We all know that Christmas is perceived as the most wonderful time of the year, however we rarely recognise the pressure and stress many people feel as a result of the festive period.
The intense pressure to make sure everything is perfect, that everyone has a gift they love, to host your family of 20 around an 8 person table, the inevitable disagreements over politics (let’s not even go there), clashing of beliefs and intense games (imagine Monopoly being flung across the room with the table attached) plus the biggest pressure of all….money!
Although Christmas is designed to bring families together, it often pulls them apart.
Please don’t think I’m bashing Christmas, trust me, I am one of the biggest festive advocates out there. What I recognise in myself and in others is the stress that can come along with it, so how do we manage this?
PERSPECTIVE! We need to put everything into perspective and manage our mindsets to focus on what really matters, the hints and tips below will help keep our stress under control.
Perspective! Recognise that there are families who genuinely have nothing for Christmas, not even their own home and if you are in a position to do so, give to a charity who support these families. Even small contributions like food and socks go a long way. Or check in on an elderly neighbour who may not get any visitors over Christmas. Give them your time, have a cup of tea with them and ask how they are, loneliness is a terrible feeling. Help bring a little happiness to someone else’s life over this Christmas period, showing care, love and compassion to others is what we need to encourage.
- Perspective! Recognise that there are families who genuinely have nothing for Christmas, not even their own home and if you are in a position to do so, give to a charity who support these families. Even small contributions like food and socks go a long way. Or check in on an elderly neighbour who may not get any visitors over Christmas. Give them your time, have a cup of tea with them and ask how they are, loneliness is a terrible feeling. Help bring a little happiness to someone else’s life over this Christmas period, showing care, love and compassion to others is what we need to encourage.
- It does NOT have to be perfect! What I have learnt (and I have been known to be a bit of a perfectionist control freak) is that people won’t remember or even notice all the teeny tiny details we believe are so important and if they’re not exactly right, the whole of Christmas will be ruined! People, especially children, remember the experience and the love they felt. I couldn’t even tell you the toys I received each year at Christmas when I was a child, or how perfect the centrepiece was. That information isn’t retained, but I could tell you the little family traditions we had and the games we played! Let go of ‘perfection’ and see what happens…I guarantee everyone will still have a great time, and you never know…you might feel more relaxed!
- Everyone will have different opinions and that’s ok. There will undoubtedly be a disagreement or two over the festive period (ours normally happens during the Christmas Quiz – but I’m quiz master and my word is final….did I tell you I’m a control freak) remember, you can’t control those around you or the things that happen, but you can control the way you respond to those things (Do you ever lose your cool?) choose the most resourceful (least stressful) response.
- Help yourself and other families by not telling children that Santa has bought them an expensive gift. Santa should bring one small affordable gift to children. By letting them believe otherwise you are impacting other children and adults around you who cannot afford to give such expensive gifts. If you want to give a larger gift, make sure the children know it is from you. Children can believe that they are not as good as other children because Santa gifted them something little and other while other children received more. This can have a huge impact on an individual’s self-esteem as they grow up.
- It’s ok to hide in the toilet! If it all becomes a bit too much, I encourage you to give yourself some space for 5 minutes….that’s right, I’m encouraging you to lock yourself in the loo. Ultimately stepping away for a few minutes to decompress and take some deep breaths will help manage your mindset.
- Set some rules for conversation. If you truly are worried about certain topics arising that will inevitably cause friction, gently encourage your guests to avoid talking about them. But what about if you have that one family member who insists on being the wind-up merchant and ignores your guidelines? Prepare some distractions for these moments, have some alternative questions prepared, or maybe that’s the moment to offer up the After Eights (Christmas just isn’t Christmas without an After Eight)
- It’s ok to feel sad and miss loved ones at Christmas. We often really feel a deep sadness over Christmas about those no longer with us. Be kind to yourself and just know that it’s ok to feel this. Ensure you give yourself some time for reflection, to feel what you need to feel and share any sadness with someone you trust, a hug goes a long way.
- It’s not about the money you spend. Christmas is not about spending so much money that you go into debt, it’s not worth the stress and worry it will cause you and in my experience people are more grateful for gifts that are thoughtful than those that are expensive. Spending a lot of money on someone can often make them feel the pressure to reciprocate and, if they’re unable to, it can create guilt and resentment.
I truly hope you and your family have a lovely festive period. Use the suggestions above to help reduce any stress and have compassion towards yourself and others over Christmas.
I look forward to connecting with you all in the New Year.