How to this survive Christmas if you’re not exactly full of festive cheer

Christmas can be a time some people want to avoid - but there are ways you can get through it withou

Christmas can be a time some people want to avoid - but there are ways you can get through it without being down - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Christmas can be a sad time for some, so Christine Webber has some welcome tips for you

'Christmas comes but once a year, and when it does, it brings good cheer', goes the old song.

But what if it doesn't make you cheerful? What if you dread it?

It's tough if you feel that way when everyone else seems to be having a magical time - downing drinks in the local dressed in Christmas jumpers, planning panto visits and shopping as if it's going out of style.

But the truth is that loads of people feel uneasy about the festivities. And many of those individuals are getting on in years, when it's quite common to feel sad because Christmas is not like it used to be.

Perhaps your partner has died, or you've divorced. Maybe your children are spending the holiday with your ex, or going skiing, or live on the other side of the world. These situations can make the festive season more of an ordeal than a pleasure, but even at this late stage, you can come up with some plans to make the holiday more bearable.

A good start would be to promise yourself that you won't be in this position next December. You can really depress yourself if you start believing that every Christmas from now on is going to be dire. It doesn't have to be.

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I know several men and women who hated Christmas in 2018, but this year planned well ahead so they could do something entirely different. One friend is volunteering at a hospice in Suffolk, another is helping out at Open Christmas in Norwich. And a former colleague, who has loathed Christmas since his wife died five years ago, has booked himself onto a walking tour for single people which he reckons will be much better for him than going to an extended family gathering where he always feels an outsider, and ends up eating and drinking too much.

So, though it's true that Christmas is bound to be different from how it once was, that doesn't mean it has to be awful.

Last year, the first since my husband died, was a bit of a blur. I saw friends and even went to some parties but felt as though I was on autopilot. I was quite numb, I think.

I now realise this is par for the course when you've been bereaved. So if this is your first Christmas after a big loss, let your friends and family take care of you, and try to remember that you're in shock and will need time before you can engage once more with the spirit of the season.

A week ago, I went to the Norfolk Zipper Club's carol service at Wymondham Abbey. (For those who don't know, the Zipper Club is a cardiac charity supporting Papworth hospital and people who need heart surgery.)

It was marvellous to be in that beautiful old church. And the congregation got to sing all the popular carols as well as enjoy the choir of Langley School, and music from Great Yarmouth Brass.

As the service progressed, I realised that I was feeling 'Christmassy', which I definitely didn't last year. And I felt quite tearful, though in a very good way!

But to come back to you, what can you do to make Christmas feel less of a challenge? Here are some ideas:

Prior to the day, buy yourself some food that you wouldn't normally treat yourself to. You deserve it.

Unless you're opposed to religion, consider going to a Christmas service near you, even if you haven't been inside a place of worship for years. It may help.

Go out and get some fresh air and exercise. It will break up the day and lift your mood. You could be really bold and take part in a Christmas Day swim in Lowestoft, Southwold or Hunstanton, for example!

Do something useful for someone else. Perhaps your younger neighbour has got lively children who you could take to the park so she could have a break. Or maybe you could invite a friend who's alone this Christmas to come over for a drink and a mince pie. Acts of kindness shown to others help us feel better about ourselves.

If you're spending the day alone, tackle some task that you've been putting off for ages. Clear out all the cupboards in your kitchen, or paint your bedroom, or clean out the fridge. OK, none of these activities are remotely festive, but you'll feel that you've done something positive with the day, and you'll be pleased you did.

Think back to when you had really busy Christmasses. Didn't you long sometimes to shut yourself in the bathroom and have a leisurely bath? Well you can now! Also, there's no need to share the remote, so you can watch all the programmes you like.

Remember that Christmas Day is only the same length as all the other days of the year - 24 hours.

Hopefully, it's not going to be as bad as you fear. See you the other side!