Using "Goblin Mode" to Reduce Stress (2024)

Using "Goblin Mode" to Reduce Stress (1)

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Is there any point to the Christmas card anymore? Due to a series of postal strikes here in the United Kingdom, postal union reps are saying that most cards won’t get delivered until February 2023, and several people have proudly posted on social media that they’ve hand-delivered their cards this year (thereby, not only beating said strikes but also saving a fortune on postage). Some people have given up on cards altogether, including myself. And not just cards but other social norms, too. In fact, the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year for 2022, "goblin mode," indicates just how many people have realised that you just don’t have to do things the way they used to be done.

Goblin mode refers to “a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.”

The president of Oxford Languages, Casper Grathwohl, said, “given the year we’ve just had ‘goblin mode’ resonates with all of us who are feeling a little overwhelmed at this point.”

The term itself first appeared on Twitter in 2009 but has been gathering momentum these past few years and has been fueled by things such as the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis, climate change, Ukraine, and fears of World War Three. But, what does this all have to do with Christmas in general and with Christmas cards specifically?

A large part of my role includes Webinars and presentations on a wide variety of topics related to mental health and well-being. One topic that I have repeated often these past few weeks is “how to have less stress this Christmas.”

In these seminars, I’ve been using rational emotive behaviour therapy (REBT) to look at the very unhealthy beliefs and cognitive distortions we all pick up at this time of year.

Take “Christmas has to be perfect,” for instance.

Disputing Unhealthy Beliefs

A key skill in REBT is disputing, which involves attacking unhealthy beliefs and attitudes with three questions, namely: Is this belief true, does this belief make sense, and does this belief help me?

The "Is it true?" question requires proof, evidence to back the statement up, whilst the "Does it make sense?" question is all about logic and common sense. Finally, the last question should be the most obvious: "Does this belief help me or not? Will my Christmas be more stressful or less stressful with it?" So, let’s take “Christmas has to be perfect.”

That’s definitely not true; nothing is ever perfect, and we can all evidence some right Christmas stinkers in our time, so, if you can evidence less-than-perfect Christmastimes past and can’t guarantee their perfection going forward, then "It must be perfect" just isn’t true. Now, you might want it to be perfect, but, just because you would like something to happen, it does not logically follow that it must happen. Sadly, that is not how the world works. You don’t get what you want just by wishing for it. And demanding perfection from your Christmas is very stressful indeed. You’ll end up obsessing over every single detail, and it might just turn you into a Christmas control freak.

Sending Christmas Cards

I also apply these very rational and objective REBT questions not only to beliefs but also to certain aspects of life (including Christmas). I once lived in a flat where, for the first four or five years that I lived there, I would still get Christmas cards for the previous occupants, even though they were both deceased. So, I’ve never seen cards as entirely rational things anyhow.


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Generally speaking, we all write Christmas cards because we’ve always written Christmas cards. They’re the "done" thing. And, they are a hard habit to break.

The first known Christmas card was apparently sent to James I of England (and his son) in 1611, but the first ever commercially designed Christmas card was produced by British artist John Calcott Horsley in 1843. Since then, the production of Christmas cards has become very profitable indeed (and they count for almost half of the volume of greeting card sales here in the United Kingdom).

But guess what? You don’t have to send them ("It’s not true"). You can bow out if you wish. People might grumble and moan, and you might feel a bit bad, but that would be about it. It doesn’t make sense to say you have to send them, just because you think you need to. Or because everyone expects it. And it certainly doesn’t help you. How many cards do you write each year? How many greetings? How many envelopes addressed? Just think of how much time (and how many trees) you would save if you stopped. That’s one way to have a less stressful Christmas right there.

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And, so, my inner goblin, coupled with my inner and outer rational emotive behaviour therapist, has rejected the Christmas card societal norm and self-indulgently, selfishly, refused to write a single one. And I am much happier for it. Referencing the postal strikes as I have done so has just been a happy coincidence.

I’m not saying you should all stop writing Christmas cards (especially if you love both sending and receiving them). Removing them is just something that made sense to me. And we are all entitled to have Christmas as we want it to be (Jingle Bells and all, if that is your wish).

But, you could have a little look at all your Christmas norms and see which ones no longer serve you or make sense to you. You can reject and refuse to indulge in any aspect of Christmas you wish. Engage Goblin mode?

Goblin mode engaged.

Using "Goblin Mode" to Reduce Stress (2024)
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