By Andrea Blundell
Do the holidays make you miserable? Known to get a bit, well… snappy? Being a Christmas grinch happens. And it can even be a positive if you know how to handle it.
I hate Christmas
Cut yourself some slack. It’s perfectly okay to not like the holidays.
If we don’t, we tend to have good reason. We’ve had a hard time lately, a breakup or loss, and we don’t feel like celebrating. Or maybe we don’t have a family of our own and it triggers all sorts to see everyone else around us enjoying themselves.
A poll by the BBC estimates that around seven per cent of Brits spend Christmas alone.
In some cases we actually have the Christmas blues, and we hide it behind anger and grumpiness rather than admit that we are sad. If we always are sad at the holidays, it might be related to childhood issues around Christmas that are unresolved.
How to handle being a Christmas grinch
1. Don’t judge yourself.
Again, nobody is a grinch for no reason. Either you are stressed over something, or you have old issues that get triggered this time of year.
Anger can even be a physical issue, such as a neurological or hormonal issue, or a reaction to a medication. If you aren’t usually grumpy and can’t understand why you are right now, don’t overlook a trip to your GP for a physical checkup.
Would you judge a friend for being grumpy at the holidays if you knew they were always overlooked at Christmas as a child? Or think a friend should just ‘smile’ if she recently lost her job? Try to treat yourself as you would a friend, with a healthy dose of self-compassion.
You certainly aren’t alone in feeling annoyed at the world. The British Association of Anger Management estimates that one in four adults in the UK worries about how angry they sometimes feel.
2. Don’t give the wrong present to others.
There’s nothing wrong with being a grump. There is a lot wrong with then dumping that grumpiness all over the people around you.
Your moods are your issue and your responsibility. Find a healthy outlet, whether that is writing it all out in a journal, using a punching bag, going for a run, or ranting out loud when nobody is around. Or, yes, going to see a talk therapist, who creates a safe space to unload.
3. But be present to yourself.
Anger and sadness are things we judge, but they are actually useful experiences that offer us gifts if we dare to access them. Anger allows us see where we haven’t set good boundaries or taken care of ourselves. Sadness helps us to process difficult experiences and create space for joy.
Try just being present with your anger or sadness. Find a quiet place to sit perfectly still and practise mindfulness, just noticing the feelings you are having.
Where do you feel anger and upset in your body? How does it change if you focus on consistent deep breathing? And relax your shoulders and jaw? Can you notice your angry thoughts as just thoughts, separate from who you are? After all, who is it watching and noticing those thoughts?
Learn more on this process in our free ‘Guide to Mindfulness’.
4. Say the magic word.
A lot of ‘grinch moments’ can come from our inability to actually say no to all the things that keep us feeling drained and annoyed.
We feel sad and want to be alone, for example, but feel we ‘have to’ take that call from a distant relative who only calls this time of year, only to be rude and short with them.
It’s amazing how many things aren’t as necessary as we think, and how others would actually rather we say no if they knew how upset we were making ourselves. If nobody cared, what would you now say no to?
5. Learn this one crucial skill.
We think others should ‘know’ how we feel, and why. But they can’t read our mind. And what we experience and are sure of from our perspective can be vastly different than what another person experienced.
We desperately need to learn the skill of clear communication.
A simple place to start can be by admitting how you feel and what you want. “I feel grumpy and annoyed and want everyone to leave me alone for a few hours”. Such a sentence can be a huge step of you’ve spent your life never being clear about where you are at.
A bigger, honest conversation needs to be blame free. Start sentences with “I” not “you”. “I feel this when you do that”. Stick to facts, don’t bring other people into it (for example, don’t say, “I know my husband agrees with me”). For more on the art of effective communication, we highly recommend you read our article, “How to Communicate Under Stress”.
When all else fails…
If this year has seen you navigate challenges that have you still overwhelmed, it might be time to reach out for support. Talk therapy isn’t reserved for when we are a total mess. In fact it’s better to seek a counsellor or psychotherapist when we realise are struggling, before we allow our upset to destroy our relationships and more, or our everyday anger to then become rage.
If you feel grumpy or annoyed most days this time of year and it’s not because of recent events? Your anger might have roots reaching right back to childhood. Deep roots need deep care. Talk therapy can help you look at the things in childhood you are still unconsciously reacting to, and help you change deep-rooted patterns of behaviour that might have helped you cope as a child, but are holding you back as an adult.
Can’t stop playing the Christmas grinch and know you need help? We connect you with highly rated London-based talk therapists. Or use our booking site to find UK-wide registered therapists and online counsellors now.
Want to share your top tip for not being a Christmas grinch with our other readers? Use the comment box below.
Andrea Blundell is the lead writer and editor of this site. She’s not opposed to being a grinch now and then herself.