Ask Auntie Trash: How to Survive Christmas
Our resident agony aunt helps a reader who's struggling at the thought of getting through the festive season
Dear Auntie Trash,
I hate Christmas, it’s a difficult time of year for my mental health. I feel I have to be perfect at all times and not admit that I don’t like it. How do I survive this?
I want you to know two things.
One: You are very brave for writing to me.
Two: You are not alone.
Christmas means different things to different people: food (yay), Christmas movies (The Muppet Christmas Carol, Die Hard, Gremlins), family (um), or sometimes, it means nothing and everything. The greatest lie invented about Christmas (and no, I’m not getting into anything religious here, believe what you want to believe, just leave other people out of it) is that Christmas is a time when we feel duty bound to do certain things, like visit difficult family members or just be as perfect as possible.
The thing about tradition and duty is that we very rarely do these things for us, we do them for other people. We’ll travel across the country, even the world, to visit people that we might not be on the best terms with because it will upset others if we don’t. We exhaust our bodies, minds and bank accounts trying to impress people we feel obligated to impress.
All of these struggles are real and can lead to Christmas being something that you have to get through, rather than something that you can relax and enjoy. Many people find themselves in these kinds of toxic situations every December, but it’s something that we just don’t talk about, especially not on TV or online, where we're inundated with images of the nuclear family enjoying a fun-filled Christmas with all the trimmings and none of the drama.
Christmas is hard. Combining the pressure we put on ourselves with the expectations of society makes for a pretty toxic potion that only fuels anxiety. How many times have you despaired at shops displaying Christmas stock months before December? Sometimes even before Halloween? Probably quite a few, right? While the coming of the festive season fills some with tidings of comfort and joy, and God knows whatever else that is positive, for others, it’s just not so easy. And you know what? That’s OK.
It’s OK to not enjoy this time of year, it’s OK to admit that you find it detrimental to your mental health. If you take away one message from my long, rambling reply, then know this: it’s OK to feel how you are feeling.
So how do you get through it? Well, I really don’t have a definitive answer, but you can’t mess with time and stop Christmas from happening, or hibernate for a couple of weeks until it’s all over. What you can do, however, is create your own tradition, something you feel you can do for yourself and not just for others. It doesn’t have to be Christmassy, it doesn’t have to be anything big, it could be as simple as organising an all-night movie marathon at your house, cooking a meal for friends, going on holiday, etc. Having something that you can actually look forward to would really help with the anxiety that comes with the season.
Keep your chin up, ride this out.