We are counting down the days to Christmas, many of us on overdrive, in overwhelm and exhaustion, made even worse by the ‘need’ to prepare ourselves, our families and our homes for this special day … but we are looking forward to a few days to indulge ourselves, relax, rest and recover, to reward ourselves for the year that was …
We live life as if it were a straight line, even a race, and we are approaching the finish line of this year … but what if life is a cycle, and we are leaving nothing behind, but bringing it all with us, everywhere we go?
Would this change the way we live each day, including Christmas Day?
I live life with this understanding, and care for myself as deeply as I can, every day, but even with all this I find myself tired, even exhausted, at this time of year, reaching for sweet snacks, looking longingly at chocolate, and looking forward to a few day’s rest.
I am not, though, nearly as stressed and tired as I used to be at this time of year, because I no longer feel I have to buy into all of society’s expectations about what I should be doing.
I used to spend hours (which I did not have to spare) scouring the shops to find the perfect present for every member of my family and all my friends, and spent money which I did not have on all these gifts and on food and drink.
I used to say yes to every invitation to a pre-Christmas function, adding late nights and alcohol to my already full days.
I used to think I had to make everything perfect at home and put on the perfect lunch and dinner to actually enjoy Christmas.
Granted, times have changed.
My small kids are now young adults, my grandchildren are celebrated by all of us, so they don’t need me to do it all for them, and my husband is a bit of a Grinch (increasingly, so am I!).
But we still love Christmas Day.
We love the stillness, the silence, the opportunity to stop and celebrate Love and life with family and friends.
So here are my top ten tips for actually enjoying Christmas.
It is just another day.
Christmas can be a beautiful moment to stop, and appreciate our loved ones and life, but in reality Christmas is just another day, I know, that sounds like heresy, but it really is. The sun will come up, the sun will go down, then there will be another day just the same, for we are going around and around the sun, and each day follows the next.
Just live it that way … take care of yourself in the same way … remind yourself that the way you feel tomorrow will be affected by how you are with yourself and with others today, and bring the same love and care that you bring to people on Christmas day, to every day.
If you are working or on call, embrace it, don’t resent it.
People don’t take a holiday from getting sick or hurting themselves on Christmas Day. In fact the Christmas period can be a particularly busy time for us … most doctors are on holidays and those of us who are working have to carry their load … and most patients are on holidays and some indulge in activities that can lead to them needing medical attention.
If you are one of the doctors who are providing that care, appreciate yourself and the great service you are offering and as best you can, offer it with all the grace and love that you are.
Your body can only handle so much food and drink in one day.
We are all tempted to gorge ourselves on Christmas Day, thinking that we can work it off in the New Year, but we are still living in the same body we carry around every day, and it can only handle so much. By all means enjoy your food and drink, but consider that you and your body will be wearing the consequences for days to come…
Alcohol is not a breakfast food.
Many of us give ourselves permission to start Christmas Day with a drink (and some sort of food to go with it). But we don’t usually start the day this way, and it can set off a cycle of eating and drinking that may end up in a family feud, or worse.
Consider having your normal breakfast, or even just waiting for lunch, knowing you are going to be eating a lot!
Sugar is not actual food.
In the same way that we are tempted to drink all day on Christmas Day, we can be tempted to just eat the mince pies, Christmas biscuits, cake, plum pudding and custard and ice-cream, and skimp on the actual food, but just as with alcohol, eating so much sugar can set up a cycle of highs and lows and mood swings that can end up with us being short with each other and exchanging cross words, which is a very un-Christmassy thing to do.
Your presence matters more than your presents.
People who love you, even your kids, would rather spend precious time with you than have the most incredible present in the world. They may not say that, and you may not believe that, but it is true.
Our kids love us just as much as we love them and all they really care about is being with you. Remember how they used to love playing with the wrapping and the cardboard box the present came in more than the gift itself? They are still that same person.
Don’t spend time and money you don’t have and stress yourself out about buying the perfect gift for everyone … just do what you genuinely can do and feel to do, and that will be enough.
Spend the day with people you love.
You may not be related to these people by blood. I know, more heresy, but we don’t always get along with our families and we don’t always have anything in common with them apart from being related by blood.
If you don’t like people and don’t have anything in common with them, you don’t usually invite them to your home for dinner, so why do it on Christmas Day just because they are your family?
Spend the day with people you love and care about. And if you don’t feel like this about your family, deal with why, so that you can enjoy seeing them if you want to.
Christmas Day is not a thing for everyone in the world.
There are billions of people in the world who don’t celebrate Christmas.
There are billions of people who are hungry, even starving, trapped in war zones, incarcerated, slaves, and in all manner of hideous situations.
It is good to remember this from time to time, and to appreciate all that we have, so we don’t get too caught up in our first world problems.
You don’t have to be with other people to have a lovely day.
Most of us spend the day with others, but we are not all able to do this. Some may be working away from home, and some may not have other people to be with.
Spare a thought for people in these situations, some of whom may come to see you as a patient on Christmas Day, just to experience some human connection. This is one of the joys and privileges we have as doctors, to be there for people in their time of need.
And if you are one of these people who don’t have other people, you can still be with yourself.
At the end of the day, this is all we have, in truth, our connection to ourselves, and through that connection, we can feel our connection with all others.
Don’t forget what this day is actually about.
Christmas Day is theoretically the day that Jesus was born.
And we celebrate it because He came to show us that you could live a life of love in this world, God-forsaken as it may appear at times.
Sure, it is the end of the year, we can all eat, drink and sleep it off, but don’t forget what Christmas Day is truly about … a celebration of Love.
Great advice Dr. Anne and I have tried what you have suggested your suggestions really do make for a truly restful and joyous time with family and or friends instead of the usual stress and post Christmas financial fallout!
Thank you Alannah, yes, they really are tried and true suggestions and I am glad they work for you too… Happy Christmas to you and your family and friends… enjoy!
Some of the ideas may seem like heresy to those who dream of having the ‘perfect’ Christmas. But let’s face it, we in the Southern Hemisphere have already ‘failed’ as there is not a chance of snow and its too hot for the whole baked dinner! So the perfect Christmas is something we have to feel and develop for ourselves. Your tips on alcohol not being breakfast food and sugar not being real food made me laugh but they are also common sense. The best tip for me is that our presence is the real present. This is what our kids actually want from us as parents – it’s so true the saying that money can’t buy love. Presence is the greatest present we can give to our own bodies and to each other.
Thank you Fiona. I am glad my ‘heresy’ resonated with you too… merry Christmas!
Dear Anne, I enjoy reading your posts and to know you are well. Merry Christmas. Ram Seshadri
how lovely to hear from you!
I am glad you are enjoying our website and I am well indeed, in no small part thanks to your tender loving and expert medical care…
Great sharing Anne and a reminder where it is all about: sharing ourselves with each other, therefore our presence is our biggest present to each other. All the rest are embellishments like we put in the Xmas tree. I can see, feel and witness around me how the so-called embellishments seem to have taken over, cause stress and a loss of sight of the actual tree so to speak. I smile now by the thought that just one light in the tree is enough to fill the room. Keep it simple, shine our light these days, every day.