Life has an uncanny knack of cranking up the pressure on us on a near-constant basis. We live in an age dominated by social media, where it is very easy for people to portray they’re living perfect lives whilst we all know the reality is highly likely to be considerably different. It is an age when there is considerable pressure to keep up with the Joneses, to pretend we’re someone we’re not on Facebook and Instagram, to show off our nice houses (but not our crippling mortgage payments), our nice cars (but not the fact that it’s a lease agreement and we’ll never own a tangible asset), our nice holiday snaps from our luxury break abroad (but not the fact that we’ll be paying it off on our credit card over a subsequent 12-month period), a nice phone (but not the fact that the contract payments over a 2-year period will be over £1000), and many other elements of life where we must highlight material images in a bid to prove we’re living a happy and fulfilled life.
Then there are what I’ll call the family pressures. The pressure to be the perfect husband / wife / father / mother / son / daughter etc, despite that being a complete myth. Let’s not mention the pressure of getting and retaining a good job to fund all the things listed above. Life is constantly pressurised and perhaps worst of all is the pressure to be someone we feel others want us to be, rather than actually being ourselves.
I’ll badge all of the above as everyday pressures. Unfortunately, these are only exacerbated during the Christmas period. In addition to all of this, we experience different seasonal pressures. The pressure to buy nice presents; to buy nice decorations; to buy an endless surprise of luxurious food and alcohol; to say ‘yes’ to everything, not let people down, and attend every house party, night out, family gathering, and work party we’re invited to. It’s exhausting and can easily be very damaging in terms of our mental health. And just what do we achieve by addressing all of this? Very little indeed.
The older I get (and I’m 45 now so hopefully, if I’m lucky, I’m pretty much at half-time in my life right now), the more I realise that the materialistic elements of life don’t matter one jot. Again, as I have done previously, I must stress that none of this is a slur on those who do many or all of the examples I’ve listed above. I’ve done my fair share, as I’m sure most people have. It’s just that more and more these days I’m understanding and appreciating that life isn’t about ‘things’ or material possessions at all – its about experiences, people, relationships and being the person you absolutely want to be. It’s about attempting to live a happy and fulfilled life and being a decent person. I firmly believe this, deep down, is the aim of the vast majority of people, and yet we continue to get sucked into this materialistic world where spending money we don’t have and buying things we don’t need is deemed to be far more important and commonplace than it needs to be, especially at Christmastime. The real kicker here is that it’s a very difficult lifestyle to break.
So, what can we try to do to change this? To begin, this is actually the perfect time of year to start chipping away, begin bringing about a change, and do ourselves the world of good at the same time. Some may argue that things shouldn’t be any different where kids are concerned though I believe they are. It’s easier attempting to do this with people who will have the emotional intelligence and experience to fully understand the reasoning behind it. Some children will but many won’t. Adults certainly should though so try to gradually edge away from all the materialistic trappings and think a little more creatively. Create something. Make something. Write something personal. When spending money, consider buying something that will lead to an experience and happy memories; perhaps a nice meal out, a trip to the cinema or the theatre, a day out at a location that is special to whoever you’re buying for, or a framed favourite photo. Anything that will stir up genuine emotion and happiness in whoever you’re buying for. It isn’t all about present buying though. Just making that effort to connect with those nearest and dearest to you this Christmas, both family and friends (without necessarily saying yes to every single invite that comes your way!), can be highly beneficial. When you’re in the company of others, concentrate on making the most of that time. Engage, enjoy the moment, talk, listen, laugh, hug, tell stories, reminisce. Don’t spend that precious time checking the Boxing Day football scores or your Twitter feed or Facebook profile every 5 minutes. Those things can wait. Those things won’t take offence if you ignore them for a while. Ultimately, those things aren’t important. Do something that will give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside and hopefully make you feel good about life. The chances are, if you approach Christmas in this way, others you connect with will feel exactly the same way. As Charles Dickens wrote in A Christmas Carol; “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” Isn’t that much more preferable than worrying about how far away the January payday is and what the New Year credit card bill will look like? Life is pressurised enough as it is – please don’t let Christmas make things even worse.
Take care and best wishes,