Ah Christmas what a time of year! For some it’s filled with joy and laughter, for some it’s filled with some negative feeling states due to previous negative experiences which might have arisen around that time. Nonetheless the Christmas period brings many mixed feelings about the season. During this season Individuals tend to stress over different things such as; gifts, food, meeting the family, money, time, and tidiness amongst others. Sometimes individuals create certain standards for themselves which tend to hinder the individual from managing their emotions due to a perceived stressor in their environment. But are these stressors actual stressors or are there active strategies to stop these stressors from triggering us?


Some might argue that it’s imperative to set certain standards due to cultural norms or family traditions. It continues with the paradigm of ‘that the way it’s always been done’ or ‘that’s what I’ve gotten used to’. I find myself questioning the usefulness of such norms which tend to be unquestioned. I state this as we are all very different individual’s and adapting someone else’s standards to ourselves can be dangerous as it may create a conflict with your own personal way of doing things.


Try reflect on your current norms during the holiday season such as;

  • Spending
  • Expectations about others,
  • Specific family traditions which occur,
  • Personal expectations regarding:
    • The way your house looks
    • Your family’s attire


The aforementioned cultural traditions may elicit some emotions in the individual such as; anxiety, anger, fear, paranoia, nervousness, guilt, frustration amongst others. If one experiences this it may be a sign that one is feeling these feelings due to personal expectations which might be modelled off others or are strictly imposed by others who are close to the individual. If an individual feels this way it has much to do with colluding with previous norms of others in relation to the festive season. If an individual wanted to do something their way they definitely would not feel any negative emotions about engaging in their desired activities or personal traditions around the Christmas season.


I would invite the individual to reflect on the following questions:


  • What expectations do you have of others?
  • What expectations do you think people have of you?
  • Does all of this matter to begin with?
  • What do you actually want to do?
  • Do you think you can speak to your loved ones to discuss your desired rituals and activities that you wish to engage with during the Christmas period?
  • How would your loved ones feel if you wished to change Christmas traditions?
  • Is love expressed in the quality or quantity of gifts?
  • What is the most important thing to experience during the Christmas period?


Saying all of this, I am mindful that Christmas time is a time where family comes together and it might be difficult to agree with everyone on Christmas traditions. However I believe that deconstructing any tradition with family members and agreeing amongst each other what works best for everyone would ultimately lead to a peaceful and enjoyable time for everyone to experience.



Karl Grech is a counsellor. He offers counselling to both individuals and couples within Willingness. He can be contacted on karl@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.