Who is holding you to ransom this Christmas:
The Ghost of Christmas Past, Present or Future?

I hear so many people say that Christmas no longer holds joy for them, some say it even holds dread. Who is holding you captive?

If you are being held captive, against your will, by one of these Ghosts, perhaps it is time to say that the ransom is paid. Give yourself the freedom to enjoy the festive time of year again. So let us examine these ghosts a little closer…

The Ghost of Christmas Present

You're being held hostage by this ghost if you often find yourself rushing around, over-organising, working extra hours, partying and struggling with what seems like endless Christmas shopping.

Perhaps you are expecting lots of relatives to stay over Christmas period and you have a mass catering project ahead. The media pressure to have the best party look, cook like Jamie Oliver, buy the perfect presents, and decorate our homes like the seasonal glossy magazines can mean we end up feeling exhausted trying to desperately meet the expectations of others all the time.

Being overwhelmed in the present is sometimes down to the sheer number of friends/relatives we feel we need to visit on, care for, and keep happy. Shops are crowded, car parks are full and queues at the check-out seem longer than ever! It is full-on seasonal stress, with no time to breathe.

Associated Feelings:
stress, overwhelm and exhaustion.

Firstly, remember to look after yourself. Stay nourished (it’s a danger time to get run down so don’t save all the good eating until Christmas Day) drink lots of water, deep breathing, rest, go at your own pace ,don’t make your goals unreachable , make a list, break down tasks into manageable pieces and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

The Ghost of Christmas Future

If the Ghost of Christmas Future is holding you ransom then you may have feelings of anxiety, worry or over-concern for other people. Maybe there’s a list in your head of seasonal disasters. It’s normal to want the people you love to have the best Christmas possible, but if you find yourself anxious with these thoughts and feel that you’ll be to blame if everything goes wrong - this ghost’s holding you ransom!.

Persisting angst and foreboding thoughts, like: what if your children don’t like their presents, if your family argues, if you burn the turkey, if the drink runs dry. If the ghost of Christmas future holds you to ransom you will have no worries filling in the blanks! Often my clients tell me that they feel anxious about seeing parents and family.

Maybe there’s an inquisitive auntie who’s bound to ask them about the new job they actually hate and want to leave, or about a partner they plan to break to up with. Awkward questions and busy-body relatives, often well lubricated by too much mulled wine and seasonal sherry, are understandable concerns.

Approach these scenarios with an endeavour to keep things light-hearted and jolly. Think in advance about how you might ‘bat off’ a difficult question or two by saying that you will tell the person later about “how it’s going but prefer not to bring it up at the moment” . Remember that timing is everything. It’s your story, so you get to call the shots - feel comfortable knowing that it’s in your time and not someone else’s. Choosing not to share at all, of course, is also your choice.

Associated Feelings:
over-responsibility, anxiety, worry.

Stay in the moment. Practice mindfulness. When you find your mind racing forward to those Christmas disaster movies bring it right back in line to the present moment. The ‘here and now’ is so often a comfort.

It is also important to acknowledge that everyone is responsible for their own feelings, as simple as it sounds we can often lose sight of this.

No matter how hard we try, we cannot change someone else’s feelings. You have to know your own limitations. You can make an effort to make someone else feel welcome and loved and that is it. How they react to your efforts is their responsibility. Feel no guilt or upset if they don’t end up happy. You have done your bit.

And remember that those close to you will not want to see you anxious, worried and hyper vigilant about their feelings .They just want to see you relaxed and happy. So try to just chill and think to yourself that the only feelings you are responsible for are your own.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

If it is the Ghost of Christmas past who holds you ransom then Christmas is most likely a sad time of year. There might be some unresolved grief around the memories that this time of year holds. Perhaps you are missing a loved one. Or if something bad happened to you at Christmas, maybe as a child, it can be relived annually.

For some, every piece of tinsel Christmas tree light might bring a twinge of anger or resentment. We hold trauma deep within us and sometimes the smallest things can make us live those traumas again and again until we anticipate them and know what is coming. Here Christmas can hold dread.

Perhaps it is the loss of someone you love at Christmas that makes this time of year so painful for you. Our daily lives become so busy with routine and struggle that we don’t have time to feel unresolved grief. But at Christmas and New Year our routines change, it can be a very melancholy and reflective time. The winter weather forces us to spend more time indoors and we can be tempted to drink more. It can be a lonely time of year. All this can be a depressing recipe if you a troubled by a grief issue.

Associated Feelings:
remorse, depression, melancholy, sadness, mourning, regret.

If any of these issues hit home, then my heart goes out to you, this can be a tough season. But consider trying to engage some help. It’s good to know there are 24 hour help lines available if you feel desperate, or just want share how you are feeling. Grief counselling, EFT and other forms of therapy may also help you.

Also, try not to spend too much time on your own, and try to resist the temptation of drowning your sorrows with substances. Go easy on yourself! if it’s a bereavement you have suffered ( of a person or good health) , keep in my mind that it’s a cycle, a feeling, and feelings know no time. If others believe that you “should be over it by now” or that “you should have adjusted.”

Don’t be dismayed because no matter how many years have passed if it hurts, then it hurts - and that’s ok. You might benefit from some form of help and support to cope with those feelings of loss. Many find that writing things down gives clarity by getting them in touch with their feelings, it can also a useful way to decide what kind of help might suit you best.

Did you find yourself associating with one of the Ghosts of Christmas, is one of them holding you ransom?

If so then good news, you’re on the path to becoming more self-aware, and although it takes bravery to see things as they are - ultimately, it will serve you well.
So If these Ghosts have held you back from enjoying Christmas, then it’s time to say enough. The ransom’s been paid, so let go of the ghost and experience Christmas the way you were always meant to, in Joy!