It’s that wonderful time of year again!

There is no denying it, there is a certain kind of magic in the air come December 1st. Whether it be due to anticipation of celebrating traditions with loved ones, excitement for time off from our jobs and normal everyday life or just having fun decorating trees and singing carols, there is a wonderful buzz this time of year.

However, with every Christmas that comes and goes, there is always a conversation on how the holiday has become over commercialized and materialistic, and of course, to an extent this is very true. As we do tend to over splurge at Christmas time – spending too much money on gifts and over indulging in food – it is easy to understand why there can be a focus on what we ‘have’.

It is for these reasons why it is easy to see how this time of year can bring stress instead of joy to a lot of people, which is why it is important to remember that Christmas is not just about the gifts you receive under the tree. It is cliché, however the holiday definitely brings out the giving side in most, and I love to see the random acts of giving and kindness that this time of year also inspires in people.

We are all familiar with charitable initiatives such as the Kmart Wishing Tree or the Salvation Army Christmas appeal, as well as many other brilliant programs that pop up at this time of year. These appeals remind us that there are others that are not as fortunate as us and it encourages us all to give to those that would otherwise feel alone or would go without at Christmas. It is this idea of giving hope where it is needed that does seem to truly inspire people this time of year.

Remembering to be kind to each other is obviously something that should be a year round thing, but I wanted to take this time of year to reiterate how the smallest gesture can go a long way to help someone that may be going through a hard time. You may want to donate to a charity of some sort, which is of course a fantastic gesture. But I do urge you to take a look at those around you – a friend, a neighbour, a work colleague, even the sales person serving you at the shops, and remember how you can infuse a little kindness into your everyday life.

We don’t always know what could be going on in the background for people, and at a time of year where it can be easy to become overwhelmed or stressed, a show of kindness can impact someone more than we would realise – it can lead to others feeling more supported and less lonely, and it also can create a stronger relationship with friends and loved ones, as well as a stronger sense of community in those that you come across on a day to day basis.

The Christmas period can also trigger things for us, and we can all suffer from pressure that builds up on us. The pressure of getting the right gifts, creating the perfect day, cooking a delicious dinner. It is exactly this that can take away the joyfulness of Christmas for everyone, and it is exactly why we all need to take a moment to stop, and refocus on other things that can make us happy, like showing kindness to others.

I myself found that I was getting caught up in the stress of Christmas, organising get togethers to see family and loved ones. I was rushing the Sunday that just passed to put together the perfect lunch that I had envisioned. Running to the shops, I was making my way through the list as quickly as possible when I bumped into someone I knew. Speaking with her, it became very evident that she was struggling with some things.

I could have rushed the conversation so that I could go home to create this ‘perfect’ meal, but I stopped and realised that this was not what was important in the moment. It did not matter if I ended running late and changing the course of the lunch I was organising. What was important was staying with my friend and being there for her and showing her the kindness that she needed.

The encounter was a reminder to me what Christmas really is about. So these holidays, if you feel that you are becoming overwhelmed, take a moment to refocus and think about how you can give others the valuable gifts of hope and joy.