Last Saturday, I found myself waking up feeling as though I’d been hit over the head with a sledgehammer, a bit sore and a lot dazed. I’d been to the work Christmas party the night before – which I’m glad I went along to because it was lovely to see everyone and to get glammed up – but my body was less happy about it.
Despite not having drunk very much, it turned out just a little gin and fizz was enough to tip my winter lurgy into a full blown collapsing-on-the-sofa-watching-films-not-moving kind of neediness for the following day.
Slowly crunching through my cereal that morning, I was giving myself a pretty hard time about the whole thing, feeling like the most boring grandma who couldn’t even hack a night out anymore. It wasn’t until later that I had a reality check and stopped to consider the facts. Umm hello crappy week that had been filled with germs, travelling and one of the saddest days I can remember, spent mourning at a funeral. I’d managed to turn up to work with a smile on my face each day and then at the end of it all, put my glad rags on and take my little introverted self out for a few drinks and some dancing. Was it any wonder I’d struggled?
Seriously, how often do we beat ourselves up instead of stopping to think about the whole picture? It’s struck me that there’s a lot of things of this ilk to feel bad about in the Christmas season, and life’s too short for all of them. Here’s a few ways I hope you can look after yourself, because we all need to cut ourselves some slack this December.
For pretty much any one of us that’s grown up with diet culture, the sheer quantity of food around over the festive season and all the customs and norms that go with that are enough to bring on a whole ton of guilt, let alone for those who struggle with disordered eating. The whole cycle of eating and then feeling bad about it is amplified tenfold, and almost expected as a rite of Christmas passage (hello annual diet industry boom in January).
I couldn’t put it better than nutritionist Laura Thomas who wrote recently on her Instagram “at this time of year every message we hear is about ‘guilty pleasures’, ‘being naughty’, and ‘festive indulgences’. It’s hard not to internalise these messages as guilt, which manifest as sadness and frustration directed inwards at ourselves.”
Laura went on to say “if feelings of guilt, shame or anxiety creep in, remind yourself those are not your feelings, they were given to you by a culture that preys on your insecurities…You would not feel guilty about breathing or sleeping. You should never, ever feel bad about nourishing your body and soul with satisfying & delicious foods”.
Admittedly this is all easier said than done and I could write a whole blog post just on this, but if you can – cut yourself some slack over that mince pie you had on your break, or that delicious hot chocolate you drank in front of the telly last night. You are worth so much more than the energy spent worrying about it.
Apart from the financial stress and worry that goes with present buying, there’s a load of other stuff on top that can leave us feeling less than joyful about the whole thing.
For one, there’s the politics and etiquette…what if I spend more than them and it’s awkward? (or vice versa). What if I get something for that person, do I need to buy something for that other person too? They didn’t buy me anything last year so should I buy for them again this year?
Then there’s the issue of where to shop and sometimes guilt over buying from big corporates, not to mention the question of what to actually get…didn’t they already have one of those? Do I go pretty or practical? And what on earth do I buy for that random person at work I got in the Secret Santa?!
We can quickly become overwhelmed with what feels like a total minefield, all the joy sucked out of it. I have to remind myself that my friends and family love me for me, not for my ability to get them something great.
If you’re struggling with money, could you look into hand-making some gifts instead? Or even giving favours – for Aaron’s last birthday I gave him little IOU vouchers for things like cooking him a fancy dinner or ironing his shirts for a week. Other things that make me feel less stressed include writing lists where I can plan for each person, teaming up to do joint presents and shopping online so I don’t have to face the high street. I’ll also include a shameless plug here for my indie Christmas gift guide, with suggestions for a range of stuff from independent businesses.
Whichever way you do presents, try to keep coming back to what’s important – if you’re not going to be thinking about it in six months time, is that Secret Santa worth even six seconds of worry?
December always comes filled with events, from works Christmas parties through to family occasions, dinners with friends and various other functions you might feel obliged to attend.
Said events might well also come with an expectation of drinking, and the whole flurry of organised fun at this time of year can quickly become an introvert’s worst nightmare.
Try to be choosy with which things you say yes to, so that you’re able to keep some time for yourself and avoid burnout. If there’s ways to go to things but for a shorter time – aim to do that – and perhaps arrange to go along to bigger events with someone you’re close to, so that you don’t have the anxiety that sometimes comes with turning up on your own.
Above all, remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup and be sure to grab some quiet time for yourself when you can, whether that’s an early night, a long bath or a little pamper session. By looking after yourself, you’ll be fresher for the things you do go to, and you really won’t be missing out.
So there you have it, a little guide to giving yourself a break this festive period. When you notice the guilt start to creep in, please try and remember that all that you are and all that you do is already enough. Let’s cut ourselves some slack this December.