By Robyn Wilder
Christmas can be stressful, and among the stressors we all know about – overspending, loneliness, the constant audio spamming of Christmas songs – less discussed is the pressure of enforced activities. One Dutch study even suggests spending the festive season with your in-laws can damage your mental health, so that’s one visit to cross off your Christmas list.
Everyone I know tends to pack Christmas full of “doing” – whether it’s events to make the festive period “magical” for your children (Let’s go to a reindeer centre! Let’s visit Santa’s grotto! Let’s do some Christmas crafting), wanting to spend time with the aforementioned brain-melting in-laws, or falling into that social trap where you and your friends bleat, “We must get together before Christmas!” as though you’ll all turn into pumpkins at the stroke of midnight.
But, with Christmas being so close to the winter equinox, this period is also meant to be about all that quasi-hibernation goodness: slowing down and snuggling up with your loved ones, turning on little lamps to warm up the darkness on the shortest days of the year.
We all assume we’ll have a day over the Christmas period to schlep about our houses in our pyjamas, sleepily scarfing up the leftover chocolates of the festive season, and enjoying the vast tracts of having zero obligations. But that doesn’t happen, does it? We tend to over-schedule, and most of us don’t actually set aside any days for regrouping. So Christmas Day comes and goes, we keep going and going and doing and doing – and then we’re surprised when we wake up one morning and it’s time to do the school run and go back to work.
So here’s a radical idea. No matter what your Boxing Day plans are, cancel them. Pull down the blinds. Send all your calls to voicemail. Clamber back into your pyjamas, make everyone a hot chocolate, and get your entire family to pile their presents in the front room while you stick on a cheesy Christmas movie and you all really investigate everything you’ve received.
Today, you could nap. Mull wine. Take that one bath bomb someone’s given you and actually have a bath with it, instead of letting it moulder in a drawer until it gets all gross. Ask your kid to show you how to play Death Standing. Don’t tidy up. Read a book. Have a competition to build the tallest possible Christmas leftover sandwich. Don’t wash up. Fall asleep in a glass of wine from your second mulling session, in front of the Doctor Who Christmas special.
Parenting is hard. This year has been hard. Christmas is hard, and all three of those things mixed together is hard on everyone. Give yourself a day off. Give yourself the week off, if you can. But, honestly, allow yourself this one day, at least, to rest and regroup. Because – and if you’re a parent you’ll know this already – you might as well give yourself a break, because no one else will do it for you.
Who knows, just the gift of a little downtime could make your 2020 look that much brighter. Merry Christmas!