Feeling overwhelmed by the presents, parties and planning? Body confidence expert and psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos(opens in a new window) explains how not to get caught up in the chaos this festive season.

Why Christmas Can Be Difficult

“Our body image is very situation-specific,” says Dr Linda. “That is, we often experience a rise in anxiety at times of the year when there is a strong expection to live up to an ‘ideal’: to have the perfect dress, to have the perfect family, to have the perfect day and to buy the perfect presents.” Summer holidays can be a flash point, but Christmas is the biggie.

Perfection is an ideal – one sold to us by shops and services. For example, shops don’t sell you the ‘perfect dress’, they sell you the idea of the perfect man that you will get to through that dress. Supermarkets don’t only sell you food, they sell you the image of a Christmas where the house is filled with Christmas cheer and there are no family rows – as long as you buy their goods, that is.

“The irony is this takes away from the very thing that Christmas is meant to be about,” says Dr Linda. “Consumer pressure distils happiness down to the size of your body and how good you look in a dress, or how much you spend on presents, rather than the Christmas spirit of spending time with your loved ones and giving.”

How to Refocus Christmas

1. Take the focus (and pressure) away from yourself. Think about what you can give to someone who needs it more than you. Balance the present-buying frenzy by clearing out your cupboard and donating your unwanted clothes/books/presents to charity.

2. Celebrate your true beauty – not an idea you are being sold. After all, if Cindy Crawford had removed her mole or if Jennifer Lopez had reduced her hip size, where would they be now? Find your uniqueness.

3. Stick to a budget. Be realistic about what you can and can’t buy for yourself and for others. Spending a fortune on party dresses, presents and pinot gris will only make you feel good if you don’t have to endure the whole of January and February in chronic debt.

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