Reams have been written about the pressure to appear ‘happy’ at Christmas and the stress of ensuring that everyone has a great time (particularly resonant for parents).
If we are not having our heartstrings tugged by charity campaigns and Christmas TV adverts, we are juggling our finances and wondering whether, actually, all the expenditure is worth the hassle.
I was brought up a Christian (Church in Wales) and whilst I would never be described as devout (I find paganism and witchcraft totally fascinating), there is something calming about the rituals, the traditions and the space a church service provides that is soothing and almost life-affirming.
Many of us eschew religion these days, however, in favour of our own belief systems or struggle through trying to find meaning and make our days matter.
Which is why I am going to suggest that the antidote to all this, for some, may simply be some alone time.
We know that loneliness is a huge problem in the UK which knows no barriers to age, gender or geography. That is not what I’m talking about here. You can be happy alone without feeling remotely lonely.
I am talking about the busy-ness (whether real or imagined) which, if not managed can have a significant impact on your mental health.
If you can’t find it in yourself to utter the word NO!!! for 11 months of the year, I imagine that the 12th month must be even more testing.
We fear rejection, giving offence, not being liked for the most ridiculous of reasons.
I sometimes feel as if, come December 1st, I am falling down a rabbit hole, like Alice In Wonderland. I am surrounded by bottles and boxes labelled ‘drink me’ or ‘eat me’. Like the White Rabbit, I am always, always late.
Isn’t Christmas the ultimate ‘important date’ for some of us?
No, alone time is absolutely vital to recalibrate – whether it’s by taking a quick 30-minute walk in the park, having a coffee alone in your local cafe or even sitting quietly at the back of a church.
I love the idea of a sacred space – and by that I mean somewhere you go that calms you, where you can be alone with your thoughts. If that place is beautiful or historic or has meaning for you, so much the better.
But just find somewhere to go for you. Take a notepad and write down your thoughts. Doodle. Listen to your iPod or read something on your Kindle.
Eventually, just the act of visiting your sacred space will help you feel more settled.
Mine, (and this is a little bizarre), used to be the lounge at Cardiff Wales Airport in the days when you could gaze out over the runway and actually see the planes.
I would sit there for an hour or so watching the planes take off wondering where the travellers were headed.
There’s something about going on holiday that encourages you to leave your problems behind, isn’t there? I think I was looking for a little of that.
You probably have somewhere you really love to visit. Perhaps it’s a local museum or portrait gallery. Perhaps it’s local woodland or a lake.
Wherever it is, I would encourage you to simply stop when you feel as if you are falling down the rabbit hole and take some time out.
The funny thing is it’s exactly what I do with my kids when they are getting strung out or antsy. You need to calm down, I tell them. Go and find something quiet to do.
Sometimes we need to parent ourselves. That’s the best gift we can give ourselves this Christmas.