Yesterday, we went Christmas shopping and it made me think about something that I know has affected me for too many Christmases. During this period, we love to make it special for our children, family and friends. This can often lead to us becoming stressed and anxious about things that in reality do not matter. I realise this is potentially very hypocritical, as my previous posts have focused on decorations and Elf on a Shelf/Advent surprises, which as lovely as they are, are not what Christmas is all about. I don’t want this post to be very sanctimonious or self-righteous, but I know I have fallen victim to making myself ill with Christmas pressure in the past and thought I might write a few posts discussing this.
I suffer from an extreme perfectionist disorder, which at times leads to anxiety and panic attacks. I am managing better now, but it has affected my health quite severely in the past. It is only in recent years that I have been able to acknowledge this as a problem. Christmas has always been a time for my perfectionism to really rear its ugly head. It became so bad at this time one year, that during a Christmas shopping trip with my mum, I ended up fainting.
When I was pregnant with my first son, we went shopping at a huge shopping centre, so it was incredibly busy. We had been walking around shops for hours and I was becoming increasingly more anxious about what to buy for people. I was particularly concerned with what to get for my then boyfriend (now husband by the name of Mr P). I had been walking up and down aisles in the same shop for ages trying to decide the best aftershave gift to buy. I was also getting very obsessed with the 3 for 2 offers and feeling the need to make the most of this. Everything needed to be perfect and I was getting more and more worked up. My mum was getting gradually more annoyed, as she had been shopping for too long and it just seemed to be getting busier. After being forced to make a decision, we finally went to pay. As we headed to the never-ending queue, I started to feel unwell. Soon, everything was spinning, and my eyes were blurring over. As we reached the front of the queue, I told my mum that I wasn’t feeling right, but having trailed after me all day, she (understandably) thought I was being dramatic. As I clung on to the shelves by the check out, I repeated that I wasn’t right and the next thing I know I had collapsed into my mum.
All I remember after that, is coming around on a chair in the middle of the shop, with my head between my legs and a bottle of water being put to my lips. I have to say, sitting slap bang in the middle of a huge Boots, during the busiest time of year, with a group of very concerned people huddled around and intrigued passers-by slowing to have a look after I had collapsed, was not a wonderful experience. I was fine after a while and had just been on my feet for too long, moving around too much and too quickly and had allowed my perfectionism to trigger anxiety.
Looking back, being this concerned with buying presents and putting so much pressure on myself to make sure things were perfect was completely unnecessary, especially when I was pregnant. When you are caught up in everything though, you feel as if this is the only way.
This year I have had a completely different and more relaxed approach. I have not and will not allow myself to become more concerned with buying presents than anything else. Yes, I want my family to have a wonderful Christmas, but I would rather make the most of this run up creating wonderful memories and focusing on the preparations of Christ’s birth, than fuss over buying the perfect presents for everyone. Gifts at Christmas are a sign that you are thinking of others, and thoughtful gifts don’t always have to be plentiful, huge grand gestures or cost a fortune. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and don’t expect too much. People will or should love whatever they are given because it came from you. With a young family, this time is precious, and I would hate to look back feeling as though I had focused on all the wrong things. So, here’s to memories instead of stuff.
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Thank you for your support.
Mrs P x x x