During the Christmas season, there is a general misconception – or even pressure – to associate the holidays with happy memories and emotions, when in fact there are many people around the world who feel otherwise. Living in the Philippines may add another layer of stress: not only because of how much importance is placed on seasonal festivities and reunions, but also because of the general stigma surrounding mental health and expressing feelings of vulnerability. Whether you are excited or anxious, or both, here is your reminder that it is okay to feel both. At Mind You, we always say it is possible to feel happiness, sadness and everything in between at any given time – and Christmas is no exception. When you approach a stressful time with the right attitude and mindset, you will be able to persevere through any challenges you may be facing.
While Christmas is widely recognized as the most wonderful time of the year, it can also be recognized as a time for change. This time of the year you can change the way you are used to holding in your struggles and anxiety and instead learn to recognize them, bring them to light and make them a priority this time of the year. When you are experiencing ‘negative’ emotions, take note of them and identify when they happen. Give yourself the time and space to process what may initially feel overwhelming – when we think about why we are feeling these emotions, it gives us better clarity on the steps we can take to improve the situation because we begin to identify the causes or triggers.
There may be instances where you are pressured to attend parties or events, but remember that you reserve the right to say yes and no. Putting yourself first may feel wrong initially because you don’t want to offend the people inviting you, but because they value you, they will understand – if not now, then eventually. It’s in setting those boundaries that you are able to work with what makes you feel comfortable, which in turn will allow you to enjoy the holiday season at your own pace.
December is one of the busiest months of the year in the Philippines: the traffic jams are made worse by people doing last-minute Christmas shopping and attending Christmas events, which can no doubt add stress. Remember to plan your logistics to minimise risk of the worse of these traffic jams, but also take some time to breathe. If you’re in the car with family members, take this opportunity to have conversations with them.
You may also feel the need to go overboard with gifts and decorations. For instance, as a parent, you may feel a lot of pressure to make every Christmas the best one ever for your children – and that means countless gifts. But you need to remember the true essence behind all of these gestures: it’s gratitude, and spending quality time with your loved ones. Allocate some budget for these items, but do not reach the point where it becomes a financial discomfort. In this way, you also teach your children how to appreciate what is given to them.
At the end of the day, we all come from different backgrounds. Moreover, our unique human experiences contribute to the values and traditions we uphold. While there may be a general perception of how one should spend Christmas, how you choose to spend the season is wholeheartedly up to you. For Catholics, Christmas means the birth of Jesus Christ, for children, it’s the time where Santa Claus comes to bring gifts, for others, it’s a time to gather with family members and showcase gratitude, while for some it’s a time to give back to the community. There are a multitude of reasons behind the meaning of Christmas, so the important thing is to remember your “why” behind spending this holiday. When you are able to find your “why”, the yuletide season ultimately becomes more meaningful and memorable.