DO WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU

We talk to psy­chother­a­pist Corinne Sweet about how to have a hap­pier Christ­mas

In the Moment - - Wellbeing -

“Not en­joy­ing Christ­mas is a very com­mon theme,” says Corinne. But rather than feel­ing that it’s some­thing you have to get through, she has some strate­gies to bring some joy back to the sea­son.

If you feel pres­sure to spend it with rel­a­tives or in-laws rather than your own fam­ily or part­ner, Corinne says to put your­self rst. “A cou­ple has to nur­ture their own re­la­tion­ship. De­cide what you are go­ing to do in ad­vance and com­mu­ni­cate it in a level way, with­out feel­ing like you have to jus­tify your­self or blame oth­ers. You can still take part in the Christ­mas pleas­antries by send­ing cards, or ar­rang­ing Skype ses­sions and mak­ing plans to see fam­ily ei­ther side of Christ­mas, but you have to lis­ten to your gut and do what feels right.”

If you’ve su ered be­reave­ment, Corinne says it’s about start­ing new tra­di­tions. “If you’ve al­ways done things with a cer­tain fam­ily mem­ber, start do­ing them with some­one else. You can move on while hon­our­ing loved ones in a joy­ful way: make a mem­ory tree, raise a toast to them, have their photo on the man­tel­piece. You might con­sider be­reave­ment coun­selling too.”

If Christ­mas is a lonely and iso­lat­ing time, Corinne rec­om­mends vol­un­teer­ing. “It’s the old adage: go and do some­thing for some­one who needs it more than you,” Corinne says. “If the same pat­terns keep re­peat­ing around Christ­mas, it might be worth get­ting some ther­apy to ex­plore what hap­pens over that pe­riod. You could do some­thing in the New Year, like join­ing a paint­ing class, where you meet new peo­ple.”

If you’re deal­ing with a de­bil­i­tat­ing ill­ness, have an ally. “Don’t ex­pect every­one to un­der­stand, it’s a waste of your en­ergy,” says Corinne. “You just need one per­son, a fam­ily mem­ber or friend, who un­der­stands and can help you get the time you need. Set up a Christ­mas you feel com­fort­able with. If you need to rest on the sofa, so be it.”

Tak­ing charge of your Christ­mas is a theme Corinne says ap­plies to all of us. “It’s al­ways hyped up to the eye­balls to be per­fect, but we have to get the Christ­mas we want and need,” she says. “Don’t worry about say­ing no to things. If peo­ple take o ence they’re prob­a­bly try­ing to con­trol you. It’s much bet­ter to do things from gen­uinely want­ing to be there, rather than feel­ing re­sent­ful and ex­hausted. Whether you’re re­li­gious or not, treat Christ­mas as a break. Do what makes sense to you and your bud­get. We have enough stress in our daily lives. If you want to hun­ker down and have a du­vet day in front of the telly, do it. Peo­ple want to do di er­ent things and it’s time we ac­cepted that.” Corinne is a psy­chother­a­pist, broad­caster and au­thor of 14 books in­clud­ing The Mind­ful­ness Jour­nal and The Anx­i­ety Jour­nal (www.corinnesweet.com).

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