Christmas is seen as the season of happiness and hopefulness but it can also be a time when family anxieties can reach their peak.

It can be surprising how tricky the festive season can feel. Why? Sometimes it's sadness, the remembrance of those who are departed, sometimes the financial pressure of Christmas can be great, the holiday shopping can be a nightmare, sometimes family reunions can dredge up old family conflicts, heading back to childhood homes or, for that matter, travelling and reuniting elsewhere with the people we spent our childhoods with can be stressful.
Christmas is a time of gatherings, when we meet up and share with each other what we have been up to over the past year, but family gatherings can also be the ultimate mindfulness training ground; if you can remain centred and calm over the Christmas period, you can, presumably, do so anywhere. So, the holidays aren’t then necessarily happy, they don’t merely by virtue of occurring, guarantee joy. So how can we stay grounded and present and truly let ourselves feel the holiday spirit? Research shows that 50% of our happiness depends on genetics, 10% on circumstances, the remaining 40% is under our control. Through our behaviour, actions and thoughts we can increase or decrease our level of happiness by up to 40%. Shouldn’t we then go out of our way to pursue happiness?

By employing a few simple interventions over the holiday period we can slow down, appreciate and enjoy this wonderful time of year. Below are some tips to help you and your family enjoy the holidays.

• Set your intention to enjoy the holidays as much as you can. By setting your intention you ‘prime’ your brain to be ready for positive experiences.

• Happy people are social people, spend time not only with family but use the season to strengthen old friendships and make new ones. Reach out and plan simple get-togethers.

• Add some exercise to your routine over the holidays. Scientific studies show exercise lessens depression and anxiety, as well as increases positive emotions and self-esteem. Take some time to plan active events, a family walk on a chilly Christmas Eve, a cycle on New Year’s Day can give everyone the energy boost to get through the Christmas festivities. 

• Take a break. If you are feeling overwhelmed by everything on your ‘To Do List’, remember to take a few deep breaths. Try to get out of the ‘doing’ mode for a little while and let yourself relax.

• Practice gratitude; don’t take your good fortune for granted. Count your blessings daily and express your appreciation directly to loved ones. This simple activity is a big happiness booster.

Sometimes it is not possible to manage alone, making it very important to reach out to others for help and support. Christmas is depicted as a magical time, spent with an ideal family, when everyone is blissfully happy and content. However, the reality of so many people’s lives is often very different. People work so hard to make Christmas day as perfect as possible, but often the stresses and strains of the holiday period make it more of a trial than a joy. If you are feeling overwhelmed what can you do if it all gets too much for you? Thankfully, Online Help is there. Online Help can offer real, practical support to children, young people and parents, accessible any time of the day or night, even over the Christmas and New Year period.

If you are struggling to cope, reach out and make contact with Online Help using the links below:

This online service provides access to a trained counsellor, who will offer an opportunity to share your difficulties and assist in finding ways of dealing with them. Total anonymity and confidentiality is guaranteed.

As this year comes to a close and the Christmas season approaches, remember the powerful message of hope that comes from the spirit of Christmas. The human strength of hope gives us the will to push onward, even in difficult times. Hope, this little four-letter word, has enormous power. Hope can help us believe that things will get better, with hope everything is possible.

From the team at KJT Online Help.