That now, not only do we have presents on Christmas day, but Christmas Eve boxes seem to have become the norm. I see the financial hardship this creates for my family and others, where they spend significant sums of money, which they cannot afford on presents for their children, then spend the year paying it of or it just gets added to a credit card and growing debt.
My anxiety is also increased by the need to visit so many family members over a relatively short period of time, often involving significant travel and again, for me planning.
This all results in me feeling stressed by all the planning and panic, guiltily that I am trying to limit our expenditure on gifts, pressure that we have to visit so many people. This results in me becoming short tempered and angry. I then often reflect on the Christmas period and feel bad about how I might have behaved or what I have said and end up berating myself, which then feeds my feelings of guilt, mood and anxiety.
Let me be clear, I don’t hate Christmas itself, I hate the commercialism of the event. My Christmas would be: for us to get together as a family for a ‘roast dinner’ meal and spend time together playing games and watching the kids laugh and play and a taking welcome break from work for a few days. I don’t want a Christmas with: the need to have bought each other multiple (expensive) gifts, been panicking about buying excessive quantities of special food, been bombarded with advertising from retailers for weeks and weeks and the planning of the event to have taken what seems like months to organise
So, whilst the restrictions on Christmas 2020 were very sad for many, having a shorter Christmas and only having the 1 day to organise, was so much easier for me. We still saw most of our family, albeit outside on a doorstep in the rain or freezing cold. But, we didn’t have the big Boxing Day get together, so my mother did miss out. But, she spent the time with my sister in their support bubble, so thankfully she wasn’t alone. And of course we were able to use technology to speak on Facetime and still wish each other “Merry Christmas”. For me this was an easier Christmas.
New Year will also be easier this year, although my wife and I have not really celebrated it so much in recent years, often my wife would go to her daughters for the evening for a party, which I would avoid because of my anxiety, again feeding my guilt and causing me to berate myself. But this year we will spend a quiet News Year’s eve together, just the two of us and I will feel fine, because we could do nothing else.
So whilst, the impact of coronavirus and the rules limiting contact and socialising have been hard for many, they have made my Christmas holidays easier.
My thoughts are with all those who have lost family or friends directly or indirectly due to coronavirus and I wish you a Happy New Year and hope for an easier 2021, please be safe.