13 Top CBT Tips for a lovely Christmas
CBT Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is evidence-based and offers a wide range of tools to manage your behaviour, thoughts and feelings. These are all on extra alert during Christmas - one of the busiest fun-filled times of the year – the most wonderful time of the year!
One of the tools CBT offers is to be realistic with your expectations – we often fall into the trap of placing undue pressure on ourselves to have the “perfect” time, being together with family and friends, effortlessly hosting, present buying, gift wrapping and enjoying every moment.
While it is great to be able to spend time with family and friends, giving gifts to those we care about and socialising, there are stressors to Christmas. CBT tells us that by recognising and accepting this, we can be pro-active and plan to minimise these stressors, entering 2019 feeling as if we have had a break and enjoyed ourselves. An excellent way to start the New Year!
Here are our top CBT tips on getting the most out of your Christmas break
- Plan your time and be realistic about what you can achieve – schedule in regular “rest buffers” for yourself and stick to them.
- Eat and drink wisely and smartly – we all like to overindulge at Christmas, and this is ok – make sure that your body doesn’t pay too much of a price for this. Pace your Christmas treats –allow yourself to “indulge” but also allow healthy breaks in between to ensure that your body recovers and remember everything is ok in moderation. You will find that you appreciate the Christmas treats more!
- Keep a good sleep pattern – enjoy the partying and business of Christmas but don’t let it compromise your sleep routine. If you have a late night, make sure that you allow for this. Pace your socialising.
- Stay hydrated - dehydration can lead to us feeling tired, irritable and cause headaches. Let go of that hungover feeling.
- Keep active – make sure that you get fresh air and make time for exercise over the Christmas period. This will help boost energy levels and improve your mood.
- Choose a mentally stimulating activity – it is too easy to sit down watching Christmas TV – instead; play games, be present and at the moment – notice and appreciate your surroundings.
- Reach out to people – if you know of people that are likely to be lonely, invite them to join in part of your festivities. If you are alone, make plans and ask people to share something with you this Christmas. It could be a simple cup of tea and mince pie.
- Don’t aim for perfection – good enough is more than enough. Try not to stress over getting the “perfect” Christmas dinner or being the “perfect” host. Remember family and loved ones come to spend time with you not have the best carrots or turkey ever.
- Share the Christmas tasks – get everyone involved, this will enhance the sense of togetherness, and everyone will gain satisfaction for sharing jobs well done.
- When family and friends are staying, get some quick escape “me time” strategies – walk the dog, go and fetch the paper, go for a jog, take the rubbish out. Short periods of quiet time will buffer you and make the whole family experience more tolerable and fun.
- If Christmas is a time for unhappy memories or events consider changing this by making new memory associations - plan something different, mix up your routine.
- Try to address any unresolved issues before the holiday period – times spent in unusually proximity to family/partners with unspoken resentments tend to come out once the alcohol has loosened inhibitions in unfortunate ways. Agree times for discussions that are quiet and unlikely to be interrupted to maximise your chances for constructive solutions.
- Facing time with family, who don’t get on, once a year is very stressful. Do you have to be with your family at this time? Why not change your routine and avoid these stress-inducing encounters and aim to catch up with family members at other times? Christmas is seen by many as a magnet, forcing family together, with the expectation to be happy, cheerful and loving each other; the reality for many is very different. You can interrupt the magnetic force and decide how you want to spend Christmas.
CBT and appreciation
Finally, CBT tells us to put everything into context and appreciate what is around you. Christmas is a few days out of the whole year. So Aunt Phyllis may be annoying, wanting the heating on full and the volume of the TV turned up loud. You may not get that gift you have been dropping hints on for half the year, and your neighbours may be using up half the national grid on the tacky Christmas lights – think of what you have, stay in the moment and appreciate all the good things. Consider those less fortunate and if possible, do something to help those less fortunate than you. Give some of your time - after all, it is the season of “goodwill” to all.
If you can follow these top CBT tips, then you are on your way to a more stress-free, restful and happy Christmas break. Merry Christmas and a Healthy Happy New Year from all of the Efficacy.