Presence not Presents!

by | Dec 4, 2023 | Burnout, Parenting, Self Care | 0 comments

Christmas is a time of year that means different things to all of us. As we go through life, Christmas can reflect how life is feeling for us at the time.

For many it can be a time when we feel under huge pressure; to be happy, connect with relatives and of course there is the financial burden.

Financial pressures are often brought about by the pressure we put on ourselves (and from others), to over-spend on expensive presents and creating the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Feeling like we ‘should’ be happy and enjoying ourselves often comes about from ‘comparing yourself’ to everyone ‘appearing to have an amazing time’, (especially on TV or social media). This can be particularly hard in times of GRIEF, RELATIONSHIP BREAKDOWN, LONLINESS, FINANCIAL WORRIES, ILLNESS AND CARING FOR OTHERS.

Spending time with relatives can trigger our emotions, whether this is feeling stressed, frustrated or irritable, sadness and regret, ‘not being good enough’, and even lonely (even in a house full of people!) We also often feel ‘overwhelmed’ with a never-ending list of things to do. This often arises from trying to meet everyone else’s expectations.

So what do we mean by giving your Presence over presents…?

Presence means being more & doing less…feeling connected to other people but also to ourselves. Being connected to others isn’t just about coming out of the kitchen on Christmas day. It’s about being emotionally connected to people. The 1st step often comes from acknowledging and recognising how we are feeling and what YOU need. Recognising when you are feeling triggered, irritable, stressed or ‘disconnected’ and how that makes you react to situations or people. In these moments we often resort to taking our feelings out on others rather than being vulnerable and communicating how you feel.

So how can you help yourself? We often need to ask ourselves just that.. ‘what can I do to make this easier?’ whether that’s less commitment to social events, restricting the time you see people, committing to spending less on presents, ask people to bring food/drink, delegating jobs, sharing out the roles – make the DOING a family affair rather than one person doing the doing, or get help with pre-prepared food.

– Remember, not everything has to be perfect! Good memories are created from times together, not about the gifts people received – we all want a sense of love, connection & belonging more than anything else in life.

– Be truly ‘present’ when we are with people, give all your attention, really listen to what people are saying and try not to be distracted by, phones, multitasking, future thoughts or planning the ‘next’ thing – embrace being rather than doing – set this as an intention for you and your family.

– Practice self-care. Take time out where you can, even a walk alone, a drive to the shop, 10 minutes space in a different room, a bath or anything, truly ‘just for you’ – it doesn’t have to be fancy, just some time & space to decompress & reset.

– Setting boundaries is ok. ‘Open house between 3-6.00pm’ A clear beginning & end time to an event can help people enjoy it when its happening & enjoy it when it’s over! It also helps people plan to leave without feeling guilty.

– Work with ‘what IS, NOT what WAS’. As circumstances and life changes, it’s hard to avoid not looking back and being nostalgic. It’s ok to start new traditions, or set new intentions like going out for Christmas dinner instead of cooking or volunteering.

– Try to be honest with people about how you are feeling. It’s ok to be vulnerable, in fact we often feel so much better when we’ve just been honest with ourself & others about how we feel. Sometimes we don’t need practical solutions, validation, a listening ear & a hug can make all the difference for you & for them, and it’s ok to ask for one.

Remember it’s just one day and if it’s not all you hoped it would be, it doesn’t matter!

Not only can Christmas feel difficult because of all of the pressures & expectations above, but it also tends to shine a light on of our own learnt behaviours, patterns & relationship struggles. Family relationships typically trigger our biggest insecurities, fears & emotions.

This is sometimes because we take out our feelings on those who we feel closest to & safest around but it can also be because family dynamics are long standing & have potentially been playing out for many years in response to our childhood experiences.

This can mean we are very quickly triggered into feeling resentful or irritated by family members, fall into patterns of people pleasing, appeasing or perfectionism and can struggle with feelings of ‘I am not enough’. Each of these responses is a learnt behaviour which reflects subconscious needs, fears or insecurities that we are seeking to meet. It can often mean that we end up being a person that we don’t want to be (e.g. stressed, short tempered, withdrawn or frustrated) and typically feel very disempowered.

Let’s normalise that family relationships can be difficult at times & often intense family get togethers such as Christmas tend to shine a light on all of the issues that we might have found other strategies to cope with throughout the rest of the year or it just intensifies them!

This makes it all the more important to be honest & open with yourself & others where possible, notice your triggers, be aware of your emotions, honour what you need & if you are in a place where you want to work through your patterns or your relationship dynamics in a deeper more profound way – this is a perfect opportunity to seek professional support.

One of the biggest areas I work through with clients is understanding & overcoming patterns of people pleasing, perfectionism & feelings of ‘I am not enough’ which can play out in all aspects of our inner & outer world.

Are you ready to feel more empowered in your relationships?

Join a workshop with Becky Rodrigues:

The art of empowered living: How to stop people pleasing & improve your relationships
31st January 2024 6-8pm please email to book a place
For 1:1 support – contact

Written by Andrea Bethell and Becky Rodrigeus.

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Andrea Bethell

Andrea Bethell

The Harlow - Managing Partner

Becky Rodrigeus

Becky Rodrigeus

Integrative Psychotherapist, Counsellor & Coach – DCounsPsych, MBACP, Dip Life Coaching, NLP Cert

01423 595 000

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