Shining a little light this Christmas

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
’Tis the season to do everything at once, but also to go a little easy on yourself, writes life coach Jan Aitken.

Jan Aitken
Jan Aitken
The sharp pointy end of the year has arrived - again. Is Christmas coming around more quickly these days or is it just me? Maybe it is a sign I’m getting older.

This is the end of the year that is often filled with "mixed blessings", a charming, euphemistic term for fun and stress! There’s plenty to be getting on with in the lead up to Christmas, trees to decorate, gifts to organise, food to prepare, and the last couple of weeks of work to plough through while everyone wants everything done by yesterday.

I can’t quite figure out what the rush is all about, we’ve known Christmas has been coming for the last 365 days. Yet here I am again, mightily underprepared. I just can’t seem to get into the swing of it all this year and that’s something I’ve heard from a lot of people. Many are just plain tired and worn down from the last couple of disrupted years. Changes such as the appearance of Covid-19 create uncertainty and we don’t much like that. We humans like a bit of certainty, predictability, we’re happier when we can control things.

But however we feel about Christmas it is just around the corner and there are often school events to attend, the usual household chores to sort, town goes nuts, parking is at a premium, the budget is getting stretched and if you hear Snoopy’s Christmas one more time you’ll be tempted to shove the Red Barron into next year. The joy and excitement can fast give way to a serious case of the "bah humbugs" and some very Grinch- like behaviour!

Christmas isn’t always fun and joyful, for many it can be lonely, stressful or reminiscent of times they’d rather forget.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my festive season to be a mental, emotional, physical or financial burden and I suspect most of us would rather avoid any or all of those options.

So how can we look after ourselves in the holiday season?


As Christmas and the New Year rapidly approaches, it is OK to feel overwhelmed and burnt out by another year of change and uncertainty.

Be kind to yourself and others when planning what you will do this festive season and remember not everyone has to celebrate Christmas your way.


Don’t put yourself under pressure to create the "perfect" Christmas.

Only spend what you can afford, do something meaningful for others instead of buying gifts you can’t afford. Spend time with people who are supportive and love you.

It’s OK to say "no" and change the things you would normally only do out of obligation or tradition. The more stressors you can remove the more opportunity you will have to relax and enjoy the period.


There’s no point in worrying about the future or dwelling on the past. All we have is the here and now. Focus on what’s happening now and celebrate the things that bring you joy, no matter how small. Being mindful can help centre your mental, emotional and physical self, promote better mental health overall. Practising mindfulness can also help prevent becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s happening around you.


Don’t expect badly behaved relatives or friends to play nice just because it’s Christmas. Maybe you just shouldn’t invite them or spend time with them.

If there’s tension between your family and friends consider some strategies to make the experience easier. Break up celebrations to limit any clashes. For example, if possible, catch up with one group on Christmas Eve and the other on Christmas Day.

Plan an activity to keep people distracted and engaged, such as a pool party, backyard cricket game or board games tournament.


If you want to feel well throughout the festive season, limit your alcohol, eat well and keep active. While it may be tempting to cope with stress by increasing alcohol consumption it’s better to look for a longer term solution.

Try not to overdo the high sugar/high fat food. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and lean meat, and drink lots of water in between the occasional festive indulgence.

Keep active, sure it’s a time to sleep in and relax but a brisk 20-minute walk a day will release endorphins, help you feel relaxed and happy, and help boost your immune system.


Helping others or performing small acts of kindness has been proven to increase your own internal levels of satisfaction and boost your self-esteem. It’s a win for the person you’ve shown kindness to and yourself!

You could do some festive volunteering at a local charity or community centre, take a festive treat to a lonely neighbour, or collect old books and clothes and donate them to an op shop. The opportunities are endless to show a little kindness over Christmas.


If you’re facing a difficult time over the Christmas and New Year period, it’s important to reach out and get support. It could be as simple as sending a text to a friend, making a phone call or inviting someone over for a cup of coffee to talk about what’s happening.

If you are struggling check out for numbers to call to get support.

Whatever you do and wherever you find yourself this Christmas and New Year, try to do some things that fill your tank, bring you joy, laughter and fun.

Jan Aitken is a Dunedin-based life coach.

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