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People in my business – Stress management and developing resilience – often create lists of how to survive Christmas and keep the stress levels down.  This year I am taking a wider view of this seasonal festival. 

Christmas in Britain in the 21st Century seems to be about excess in many areas of life – excessive eating, drinking, parties, gifts, behaviours and expectations.  We expect home cooks to miraculously turn into catering chefs and family members to travel many miles between their respective families at a time of year when roads, rail and aircraft are often challenged by weather. Gifts become more expensive and one is not enough. 

Where is your Christmas spirit I hear you ask? This year you will find me serving dinner to the homeless and listening to their stories or just sitting with them.  That for me is where Christmas spirit is – sharing life’s moments with those who are finding life challenging. I spend Christmas at home – but in the evening.   Over the years my family have taken the opportunity of the break to join us in shelters for those on the street, meditated in a National Park for four days over the Christmas period, trekked the mountains of Patagonia and sang and played the organ in the local Church. I have experienced the excesses and choose to take a different path now.  

I believe true peace and joy are not achieved by getting ‘things’ but by valuing people, time and authenticity – which could be the message of the First Christmas. A gift at Christmas is traditional, ( Jesus was presented with meaningful gifts) but today’s excesses and “must have” toys, games and clothes push many into irretrievable debt and the receivers of the many gifts may fail to learn the concept of true abundance – an authentic inner peace. 

Abundance can be translated into the workplace where all colleagues are trusted and valued and this is the basis of policies, procedures and attitudes.  Too often when visiting organisations I hear tales of lack of trust both from employees and senior managers and this is clearly displayed in their wellbeing risk assessment.  Wellbeing of all staff has been highlighted as economically sound for an organisation, but the best way to create enjoyment and good physical /mental health is to initiate trust and respect at all levels.  This will create employees who experience true abundance which can result in organisations experiencing a rise in profits – and we all like a win/win! 

Have a meaningful, abundant Christmas time!


Ann McCracken is a Director of AMC2 and the vice president of the International Management Association (ISMA UK) – the professional body for stress management Practitioners.

She specialises in developing a positive and resilient working culture in organisations by introducing effective strategies in performance and wellbeing at all levels. The effectiveness of such a positive working culture is measured and assessed using AMC2 Corporate Diagnostic innovative surveys which include measurement of psychosocial factors, stress and wellbeing. Having initially trained as a scientist, she carried out research with DEFRA and consultancy in the NHS.

She spent 10 years in Education before retraining as a stress management practitioner in 1996. She is the author of Stress Gremlins©, regularly writes/broadcasts and is an external lecturer at Westminster University. She is also a Key Note/Motivational speaker/Conference Chair.

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