Christmas is meant to be one of the most joyful times of the year where families come together to celebrate and share the happiness. In reality, it can be a time of unprecedented stress, unhappiness, loneliness and friction.
For some people Christmas is a wonderful experience filled with family, friends and happiness. For many people though, this can be a time of stress and trying to navigate interesting family situations. So, how do you navigate the holiday period successfully?
Following are some tips:
Have realistic Expectations of the day.
We tend to envisage the perfect family get together but often it doesn’t turn out like that. Don’t expect the whole day to be perfect. Often families are running from one side of the family to the other, meals are rushed or not perfect, you forgot to buy a gift for that extra person and you are once again the focus of those prying questions.
Expectations of perfection bring disappointment so expect the day to have its problems and focus instead on the good parts. Be aware of the reality of your family and accept that it may not be perfect but the intentions are there for a special time.
Cut yourself some slack
At this time of year we tend to overindulge. For those who already have negative body image or feel the pressure to lose weight, this time of year can be a great exercise in guilt. Accept that you are going to enjoy the meals over Christmas and allow yourself to indulge for that short period without guilt.
Try and eat well leading up to Christmas and then set a specific time frame for yourself in which you can enjoy the Christmas celebrations without loading guilt on yourself. This takes the pressure off, you can enjoy the celebrations and it keeps your stress levels down which helps avoid other issues over Christmas.
Don’t overindulge in Alcohol
Sometimes we feel with the stress of Christmas that the best way to get through it is to have a few extra drinks to calm ourselves and keep the peace. Unfortunately, it often works in the opposite way and causes problems.
Alcohol loosens the tongue and allows you to vent frustrations which you normally wouldn’t. You may end up saying things that either lead to arguments, or that you later regret. Have a toast or two but don’t use it as a coping mechanism.
Enjoy the moment
Christmas does bring its problems but it is also a unique time of year when we are expected to stop working, chill out and enjoy the down time. Try and focus on the positives of this time and treat yourself to whatever works for you. Hang out with friends, enjoy the alone time, don’t do anything at all, whatever works for you!
Be prepared for the family dynamics
You may be an adult and run your own life, but Christmas has a funny way of bringing back old family dynamics. Decide beforehand what issues are likely to arise and how you will manage them.
If you know that you are going to get question time from Great Aunt Sue as to why you are on your own when your siblings are all married off – well, have a witty comeback ready. Prepare your answers in advance so it doesn’t put you on the spot. Often these types of inquisitions or inappropriate questions are best handled through humour. Laugh it off with short reply and change the subject.
You know your family so expect some old habits to resurface and don’t take it personally. Recognise it as their issues and their past habits resurfacing – not yours.
Design a survival strategy
Knowing what you are in for and how you will manage it can help to lessen the stress. Decide if you want to try and get on with everyone of if you need an avoidance strategy for some people. Have some humour ready to defuse tense situations, have a get out plan for when it is time to go, focus on any children present, they can often be a great distraction from
Plan to be happy and keep reminding yourself of it throughout the day. Happiness is often a choice – so choose to be happy and deal with the issues as they arise with humour.
Get some fresh air and exercise
When the afternoon is dragging on, you’ve eaten too much and Granny won’t stop talking at you – get out for a break. A brisk walk around the block on your own can bring some sanity back and break the tension that was building. It will help to calm you, wake you up and prepare for the next round.
This is particularly good for those who are suffering from depression. It gives you a few moments to yourself to regroup and also gets the Serotonin pumping.
Put yourself first
There is a real danger over the Christmas period that you will try to please everyone and attend every invitation out of guilt. Don’t. Choose the events that you want to attend and those that are important to you on some level. If it is an event that you feel you have to go to but don’t really want to, then set time limits on it.
Make sure that people are aware beforehand that you will be attending, but that you will only be able to stay for a specific time. This allows you to leave when you are ready without the guilt. It also makes those events bearable as you know there is a definite end point.
Some people may choose to not attend family functions due to the stress involved and will then have to face the anger and hurt of the family. If you make a choice not to be with your extended family over Christmas, then that’s ok. Sometimes we just have to make choices that are good for us. Don’t beat yourself up over it and have some answers ready for when family call to discuss it.
Get in the Christmas spirit
So we’ve established that Christmas can be really hard work and stressful, but it can also be a special time if we allow it. Take a deep breath and try and get into the spirit of the holiday. Smile, have some jokes ready, do nice things for others.
Even if you don’t feel it, often just ‘faking it’ will eventually catch up to you and it will feel real. So, “fake it till you make it”!
Be aware of others
Not everyone has family and friends around for the Christmas break, or perhaps they have lost someone close to them. In these circumstances, Christmas can be a real challenge and time of sadness.
If you know of someone who is in this position, be aware of it and if you can, include them in some of your Christmas celebrations. You may just make someone’s life seem worthwhile at a difficult time.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas. Be kind to yourself and enjoy the moment.