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Managing the Festive Season - Part 1: Festive Stress

This is a transcript of Live the 8Wise™ Way Podcast.

Episode Twenty-Seven:

Managing the Festive Season – Part 1: Festive Stress

Welcome everybody to the Live the 8WiseTM Way podcast with me, Kim Rutherford, author, Psychotherapist, and the creator of the 8WiseTM method for better mental health and wellbeing. Thank you for joining me. How are you doing today, I hope you are doing well.

For this episode we are going all in. We are now in December, the festive period is upon us. That brings us four weeks, four whole weeks, of what is lovingly known as festive stress. Now, I love the Christmas period. I love the Christmas period more than I love Christmas Day. I love the build-up; I love everything about it. I cannot wait. I’m that annoying person who cannot wait to get their Christmas decorations up. I love nothing more than sitting at the end of a busy day with nothing but the Christmas tree lights on, some festive music in the background, I have special festive mugs and I would drink a nice hot chocolate from there, and I absolutely love it and if the dog is snuggled on my lap at the same time, it is the perfect, perfect, festive evening for me.

But let’s be realistic, that’s the lovely stuff at Christmas, the gifts, the receiving of gifts, the seeing friends, the seeing family, the social side of it. Those things can be really enjoyable for lots of people, but they can also be incredibly stressful for lots of people. In fact, at this time of year, we see stress levels increasing really, really, dramatically. That’s not necessarily just because this season brings us stress that we don’t experience all year round, but what is very common is that this time of year actually raises issues or shines a light on some of the issues in our lives that we are experiencing all year round. What I like to think of as the low bubbling stress that’s there all the time, and then it comes to the surface at this time of year.

So, I wanted to spend some time with you really just talking through what some of the most common Christmas stresses are, or common festive stresses are. Let’s be realistic, this isn’t necessarily just about Christmas, I mean Christmas, if you celebrate Christmas, is really just like a lot of other religious festivals. It’s like a lot of other events, it’s about celebration, it’s about spending time with family, it’s about spending time with friends, it’s about building those memories. If you remove the religious connotation to it, then actually it’s the same for almost every single person on the planet. The stress that we experience at this time of the year is the same as a lot of stress that people experience when it comes to celebrating birthdays, celebrating exams, celebrating anything in their lives. So, although this is specifically called festive stress, if you do not experience the festive periods, if you do not celebrate the festive period, if this isn’t your thing, then that’s okay, but you still could genuinely gain some information from this that might help you with the stress that comes up from similar events in your life or similar situations that you experience.

Today’s episode, we’re keeping it really simple, we are calling it festive stress. In fact, what this is, is episode one of probably a five-part series which is all about managing the festive season. So, managing the festive season, part one is all about festive stress.

Now, did you know there are around 10. 10 of the most common Christmas stresses out there are festive stresses and what I want to do is I want to talk through all of them a bit briefly with you, give you some idea of why they’re actually triggering you and leave you with some ideas of how you might be able to reduce that stress in your life if it is bringing stress towards you, right now.

Now this might not be a major surprise, but the most, the most, common stressful situation within the festive period is family time versus me time and what tends to happen, whether you’re close with your family or not, there’s an obligation usually around this period of time to spend time with your family. Now, this might be an amazing opportunity for lots of people, but it could be an absolute period of dread for other people, and so we’ve got to be realistic with this obligation. Does this obligation fill us with joy, or does this obligation fill us with dread. If it feels us with joy, go forth and conquer my friend. Go spend the time having wonderful festivities with your family, playing those games, eating that food, making memories that you will talk about for many, many years to come. But for those of you finding that actually it’s a period of time you’re not looking forward to and you’d prefer a little bit more time to yourself, then maybe this is what you really need to be thinking about. It’s about how you balance the time with those in your family and how you balance the time with yourself as well and this really links predominantly to certain areas of 8WiseTM and if you think about what the 8WiseTM model is, the 8WiseTM model really outlines the key eight pressure points of your wellness spectrum.

Therefore, what’s going to happen is, certain life events are going to trigger or enhance the pressure on those pressure points and family time versus spending time with yourself or quality time for yourself definitely pushes on some of those pressure points.

Number one, it’s going to affect your social wellbeing pressure point. So, the element that is the social wellbeing or social wellness element to my 8WiseTM model. What this basically means is that the pressure point here is spending time with people that you may have not seen for a while or spending quality time with people that you don’t normally spend time with. This can bring situations linked to interaction, conversations, sometimes arguments, sometimes bringing up old issues. Sometimes there’s not a lot in common there. It could be whose house you’re going to spend time at, who’s going to do the traveling, who’s going to do the cooking. There are so many issues that can come up when it comes to family obligations, and sometimes when there’s so many people in our family and we want to spend as much time with all of them, we can definitely leave ourselves behind in this. Therefore, what we can end up having is burning out a little bit because we’re trying to do everything for everybody else, fit everybody else in, and not actually look after ourselves this festive period as well.

So, it is really important that you start putting a decent plan in place with regards to your time, making sure you balance your time effectively. Look at your calendar, look at your timetable that you might set for yourself. Look at what is happening for you over the next few weeks, and make sure that you are putting it in the diary. That’s what I have to do. I have to book it in, book in time with myself, crazy isn’t it, that we have to do that in this modern, crazy, busy world but that’s where we’re at. So what I’m recommending that you do is have a look at your calendar, have a look at your diary, put in there, almost diarize, the dates that you have with your family, and then also diarize the dates that you need to have for just you. Do you know what, if you just want to sit there in your jimjams, eating a selection box, watching a crazy, wonderful Christmas film on your own, it’s perfectly okay. I used to, I had a very, very good friend when I was younger, and he used to say to me his dream was just to wake up every Christmas Day, he’d have a bath, he’d have one of those mini bottles of champagne to himself, and that was his me-time on Christmas Day before he ever, ever went to see any members of his family. What a wonderful way to start your day. So, it’s about really looking at how do you balance your me-time with the time that you spend with your family. So, this means also things like, have that bath first thing on Christmas Day, maybe go for a walk on your own on Christmas Day before you head to everybody else, maybe you drive alone rather than wake up somewhere on Christmas Day and it’d be full on from the moment you wake up in the morning that you actually say “no, I’m going to wake up in my own bed. I’m going to have a good quality sleep the night before, I’m going to wake up, have my own breakfast, and then I’m going to head over there and have that quiet time to myself before all the shenanigans and the fun actually start there”.

So, family time versus me-time. This will trigger your social wellness, this can trigger your emotional wellness because obviously it can bring us quite a lot of stress and anxiety. It can also trigger our physical wellness if we’re not looking after ourselves well, if we’re not sleeping because we’re stressed, if we’re not sleeping because we’re anxious, if we’re then going to over-indulge because we spend so much time with different members of the family. So it can really impact all of those elements on the 8WiseTM wellness wheel, which is ultimately your core pressure points for your wellness spectrum.

So if you are somebody who is struggling with balancing the time between yourself and your family during the festive period, especially if you don’t get that much time off work, then I recommend you go into planning mode and you actually diarize the time you’re going to spend with each person or each set of people and make sure that you diarize important time for yourself as well. This is your time to reboot and get yourself ready for, well, get yourself ready for the New Year really because 2023 is coming at us, it’s coming at us fast like a train. So, you want to get yourself ready, put that cognitive functions at where they need to be. You need to be well rested and rebooted, which means me-time, quality time, self-care time, as well as time with those in your family that you want to spend time with.

Now the second one, the second most common stress trigger when it comes to the festive period is spending money on your loved ones. It can take hours when you have to search the internet or search the shops buying everything, then you have to get everything. Then you have to wrap everything. Then you have to make sure you get it to everybody and then you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the time to do all of that because, let’s be honest, life can get in the way. So, before you know it, you’re panic buying, you’re panic shopping, or your inbox is so full of Black Friday deals you don’t know which ones to go through, so you start buying a lot of everything. Before you know it, your credit cards are maxed out and life is not fun when you are living at that pace with those types of pressures. And it’s common, I mean, for me, we have a lot of gifts, we’ve got some big families so there’s a lot of gifts and I have to plan it out. I’ve already planned it actually, I’ve bought most of the gifts. I’m one of those people who chooses to shop online at the big shops and the little shops because the thought of going into the shops this time of year just freaks me out. It’s just too much choice, too much pressure to do when I’ve only got like an hour spare. So, I always do my online shop and get it sent to the house. What I always do is ask people what they want so I’ve got some form of list and I try to get as much of it done before the end of November as I possibly can. Now, I know a lot of you are listening to this thinking “wow, aren’t you organised”. No, not really because I know it’s going to take me all of December to actually wrap all of these gifts and get them sent to the people that live at different parts of the country, or in my case they live abroad because I’ve got to factor in sending gifts to places like New Zealand, which you can’t just do a couple of days before.

So, that’s why I try to plan to that extent of, if I can get most of the gifts in, I can then spend most of my December wrapping gifts, and then I can get them sent to the people that I really want to make sure they have them for Christmas day because there’s nothing worse than getting a Christmas gift after Christmas Day, I think. That’s what I think anyway, you might not think that, you might love it, that the gifts keep rolling in. But for me personally, I like to think that the people I love in my life have the gift from me to open on Christmas Day.

So if spending money on your loved ones you find is causing you stress, then it is because it’s triggering you again on multiple elements of your wellness spectrum. Financial wellness is being hit really hard with this, and we know that a lot of people can spiral into financial issues over Christmas by trying to do the right thing by lots of people. So, again, you’ve got to set yourself a budget. You’ve got to set yourself some boundaries with people. I always ask people at this time of year, how do you sort Christmas gifts out with your friends and family. You know, in our family, we just literally ask everybody what they want. We get them that one main gift and we might choose to get lots of little bits around that as well. One of my friends says they do it as a Secret Santa, and the way they do it as a Secret Santa is everybody gets one member of the family, that is their secret Santa, and they set an amount, usually about £50 that they will spend on their particular Secret Santa.  Someone else was saying to me that they have to buy everybody a gift and it has to have a certain amount on it, but if you want to, you could all then put that money together to spend that on that person as well. So, it’s great if you’ve got a family of five, for example, and the three kids want to put all of their money together for mum’s gift and buy her a big gift rather than a small gift.

I really love asking people how they do all of this every year, but what you need to do is definitely take into consider that it’s going to break into different stress points when it comes to spending and buying gifts for your loved ones, number one, it’s what they want. You know, it’s that fear of not getting them something that they’d want or getting them something they wouldn’t like. So, it’s making sure you found a way to find out what they might want. Then it’s making sure it fits within your budget and there are lots of options. If it doesn’t fit into a financial budget, you can buy very small things, you can make things, there are lots of different ways to keep the money situation low cost. It doesn’t have to be expensive. It really is the thought that counts and it really is that, and it really should be that. So don’t put that pressure on yourself to have to get the most expensive gifts for everybody. It is about giving what you can afford, and I think that’s quite acceptable under the current climate. I think people have a very understanding of that. So don’t put the pressure on yourself when others might not be putting the pressure on you.

Then it’s all about the wrapping. That’s a little bit different because it’s going to take a little bit of time, so, it’s about making sure you’ve got the time for your wrapping, your time for your postal stuff as well. All of this breaks down and what it does, it breaks down into affecting and pushing the pressure point on your financial wellness if you don’t get your budget in place. It will put the pressure on with regards to your emotional wellness and the stress factors of emotional wellness if you do not get some prep in place, get some planning in place, get some time management in place with regards to everything as well. It can obviously cause you some social wellness issues if you are nervous about getting people the wrong gift or not getting people things at all and things like that. So, it’s making sure the communication there is open with family with regards to how you want to do your Christmas gifts or any form of festive gifts any time of the year as well. It’s about open communication, making sure you’re living within the boundaries and the budgets that you can really, really afford, and making sure you’re doing all of that within the timeframes of what’s realistic for your time management and your life. By doing all of that, you can reduce the stress linked to spending on your loved ones as gifts, and that’s common Christmas stressor number two.

Now number three. This is a ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, oh my God is the pressure on. The pressure is on every year to go bigger and better, to get what everybody else is getting and it’s harder if you’ve got kids, it’s even worse because the pressure is on everywhere they look from every other friend they’ve got, every other parent of all the friends they’ve got, every single TV ad. Everywhere you look, the pressure is on to keep up with the Joneses, with the newest, biggest, best thing in the world and everything is on social media so you can’t get away from sharing it. We share our Christmas trees, they’re bigger and better every year, they’re shinier every year. So you’ve got one of two choices. If all of this is worrying you, then don’t do it. There you go, option number one. If it is worrying you and you still want to do it, but you know it’s going to cause you stress, then that’s your other option. You can either choose to be stressful and keep up with the Joneses even though you know either financially you can’t afford to do it, you don’t have the space, you don’t have the time, whatever might be the reason that you know it’s not realistic. If it’s not realistic, then don’t do it, because if you do do it, it’s actually going to cause you more issues. Those issues will link further into later December and into January and so on, and so on and so on.

So, make the decision that the only person in this world you have to really keep up with is yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t go on social media and think oh my God, they’ve got the eight foot tree this year, I’ve got to get the eight foot tree this year. Actually, start to look at your life and say no, this is who I am, this is what I want, this is my boundary, this is my budget, and I’m going to have the best, most amazing time I can have that is realistic to me and my life. And by doing that, straight away you reduce the amount of stress you put yourself under. Let the Joneses live the way they want to live, that’s their choice, you don’t have to keep up with it because it’s not anything to keep up with. Their way is their way, your way is your way and you need to make the decision on how that’s going to be, but certainly reduce the stress by not doing the constant comparison to everybody else because when you’re constantly comparing yourself to everybody else, again, this puts pressure on your financial wellness.

When your budget starts to become a problem, it starts putting pressure on things like your environmental wellness “why can’t I fit the big tree in the house, maybe we should start looking at a bigger house”. It can affect you with regards to, again, your stress levels and your anxiety with regards to your emotional wellness. It can actually affect your relationships with other people when you feel like you have to keep up with them, so it affects your social wellness.

All of this has a big impact on, obviously, your overall spiritual wellness of who you are and the values you live by, and your intellectual wellness as well, because it stops you from growing and doing the things that you want to do and becoming the better version of yourself. Because, really, what you’re doing is becoming a version of you that suits everybody else, not necessarily you.

So by focusing on keeping up with the Jones’s, you’re actually putting intense pressure on at least four of the 8WiseTM pressure points there so it’s not going to make you feel good if you keep doing it and you know it’s not realistic for your life. So that’s what I would suggest starting to look at, are you a keep up with the Joneses? Are you buying for comparison reasons? Are you decorating for comparisons reasons? Are you putting a lot of pressure on yourself to keep up with everybody else when really the only person you have to look after and keep up with is yourself. It’s all about what you want. It’s all about what’s realistic for what you can have as well. So that’s number three.

Moving to number four and this is, this is a really big one and this is heavy on my heart. This is because it’s all about Christmas loneliness. You know, we talk about Christmas as if it’s all about being able to spend quality time with friends and family if you are lucky enough to have that in your life, and so many people aren’t. And if you don’t have that in your life, there are ways to get through this festive period without feeling that intense loneliness that so many people find themselves at Christmas or any time of the year. And if this ever happened to you, then you’ll know, I mean, it’s that whole issue of everybody seems to be in a couple, everybody is suddenly doing things with their family, everybody’s going to family events. I mean, I live a long way from my family, my family live the other end of the country and I feel this from time to time when I see everybody say to me “oh, I can’t do this weekend because I’m going out shopping with my sister”, or things like that. And I’m so far away from my sister. I can’t do any of those lovely things. We try and cram a whole December full of festivities into the three days that we get with each other every year. And so I know what it can be like.

I’ve also been single at Christmas when everybody else seems to be a couple and everywhere you go everybody seems to be going out together in couples and doing all of that kind of stuff. And there’s also that situation so many people living in areas where they don’t have any family, they’ve only just moved there so they don’t have many friends yet. They might be living in a country that they’ve been there a very short time so their friends and family that they would normally spend Christmas with are so far away. And it can be incredibly, incredibly lonely and your mind can start wondering. It can lead to some low mood and it can lead to these feelings of depression and worthlessness, which really trigger our emotional wellness and our spiritual wellness as well.

So, it’s about finding ways that you can link to your community. It’s having a look at what’s out there. I mean, I’ve got clients who come to me and are so lonely at Christmas by not having anybody to spend time with, I always recommend try and find yourself the food banks, the care homes, those people that are looking for volunteer staff because they’re amazing communities. I used to work in the health and social care sector on Christmas Day in the festive period and some of these care homes are phenomenal experiences. They really are. And if you want to feel part of something, then really volunteer your time to go and look after or be with others who are in a similar situation to you or might even be worse off than you. It will boost you. It’ll boost you so much. You might meet some new friends and also you won’t be alone. You’ll be having a shared experience with other people who are similar to you, in a similar situation to you. And who knows what new social world that can bring you in 2023, if you start now looking at how you can build your connections with others, how you can build your community and how you’re going to interlink with your community.

So if you are feeling lonely at Christmas, I do truly understand it, and it’s a horrible feeling and I do wish you all the best, but I would recommend you start doing some research now about what is available in your area, things that you can get linked into. A lot of the charities will be looking for people to come in and help. A lot of organizations out there will be so happy to have you offering to come in and help and help cook and help give dinners out or just come and entertain. Just kind of sit and chat to someone else you might be lonely on that day as well. And there’s lots that goes on on social media as well this time of year with regards to helping to reduce loneliness. So, if you are somebody who experiences it, obviously loneliness does trigger us on so many levels, emotional wellness being the big one, spiritual wellness being another huge one, social wellness, you know, just not feeling great about ourselves and feeling pretty low. If you know that’s you right now, let’s turn it around right now. Start doing the research. Start putting yourself out there. Find some ways that over the festive period you are actually getting out there in your community and spending some time with people and boosting your own mental health and wellbeing as well.

Now this brings us to the next one. Christmas is supposed to be this time it’s “’tis the season to be jolly tra la la la, la, la la la”, but that’s not always possible, is it? Let’s be honest, sometimes we are not in a great place. Sometimes something may have just happened in our lives that has put us in a pretty low place, we may have lost someone, we may not be going through a great time. We might have been made redundant. There’s so many things in our life that can trigger low mood and depression, and so it can put a lot of pressure on us to think that, actually during this period of time, I’m supposed to put a smile on my face and get out there and pretend that everything’s okay so that everybody else around me can continue to have a good time and be jolly as well. And this can lead us to lots of things. This can lead us to excess alcohol, it can lead us to excess drug usage, it can lead us to things that are trying to make us feel better so that we can pretend to be happy, and we can pretend to be jolly when really deep down that we are not. It also means that sometimes what can happen is we can end up leading to arguments with other people, we can suppress how we feel in certain situations, letting certain situations really, really bother us, but do nothing about it because we don’t want to upset the period. We don’t want to upset the mood, we don’t want to ruin Christmas.

I work with so many clients who are in really, really unhappy relationships, and they say “I can’t end it now, it’s too close to Christmas. I don’t want to ruin their Christmas”. But they will be absolutely miserable for the next six weeks because they didn’t want to ruin someone else’s Christmas and they’ll be depressed, and they’ll be upset and they’ll be moody and they’ll be drinking more. That will cause more arguments and more horrible memories and more horrible experiences. So sometimes you’ve got to be really honest with yourself. Don’t put yourself under more stress to try and do right by everybody else when you are feeling miserable because of the situation you are in. If you need to change a situation before Christmas so you become happier today, right in the now, then do that. Don’t put it off to make sure that everybody else has a really good time because you’re not helping anybody. And what happens is it creates different negative situations because when we’re suppressing that kind of unhappiness, that depression, that low mood, it comes out in different ways. It comes out in our behaviours, it comes out in our language, it comes out in the way we talk to people. So, when we actually think we’re doing good by keeping it all in so other people can have a good time we’re actually not, and what actually happens is people can sense there is something there and it’s that atmosphere that ends up causing other problems. So if you are putting things off because you want it to be a jolly season for everybody else, remember you matter. Your mindset matters. Your mental health matters. Your happiness matters. If you are not happy don’t put it off to the new year. I know you think you are helping people, but you are not. Bad news is bad news, whether it’s today, tomorrow, Christmas Day, or the day after. It’s always bad news. There is no right way, there is no right time. So you have to look at when is the right time, it has to be the right time for you. And if you’re not happy today, then the right time is now. So, another big stressor, people putting things off because they don’t want to upset the apple cart during the festive period and making themselves a lot more miserable in the meantime. If that’s you, have a good think about it and have a think about what changes do you need to make right now so that it isn’t a horrific time over the Christmas period for you.

Okay, this is a big one for me, I find this a major, major stressor at Christmas is when you didn’t plan on giving somebody something or you didn’t plan on giving them a gift, you didn’t plan on giving them a card, but then they’ve got you one and you’re “oh my God, I don’t know what to do, I didn’t get them anything so I’ve suddenly got to rush out and buy something”. My in-laws are great at this. They have like a secret stash of stuff that they can quickly wrap and give to somebody, and they’re just amazing, amazing people in that way. But I get a little bit nervous about it, so I get really worried and the guilt that I feel if somebody gives me something and I wasn’t expecting anything, it’s really, really, really overwhelming for me. I think it’s overwhelming for a lot of people, that stress of what are we going to do? So, every year, what we do in our house, we give everybody on our street a Christmas card. We don’t really give that many Christmas cards out anymore, basically it’s just a waste of paper and card to be perfectly honest with you and if I want to tell somebody how I feel at Christmas these days, I just send them a message or a text that way now, a technical way rather than Christmas cards. But I do know a lot of people still really like Christmas cards, so I always give to our direct family. So, parents, siblings, they all get proper Christmas cards and everybody who lives on my street gets a Christmas card because what we do is we tend to throw a street party at Christmas every year. So, my card goes out with an invite to every person on my street saying Merry Christmas and you’re welcome to come out, have a bit of mulled wine and a mince pie with us on a certain date every year but if anybody was then to start giving me gifts, that would really bother me. It would really worry me.

I remember last year a friend turned up for my party at Christmas and brought me this beautiful, beautiful gift, and I just felt so ashamed that I hadn’t done anything for them or bought them anything. We hadn’t discussed gifts. Nobody had mentioned gifts. It obviously was coming from an amazing place for them, from them, but I felt absolutely dreadful that I hadn’t got them something and it was too late for me to get them something as well. So, there is a lot of stress on this, should I give people something, shouldn’t I give people something. What do I do, do I wait until they’ve got me something or not. This can impact your budget as well. I mean, suddenly having to buy something you never thought you had to buy before so you’ve got to think about it. How would it impact you if somebody got you something and you hadn’t got them something. If this is going to impact you negatively on an emotional, mental state like it does for me, then maybe do what my in-laws do, maybe have those little smaller gifts, cheaper gifts, build it into your budget if you can, that you can give away to somebody or give them the IOU and say “look, I haven’t had a chance yet, but I’ll take you for dinner in the new year”. Maybe it’s find your way, find your framework to manage this stress point in so that you know, if this happens to you, you know you’re going to have to handle it.

Now there’s nothing wrong in saying thank you so much, I really wasn’t expecting anything hence I have not given you a gift. There is so many people who give without expecting to receive so it’s okay not to give a gift back as well if it’s something that wasn’t discussed, negotiated, or agreed upon and I think you don’t want to, at the end of the day gift giving is because you should want to, not because you’re expected to with everyone. So, make your decisions for yourself. If this is a stressor point for you, then work out how you’re going to handle it beforehand. Make that decision. Now, actually, I’m going to always have a little gift there, or I’m going to do IOUs and say to anybody “if you didn’t get me something, then if I didn’t get you something, sorry. Then what I will do is I’ll take you for dinner in the new year and we’ll have a catch up about how our Christmas was”. Nice and simple.

Now, the next one is a huge stress point for me. Huge. And it’s a huge stress point for the 2.3000 people who are currently sitting in my Facebook group because I have a Facebook group providing psychological support for those who’ve had bariatric surgery. I get all of these messages every single day. Especially now is the worry and the fear about what to eat at Christmas. Now, the Christmas food causes us so many problems in so many ways. It can cause problems with who’s paying for it all. It can be really expensive, big turkeys, all the trimmings, all of that kind of stuff and this time of year we’ve got all the amazing food adverts everywhere. Who wouldn’t want all of those things that we are seeing on our TV every day and we eat to excess at this time of year as well. So it actually is then our brain telling ourselves, Christmas, I want all of that wonderful stuff.

Overindulgence happens, overindulgence can come from “we’ve had to spend too much money on food, so now we have to eat it all because I feel so bad that I’ve paid for it all”. There’s one side of it. It could be that we’ve got a family coming to us, so there’s an expectation that there’s going to be lots there and constant eating and eating. So, it can really impact everything at Christmas, the food. If you think about most events, birthday events, parties, any form of religious event, any form of celebratory event tends to all rally around the food and it’s the one thing we all talk about. Let’s be honest, we talk about Christmas, I think my husband gets excited when a mince pie shows up in the shop. For me for Christmas, I always remember the little things at Christmas, truffles… chocolate truffles. Your favourite chocolates. I’m a big Turkish Delight fan. You know, the traditional stuff of rose and lemon. If I don’t get that in my Christmas box every year, I get very upset.

So, it’s all about food and that causes problems financially. It causes problems trying to work out who can eat what, when can they eat it, why can they eat it. And if you are going through any form of major change with regards to your eating habits, whether you may have disordered eating, eating disorders, gone through some major change, as I said through surgery. Then actually this time of year with regards to where the food can be a big, big issue. A big issue, and I mean much, much more than stress. I mean, it can really, really trigger some mental illness issues there as well. So if you are someone who knows that food around this period of time is triggering you and it’s affecting your emotional wellness, specifically your physical wellness with regards to how you’re eating and nutritious eating, it’s really impacting the environment that you’re in and making you feel unsafe if it’s impacting the way that you interact with your friends and interact with your family then you need to do something about it.

If it’s about the finances and you are having to do Christmas with lots of people, it’s about negotiating that maybe lots of people throw in. So you can get what you want, but it’s not all on your budget. There’s an option. Your other option is that you actually say, “we’re going to keep it a smaller Christmas meal this year and there’s options”. So have conversations with the people who are coming to your house to discuss what is okay and who’s willing to pitch in and maybe people are willing to buy different dishes and bring them round. If it comes to triggering you with regards to disordered eating or eating disorders, then I do, and I’m always going to say this to you because I would never say to anybody, try and deal with this on your own, I would say reach out to a therapist, even if it means just getting one or two sessions in before Christmas to get some coping tools in, to get some coping mechanisms in that can actually help you manage the festive period when it comes to food, that is going to be a very healthy way for you to manage this particular stressor.

Okay, so if you are somebody who suffers with disordered eating or eating disorders and you know that this period really triggers issues for you with regards to your own mental health, get the support beforehand, get that in place and get the help you need. It will make this process, it’ll make these next few weeks, a lot easier for you. And if you are experiencing, or you just had bariatric surgery, for example, and this is your first Christmas with a slightly different stomach, then all I can tell you is you can still eat and you can still eat all of those slider foods as well. So you’ve got to pick your foods right. You’ve got to know what your portion sizes are, you’ve got to know what nutritious value there is in everything and make sure that you get the best nutritious value for yourself because what you want is for you to be happy and healthy and enjoy this Christmas period.

If you want more information on that with regards to if you’re a bariatric client, then please, please, please feel free to come and find me on Facebook. Just message me and I will send you the link directly. Come and join the group. Come and join the Monday night lives and come and get that support. But yes, when it comes to food at Christmas, it’s all about getting the right support for you. You need to get support if it’s a trigger point, especially if it’s a big mental health trigger point, you need to get the support. So reach out, reach out to a therapist, talk to your friends, talk to your family, but make sure you get that support.

The final one I want to talk about today is people. One of the big ones at Christmas is the expectation that we are going to spend time with lots of people and that’s not just your family, it’s friends. There are work nights out, team nights out. It’s a very festive time. And if you are somebody who suffers with anxiety, specifically social anxiety, this can be a really, really, really triggering time for you. So it’s time to reduce the pressure, take some pressure off, let’s remove some of the panic. Let’s remove some of that wanting to hide away and start to look at the way that you can handle this situation. You don’t want to become a complete recluse because you know you want to enjoy the time, you want to spend time, you want to make memories with people, but you’ve got to remember that we want to keep your anxiety manageable. So know what your coping mechanisms are, make sure you’re implementing them, make sure you’re using them regularly.

You also want to make sure that you’re spending time with the people who don’t drain your energy too much, so you don’t have to go to the big parties, but spend some quality time, maybe one to one with some people instead. It’s a difficult time. Christmas is a difficult time. Festive times are difficult, the holidays in general, no matter what you celebrate, any celebration. In fact, they’re very difficult times when they’re around. All of these things about spending money and spending time with people and high expectations of society’s expectations of us, our own expectations of us, our family and friends’ expectations of us. So, we have to really look after ourselves.

Of course, we’re going to get stressed out at this time of year. It’s very, very normal, very common. And if you are getting stressed out at this time of year, then know that it is normal. You are perfectly normal, and there’s a lot of other people out there who are feeling exactly the same as you. It’s normal to get stressed out but understand what is triggering your stress. That’s the big one. If you understand now today what triggers your stress at this time, and you can, number one, put in place all the coping mechanisms that help you manage that stress effectively, that’s going to be really good if you can manage the situations and pre-empt what’s going to happen and manage those a little bit better, then that’s going to be really good as well.

Self-care at this time of year is really, really important, so it’s so easy to get wrapped up in giving and giving and giving to everybody else but make sure you give time to yourself. Put a budget in place, put your boundaries in place, know what’s realistic for you, because if you do that now, if you look after yourself and your stress levels at this time of year now, it means that you’re going into January with a healthier, happier mind and, as you know healthier, happier mind is what I’m all about. It’s all about Living the 8WiseTM Way. So understand which elements of your wellness wheel, your wellness model, whatever you want to call it, I call it the wellness spectrum, understand all eight of them. Understand which ones, for you, get triggered by the different stress situations and put in place some ways to manage them, but make self-care an important part of this festive period for you.

Of course, if you’ve got any issues with regards to anything I’ve said today, issues you want some more support or advice, please feel free to get in touch with me. You can contact me using the details below. You can contact me on every single place on social media. You can usually find me as @8WiseKim or @8WiseTherapy, absolutely anywhere. So feel free to get in contact if you would like any more inform.

Now, of course if you would like to understand more about how you can Live the 8WiseTM Way, this is a great time of year for you because you can ask for the book. You can access the book from my website or from about 39,000 online retailers across the world. And there’s a few books you can choose from. You can either get the, what I like to think now is the 8WiseTM Bible, which is 8WiseTM Ways to a Healthier, Happier Mind ‘the Mental Health Manual for the Modern World’ that is available everywhere. You can get access to it in paperback, Kindle version and hard back as well. Audio version, excited, excited, the audio version will be with you in May. Isn’t that awesome? You can also get a copy of the 12 Week Journal, the 12 Month Planner, and the Pocketbook of Wellbeing just to help you or a loved one get on their way to managing their mental health and wellbeing, so they can improve their quality of life.

On top of that, you can then sign up for the training courses too that are happening next year. And I made a decision this year not to do a Black Friday deal. I think it’s too overwhelming. I hate my inbox being full of it. So, I’ve decided instead I’m going to do a blue Monday, a blue Monday extravaganza so keep an eye out for that in January where you can get lots and lots of my services and products for a really, really, really cheap deal.

If you are hoping to make 2023 the year that you Live the 8WiseTM Way and get better mental health and wellbeing, then I promise you my extravaganza, my Blue Monday extravaganza, will be a way to help you do that. It’ll be a cost-effective way to help you do that.

So that is my first episode on how to manage the festive season. If you are feeling stressed, now is the time to do something about it. Put in place what you need to put in place, get your coping mechanisms in place, get your tools, your techniques in place, deal with those issues now before they get out of hand, and that way you can pretty much guarantee yourself a festive period because that’s what it is all about, a happier, healthier end of the year, so you can have a happier, healthier new year.

Thanks for joining me today. If this is your first episode, it would be great if you could comment, like, subscribe, all the usual stuff I ask people to do. There are a lot of people out there right now struggling on their own, unable to access support, and this podcast could be the support that they need. So if we share it, if we like it, if we comment on it, if we subscribe, it’s a great way of getting the message out there. And also head back, this is episode 27, so head back to episode one and really understand the 8WiseTM model and how to Live the 8WiseTM Way for you.

But thank you so much for joining me, Kim Rutherford, Psychotherapist, author, and the creator of the 8WiseTM method for better mental health and wellbeing. I will be back in your ears very, very soon. Until then, take care of yourself and bye for now.

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