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The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

The coaching work I do with men in midlife is really about empowering them to become happier in and with their lives.

The most wonderful time of the year (as the song goes) and by association the happiest is supposed to be Christmas, but in reality – as author Dean Burnett says in a Guardian article about the subject - ‘the traditional image of Christmas is, let’s be honest, incredibly optimistic.’

When asking men what their biggest challenges are earlier this year, they told me that the top 3 issues were parenting, a loss of energy and focus, and not seeing friends enough. Also mentioned by many as an issue was finance. Around Christmastime, all of these things can be stressors that are amplified and magnified further to cause negative feelings and behaviour.

So, how can we better manage, cope and ultimately ENJOY the Christmas period?

An Exercise to Try

Take a blank sheet of paper, and draw 2 columns. Label one column ‘Things I am looking forward to over Christmas’ and the other column ‘Things I am worried about and/or not looking forward to over Christmas’. Then have a go at populating each column. These are your lists and there is no judgement!

I managed to quickly identify 7 things I am looking forward to (one of them was ‘lots of football on TV’ 😊). Actually, make that 8 as I’ve just thought of another one. Having reviewed these, I am now looking forward to Christmas more than I was!

On the other list, first of all I notice that there are fewer points (3). One of them is ‘getting everything done and ready,’ When I really think about each one of these, there is actually nothing there that should cause me to feel stressed about Christmas.

The process of thinking through and then writing down these things has brought some clarity to me and I feel a lot lighter about the next couple of weeks. As a result I can now look ahead with much more enthusiasm. Give it a try!

We feel happier when we feel more in control of things. How can you get more in control of the things on your lists, especially in the second ‘not looking forward to’ column? What could be your response, approach or solution to things on this list?

Everyone will have a different experience. But whatever your circumstances and situation, here are 5 points that might help you to plan for a happier Christmas this year:

Picture credit: Jonathan Borba (

  1. Let’s think about work first. When does it end for Christmas, and when will it start again afterwards? Are these dates defined, or more fluid? What are the key things that need to be done beforehand and what can wait? Much of this will depend on your role and the nature of your work, but as much as possible if work matters can be left in a good place this gives you a much better chance of enjoying the season.

  2. Think about what your outcome is for the Christmas period. This is a great question that was asked on my good friend and colleague Jane Hannah’s ME Time podcast. For example, mine is for all those close to me to have a great time! And I have an important role in that. If they have a great time I know that I will too. You could even break this down further into different elements for example, what kind of parent do I want to be this Christmas? Which friends will I make a point of seeing and when?

  3. Know what the boundaries are and understand expectations. What are your own expectations and what expectations do others have for you (leading up to the break and immediately afterwards). Discuss these and check that they are realistic. It is both a fear and a result of not meeting expectations (either our own or others) which can be a great source of stress.

  4. Give yourself some space and time out. Some of us are introverts, some more extrovert – so being around people brings different challenges. If you need it, don’t be afraid to be clear about your needs and spend some time with yourself to recharge or prioritise activities you really enjoy.

  5. Remember SHED – sleep, hydration, exercise and diet. This is important all year round of course but at Christmas especially these things are vital!

Above all I would say that the important thing is to give it some thought and do some planning whilst also allowing things to happen naturally and for those moments of Christmas magic to spontaneously occur! From a mental health perspective MIND have some brilliant information on their website and a link to this as well as some additional articles that you might find of interest are included below.

I hope that this post has been helpful to you and I wish you all an enjoyable and Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year for 2024!

Useful links:

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