Christmas is traditionally seen as the time we connect with family, and all come together to have a great time. All feelgood Christmas movies will always show a huge family from children through to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc. sitting around a table laughing, joking and having huge fun.

But what if you’re right in the middle of a divorce, and this Christmas is not going to be a big family event for you? Or maybe its your first Christmas post divorce and the children are spending Christmas Day with their father instead of you?

For some, Christmas will be very tough, highlighting the change in your circumstances and just how far away you are from being a happy family unit. The good news is that you know exactly when Christmas Day is and if you anticipate it may be a tricky time for you, you can plan in advance as to how to spend your time, and what you can do to improve your feelings and wellbeing.

A few tips:

Acknowledge your feelings and emotions

Don’t try to pretend you’re not experiencing hurt and force yourself to play the role of life and soul of the party. This is a really difficult time for anyone going through divorce, and for the first Christmas after divorce. If you’re spending the day with friends, they will recognise this and understand, and will do what they can to cheer you. But they will also appreciate that it’s an emotional time and if you need time on your own to process your feelings and mourn what you have lost, they will give you the space to do it.

Plan in advance how you will spend the day

Are you going to spend the day with friends? Or is it on your own having a totally indulgent day doing exactly what you want? Or is it off on holiday somewhere, enjoying new experiences? You may want to help at a local hospice/ local charity. There is nothing like spending time with people who are seriously struggling with health, finances, other personal issues to make us feel very humble and realise how many blessings we actually have.

Whatever way you expect to spend the day, start planning as early as possible so the day can be exactly the way you want it to be. Don’t put it off, or otherwise you may end up accepting a last minute invitation for something you really do not enjoy.

Start some new traditions

Instead of bringing out previous years’ decorations, buy something totally different. Why not be totally decadent and buy a pink Christmas tree. See this as part of reinventing what Christmas will be for you in the future.

Using previous decorations are likely to remind you too much of past Christmases (either good or bad) and be encourage you to focus on what was and what you’re missing.

It’s not easy but its all part of reframing and aiming to look forward rather than back.

If you’re struggling, don’t be too hard on yourself and accept that change is difficult and it’s a process. It sometimes may feel as though you’re taking one step forward and two steps back. But just take one small step at a time towards your new life.

Be careful with food and alcohol

Don’t use alcohol, food, or money to mask your feelings.

Food and alcohol are a big part of Christmas and if you’re indulging because you are enjoying socialising, that’s one thing. But if you’re using them to avoid facing up to your sadness, that’s a very different issue.

The same is true for spending. If you are buying gifts, either for yourself or others, that you hope will be loved and enjoyed that’s fine. But if you are spending much more than you can afford, and particularly if you are doing this for the feelings of instant gratification, which you are using as a crutch, that’s a very different issue

Spend time with yourself

Maybe you’ve been so busy over the past few months, working, looking after children, that you’re exhausted. Why not really enjoy the time over Christmas to do something just for you, that makes your heart sing and give you a real boost.?

Take long, luxurious baths. Go for long, lazy walks and then sit in front of a fire. Enjoy not having a full diary and enjoy being able to take it easy and have some down time. You can then enter the New Year feeling refreshed and regenerated, and able to tackle the months ahead.

Most women, and especially mothers, are often tugged in all directions. We often feel there is never enough time to get everything done, let alone focus on ourselves. But we need to be able to look after ourselves to ensure we then have enough energy to give to others.

This Christmas put yourself first and focus on building your future.

Monitor your spending

Remember the spirit of Christmas is about connecting with friends, family and loved ones and wishing them well. It isn’t about how much you spend. Often the whole commerciality of Christmas has overtaken this basic message.

Why not agree with your family and friends you will each give money to a charity rather than spend on presents. This will vastly help the charity and will save your hours of trailing around shops searching for the “perfect” present, unless of course this is something you enjoy.

I hope you can use these tips to approach Christmas with less angst, and reduced stress, and enjoy it. Once Christmas is over and we’re heading towards January you will have a huge sense of accomplishment and be ready for the New Year with renewed optimism.

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