Christmas music

It’s beginning to feel a bit like Christmas (to paraphrase the song). To help get you in the mood we’re doing a playlist of well-known festive hits. Plus one or two Christmas-related tracks that may have passed you by.

If you have checked out our #SongsForSoundMinds playlist you will know that we like to mix a bit of music trivia with some suggestions for good mental health.  Our new playlist #The12PlaysOfChristmas is no different.

Alongside some slightly nerdy music facts, there will be tips for staying positive through what might be a difficult holiday period. We start with 3 Christmas hits from the early 1980s.

Wham, ‘Last Christmas’


Pop superstar George Michael penned this perennial festive hit, ‘Last Christmas’ in 1984 and it was released by Wham, the band George played in alongside Andrew Ridgely. To this day it is the biggest selling UK single never to reach number 1.

In the year of its original release it was held off the number 1 spot by Band Aid’s all-conquering, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’  Wham mirrored the stars of Band Aid and donated the royalties from ‘Last Christmas’ to the charity efforts in Ethiopia.

Coping with a broken heart at Christmas

The song itself is a poignant tale of frustrated love; a man ditched by his sweetheart after expressing his love. If you are recovering from a relationship breakdown yourself you may be wondering how you are going to cope with the hustle and bustle of Christmas. Especially when everyone else seems happily coupled.

However, as the song’s story relates, a failed romance can be a step to finding ‘someone special.’  It is possible to put regret in the past and to move on.  Indeed the end of a relationship can be a liberating experience.

Rather than fighting for something that was hurtful and time-limited it is possible to look forward with hope and make plans for the future.

Paul McCartney, ‘Pipes of Peace’


Christmas isn’t mentioned in the lyrics of this Paul McCartney track from 1983.  The main reason ‘Pipes of Peace’ takes its place in every self-respecting Christmas Greatest Hits compilation is the accompanying music video.

In it, we are transported to Christmas Day in 1914 when an impromptu football match took place between the British and German armies during the First World War. The news has been full of stories of the end of the First World War and that Christmas truce was a rare moment of humanity in a brutal campaign.

Macca is one of the most successful pop artists ever.  One of his many claims to fame is that he is the only person to have number one singles as a solo artist, a duo (with Michael Jackson among others), a trio (Wings), a quartet (The Beatles) and a quintet (‘Let it Be’ was credited to The Beatles and Billy Preston).

Tell stories, play games and be together at Christmas

 Family get-togethers over the Christmas period can be a good time to tell family stories, tragic as well as funny.  Storytelling can help everyone feel part of something bigger which is an important part of giving life meaning.

We enjoy being part of ‘the gang’ whether it’s with family, friends or work colleagues.  Feelings of togetherness and connectedness are good for even the most introverted of us.  Playing board games together, laughing at a well-worn Christmas DVD or going for Christmas Day walks all add to the fun.

The Pretenders, ‘2000 Miles’


The lyrics of this Pretenders’ track would lead you to think it’s an ode to long-distance love at Christmas.  Although this is not an uncommon theme for songs released at this time of year (‘Blue Christmas’ by Elvis Presley is only one example) it is not the motivation behind this hit from the Pretenders’ peak period.

The subject of this track, written by lead singer, Chrissie Hynde, is James Honeymann-Scott, the band’s original guitarist. Honeymann-Scott had died the previous year from drug-related heart failure at the age of just 25.  The track’s melancholic strains, together with the chiming lead guitar line, remind us that Christmas can bring sadness as well as joy.

It’s ok not to be ok at Christmas

Sometimes, the festive celebrations lead us only to thoughts of those who are no longer with us.  If someone close to you has died the prospect of Christmas may seem unbearable.  Grief takes its toll and it’s a process we all have to come to terms with.

Remember, it’s okay to feel sad, angry or upset. Even though you might experience great pressure to put on a happy face at Christmas time.  These feelings are natural particularly if the bereavement was recent.  Be aware that you may need to put time aside to look after yourself.

But this time of year can also be a positive opportunity. A chance to remember happy times you had with those who have passed away. Tell funny stories, share favourite memories and reflect on their importance in your life.

Christmas can be an opportunity to cherish and keep alive the memories you have of them.

Counselling and support services


The Christmas period can be a difficult time for many of us. Whether it is due to a difficult relationship or memories of a lost loved one, we understand that not everyone is going to have a ‘happy’ Christmas this year.

At The Spark, we have been providing counselling and support to individuals, couples, families and children for over 50 years. Our aim is to help clients to better understand their emotions and experiences, and to find ways to deal with them.

Find out more information about The Spark and our counselling services for individuals, couples and families.

Contact us via our contact form or freephone 0808 802 0050 to talk about how counselling could help you.

perfect Christmas present

Well we’ve come to the end of our countdown to a stress free Christmas as we reach tip 21 and perhaps the most important one: forget about the perfect Christmas and enjoy the day. 


Enjoy Christmas Day and forget about perfect!

When it comes to Christmas Day this year enjoy the special moments and give yourself permission to ditch the pursuit (if you haven’t already) of a ‘perfect’ Christmas.

The tree might be tilting to one side more than the leaning Tower of Pisa and the turkey might be overdone; but that’s not what is important today.

What is important is to savour the smiles, the laughter and the opportunity to spend time with loved ones. Relish the imperfections of the day and remember that it really is the thought that counts when it comes to presents that might fall short of our expectations.

Laugh at how bad the Christmas cracker jokes are. Ignore the sea of wrapping paper now covering the living room floor. End up in hysterics as Granny tries to guess ‘twerking’ during Charades.

Merry Christmas!


Support this Christmas

Stress, anxiety, depression and relationship issues are very common at Christmas and during the festive season. The Spark offers counselling and support for individuals, couples, young people and families across Scotland.

To find out more or enquire about a counselling appointment, freephone 0808 802 0050.

The Spark Counselling – Christmas opening times

The Spark Counselling (enquiries team, appointments and office) will observe the following opening times during the 2018 Christmas and New Year holidays.

21 December 2018: 9am – 11am

22 December 2018 to 2 January 2019: closed

3 January 2019: 9am – 8pm

Services return to normal hours on 3 January 2019.

For immediate support over the Christmas and New Year break contact Breathing Space or Samaritans.

enjoy some just us time this Christmas

Tip 20 on our countdown to a stress free Christmas is an important one for couples and families: have some ‘just us time’.

Throughout December we will be offering up advice on how to enjoy a stress free Christmas!

You can catch up on all 21 tips for your stress free Christmas on our website.


Enjoy some ‘just us time’ this Christmas

Spending time with family is probably what most people look forward to at Christmas.

Modern life is so hectic that Christmas can end up being one of the few occasions when the whole extended family can get together.

just us time at Christmas

However, that does not mean we need to spend all of our time with them.

Christmas should be a time to recharge and unwind. An opportunity to consider the year that is coming to an end and our hopes and dreams for the one to come.

For couples, particularly those with children, it is important to carve out some time for just the two of you at Christmas. We like to call it ‘just us time’.

Spending time together just as a couple – not as parents – is a great way to keep your relationship strong and to celebrate the love that exists between you (and existed long before you became mum or dad).

enjoy some just us time this Christmas

Enjoy some ‘just us time’ this Christmas

Equally important is for individual families – parents and kids – to spend time together during the holidays.

Check out tip 18 and spend the day enjoying some low-cost activities as a family without in-laws or siblings and their families.

It is great to get the whole family together at Christmas. But there is nothing wrong with setting some time aside to devote exclusively to the people who mean the most to you and enjoy some ‘us time’.


Catch up on all of our 21 tips here or follow on Twitter and Facebook

get some rest

Tip 19 on our countdown to a stress free Christmas is really simple: get some rest!

Throughout December we will be offering up advice on how to enjoy a stress free Christmas!

You can catch up on all 21 tips for your stress free Christmas on our website.


Get some rest

Christmas offers up a perfect storm of late nights and early starts. Which means getting a good night’s sleep can be almost impossible.

In the build-up to Christmas we tend to run around like headless chickens in an attempt to get everything done in time.

We are up early to avoid the queues at the shops or trying to calm down over-excited children. We then spend late nights getting decorations down from the loft and writing Christmas cards.

Get some rest at Christmas

The Christmas holidays then become a series of late nights and early starts, especially if you have kids with boundless reserves of energy. Sleep often gets forgotten about, leaving us exhausted and in need of another holiday to get over Christmas.

Missing out on even a few hours’ sleep can have a negative impact on our physical and mental health.

Making sure that we get enough shut eye is important at any time of the year but particularly so when we are busy with trips to see family or hosting friends over the holidays.


Catch up on all of our 21 tips here or follow on Twitter and Facebook

Christmas family fun

Christmas spending does not stop at presents and turkey. We now have plenty of ways to spend cash on Christmas family fun. But as tip 18 for a stress free Christmas shows, Christmas family fun does not have to cost a lot.

Throughout December we will be offering up advice on how to enjoy a stress free Christmas!

You can catch up on all 21 tips for your stress free Christmas on our website.


Christmas family fun doesn’t have to cost a lot of money

The retail industry around Christmas is no longer limited to convincing us we can buy our way to happiness with perfect (expensive) gifts. It now extends to perfect décor for your home, the perfect Christmas dinner and the perfect Christmas family fun days.

Cue lots of adverts about ice skating, trips to Santa’s Grotto, festive films at the cinema, panto and more; and of course the pursuit of perfect Christmas fun for all the family invariably comes with a price tag.

Spending quality time with your kids at Christmas, however, does not have to cost a lot.

christmas family fun

A welcome side-effect of the digital age is that old fashioned board games have become a real novelty for children.

The fact that classic games like Operation, Monopoly, Kerplunk and Snakes & Ladders are not played on a tablet makes them desirable in the eyes of the IPad generation.

Kids may spend most of their time watching, swiping and drawing on their own tablets these days. There is however still a huge attraction in the novelty of getting the old arts and crafts box out.

Spend an afternoon helping them decorate their own Christmas baubles. Let them design and colour in their own ‘wrapping paper’ that you can use to wrap gifts for grandparents.

christmas family fun

Why not get them baking some festive treats?

It might come as a surprise but our digitally savvy kids really enjoy simple activities that offer actual and not virtual interaction with their parents and the world around them.


Catch up on all of our 21 tips here or follow on Twitter and Facebook

please and thank you saves anger

Next up on our countdown to a stress free Christmas is tip 17: say please and thank you this festive season.

Throughout December we will be offering up advice on how to enjoy a stress free Christmas!

You can catch up on all 21 tips for your stress free Christmas on our website.


Remember to say please and thank you

When a fellow shopper grabs the last ‘must have’ children’s toy from under your nose it can be hard to wish ‘goodwill to all’. When no one in the traffic jam will let you out of your parking space it becomes hard to wish them peace and joy.

Amidst the busyness of the season we tend to forget our manners. Tempers fray and our propensity for rudeness increases.

please and thank you saves anger

‘Please’ becomes ‘I want that’ and ‘thanks’ is, at best, spoken in a clipped and sarcastic tone. With steam coming from our ears we end up being rude to friends, loved ones and complete strangers.

And a lot of the time we do not even realise we are doing it.

This year why not commit to always saying please and thank you, in every situation.

We will all have a more pleasant time if we mind our P’s and Q’s.


Catch up on all of our 21 tips here or follow on Twitter and Facebook

Christmas past - unhappy memories of Christmas past

We have reached tip 16 on our countdown to a stress free Christmas.

Throughout December we will be offering up advice on how to enjoy a stress free Christmas!

You can catch up on all 21 tips for your stress free Christmas on our website.


Ghosts of Christmas past

There is no escaping that Christmas can be a difficult and highly emotional time for some of us.

Past experiences can change our perspective on the Christmas season and leave us feeling anything but festive.

The pressure to be happy at Christmas can further exacerbate emotions that are already very raw.

Christmas past - unhappy memories of Christmas past

There is no rule to say you must be happy at Christmas. If you do, however, find yourself dreading the festive period it is worth talking to someone about it.

A trusted friend or support group can be a good starting point to express how you are feeling. These can also be opportunities to see how others in similar situations have learned to cope.

Speaking to a professional counsellor is also advisable.

They can help you to manage the difficult emotions you are experiencing and find ways to move forward from the painful experiences that are making Christmas a difficult time for you.


Catch up on all of our 21 tips here or follow on Twitter and Facebook

Christmas helpers are not just for Santa

When you are the one stuck with all the Christmas tasks the festive season can feel far from festive. De stress this year by enlisting your own band of Christmas helpers.

With 10 days to go to  we are up to tip 15 on our countdown to a stress free Christmas.

Throughout December we will be offering up advice on how to enjoy a stress free Christmas!

You can catch up on all 21 tips for your stress free Christmas on our website.


Enlist some Christmas helpers

Christmas can quickly become a complete chore for enthusiastic people.

You end up being the person who buys all the presents, puts up the tree, sorts Christmas dinner and writes all the Christmas cards.

Instead of resigning yourself to yet another stressful festive season, enlist the help of your own Christmas elves.

Christmas helpers

Christmas helpers are not just for Santa

Decorating, putting up the tree, coming up with gift ideas, tidying the house for Christmas visitors – everyone should play their part in completing the seasonal to do list.

Aside from easing the burden on you, it can give everyone the chance to enjoy the excitement in the build-up to Christmas.


Catch up on all of our 21 tips here or follow on Twitter and Facebook

spend time with people to be happy

Next up on our countdown to a stress free Christmas it tip 14: spend time with people this Christmas.

Throughout December we will be offering up advice on how to enjoy a stress free Christmas!

You can catch up on all 21 tips for your stress free Christmas.


Spend time with people

As the longest study on human happiness has shown, relationships keep us happy, healthy and living longer. Talking, listening and laughing together really have been shown to be the key to a long, happy and healthy life.

spend time with people

The festive season, however, can bring to the fore feelings of loneliness and isolation.

It is only natural that Christmas – with the focus on spending time together, sharing gifts and socialising – can be difficult for those living on their own.

If you find yourself in a similar situation it is worth taking an active approach to overcoming feelings of isolation.

spend time with people this Christmas

Where you feel comfortable, accept invitations to social events and gatherings from people whose company you enjoy. These should be the people who bring the best out in you.

Make a conscious effort to catch up with close friends and family. Why not organise a get together for you and your fellow singletons during the holiday period?


Catch up on all of our 21 tips here or follow on Twitter and Facebook

free resources life transitions

Today we are on to tip 13 in our countdown to a stress free Christmas. The message is quite simple: help others this Christmas.

Throughout December we will be offering up advice on how to enjoy a stress free Christmas!

You can catch up on all 21 tips for your stress free Christmas.


Help others this Christmas

The commercialisation of Christmas makes it hard not to be caught up in a mentality of ‘I want’.

There are the supposedly ‘essential Christmas fashions’ to consider, the ‘must have’ gifts and the sugar-fuelled selfishness that develops in many children (and a lot of adults too!).

As we write page 3 of our ‘I want’ Christmas present list, the chances are the principles of peace, love and goodwill are not in our thoughts.

There is, however, no better way to get a little perspective on life than supporting a charity or good cause at Christmas.

help others this Christmas

Run for charity: raise money for a good cause at a local Santa Dash

Freeing up some of your time to volunteer at a local charity is a great way to reconnect with the truly important things in life.

If time is short, many charities – large and small – have Christmas gift catalogues. These allow you to purchase a gift for an individual, family or community in need.

Think about those even closer to home too. In particular elderly relatives and neighbours.

help others

Spending an afternoon or evening with them could be the difference between a happy and a very lonely Christmas.

Give of your time, talents or finances where you can.

Whatever you decide to do you will be helping people who need it most. And in doing so you will give yourself get a more grounded perspective on the festive season.


Catch up on all of our 21 tips here or follow on Twitter and Facebook