The ‘Must Have’ Item For This Year’s Christmas List
By Victoria Bytel, Associate Elect, Lighthouse International
Can you imagine waking up Christmas morning and realising that although you ordered it, you forgot to pick up the turkey? Yes, planning at this time of year is key but have you stopped to ask yourself what type of Christmas you’re actually planning for?
You can plan with military precision, write lists, set reminders, decorate your home in line with this year’s festive trend and buy the most perfect gifts. However, if you end up exhausted before the big day has even arrived, if aunt Susan doesn’t think the gift you bought her is perfect after all and if your kids end up glued to their phones not interacting with anyone, will you consider the day a success?
Your biggest achievement may end up being to plan the joy right out of Christmas.
The Devastating Impact of Emotional Stress
“The number of cardiac deaths is higher on Dec. 25 than on any other day of the year, second highest on Dec. 26, and third highest on Jan. 1.”
Overindulgence certainly plays a part but researchers also found that an increase in emotional stress is a factor. This stress is triggered by juggling work and family commitments whilst preparing for the big day, financial worries, entertaining, family politics and the pressure of trying to deliver the perfect fairytale Christmas. Society sets expectations very high when it comes to Christmas and we fall over ourselves, and each other, trying to meet them.
The seemingly well-meaning Happy Christmas messages and perfect family photos we post on social media are often more about presenting a particular image than they are about genuinely wishing others well. If this seems harsh then ask yourself how happy you are when your post receives a higher than expected number of ‘Likes’?
An Alternative Reality
For many, behind the pursuit of so-called perfection lies stress, chaos, in-fighting and disappointment. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Christmas is a time for love, sharing, connecting with others and gratitude - these are the gifts we should be planning for at Christmas. With this in mind, close your eyes for a moment and imagine a Christmas where you, your family and friends got the most joy not from presents and turkey with all the trimmings but from time together; connecting, having fun, sharing and appreciating. What would it look and feel like if you could plan that into being? Feels good right?
Don’t Miss What Really Matters off Your Christmas List
This doesn’t mean you can’t give people gifts to show your appreciation, put on a party or enjoy a Christmas meal together. It doesn’t mean you can’t take photos to capture wonderful memories. It is a question of intention and balance. Why are you planning certain things and what do you want to achieve through them for yourself and others? Is there anything you could be doing more (or even less) of to ensure that love, service and appreciation don’t get missed off the list this year?
Every person, family and community is unique, and there lies the key. What does each want and need to feel and to add value?
Make time to sit down, ideally with your partner, family or friends, and create an additional Christmas list. One that is focused on the non-material gifts you want to give to others, the intended recipients and why this is important to both you and them. This might be visiting a family member or friend you kept meaning to see over the year but were too busy to get around to. It might be knocking on an eldery neighbour’s door and checking they have all they need, maybe even inviting them to join you. Or it might be volunteering with a local charity or community project. There are lots of options to foster community, appreciation and joy.
Consciously choosing not to fall into the ‘Fairytale Christmas trap’, and the stress that comes with it, will leave you with more time and energy to invest into your relationships. Now that is a gift worth giving.
Still need inspiration? The following video is a powerful reminder to appreciate the people around us, and to be considerate of their needs as well as our own:
Reach Out For Support
Have you forgotten an essential Christmas ingredient this year? Take another look at your list and ask yourself what you’re really planning for. If you’d like help planning more meaningful and effective time with family and friends, reach out on live chat and arrange an informal discussion with one of our family and relationship mentors.