17/12/2012 12:00 GMT | Updated 16/02/2013 05:12 GMT

Does Christmas Leave You Cold?

Decking the halls with boughs of holly. Shepherds watching their flocks by night. Fat old men dressed in red. Bah, humbug! You can keep it.

I hate Christmas. There, I've said it. If I hear Slade, Wham or Cliff blinkin' Richard again, I think I'm going to be sick.

I dislike the commercial notions and the rampant consumerism. I don't want to buy novelty tat which will never be of any use for anything expect filling the manufacturer's bank account. I don't want to gorge myself on mince pies while watching mindless Christmas telly. I certainly don't want to drink, as I'm in recovery from alcoholism.

But most of all, what I hate about Christmas is the pressure to be happy, the expectation that Christmas has to be done a certain way. It's like no-one is allowed to deviate from the 'festive formula'. Hate sprouts and Christmas pudding? Doesn't matter, you'll be forced to eat them anyway, with the unreasonable explanation of: because it's Christmas! 2012-12-15-xmasdog.jpg

Christmas has become a set of rules and regulations, a drive to purchase bigger and better things, rather than a time of thankfulness, gratitude and peace.

In fact, the holiday season can make people more prone to depression, anxiety and stress. Spending money you don't necessarily have, the tension of family politics, remembrances of loved ones who are no longer with you - all of these things can create a Christmas crisis.

The winter months are already difficult for a lot of people, with cold, dark days and even colder, darker nights. The expectation that you should suddenly be happy and joyful come December 25th can push some people right over the edge.

For the past nine years, I have broken away from the 'normal' Christmas mode, precisely because I found it so unbearable. So, what have I been doing for the past nine years over Christmas? I've been volunteering at a homeless project. And I love it.

No more pretending I like the reindeer socks you got me and watching Home Alone for the hundredth time for me. No more sitting around seeing how many Quality Streets I can stuff into my face. No more silly hats and cracker jokes from the dark ages.

Instead I spend my time making life a bit happier for people who never have a normal Christmas. Their Christmas never matches up to the scenes on the TV. But I think they have the best present I could ever give. My time, my care and my attention. So, my family can have me for the rest of the year. But at Christmas, I'd rather give than receive.

So, what are my tips for a carefree Christmas?

If you stop holding yourself up to 'ideals', and just accept things as they are, it can take a lot of the pressure off. Don't let expectations of what Christmas 'should be' get you down. Do whatever makes you feel happy, loving, grateful and free. Even if there's not a sprout in sight.