If we’re to believe all the festive films and songs, Christmas should be a time of peace and togetherness but all the statistics point to it being one of the most stressful times of year. Divorce lawyers tell us that business is always brisk in January and one recent study on Facebook status updates revealed that couples were twice as likely to break up at Christmas than at any other time of year. Family gatherings over the festive period are often loaded with high expectations and relatives who might otherwise go to great lengths to avoid each other can suddenly find themselves struggling to make small talk over the turkey and trimmings. For many people it can be a long awaited break from work and routine but the pressures of spending and entertaining can take their toll. So, as well as being realistic about what to expect from your nearest and dearest at Christmas, it’s also important to have some coping strategies in case the stress starts to materialise.
An idealistic image of a Happy Christmas will increase anxiety and the chance of disappointment so be honest with yourself and anticipate that things are unlikely to go too perfectly and a little spontaneity is good. If people fall out and things go wrong it’s okay. In fact, it’s perfectly normal. Those things happen at other times of year and it’s no big deal so don’t let it become a major issue just because it’s Christmas.
It’s One Day
As well as downgrading your expectations of others and the event itself, be easy on yourself too. Don’t put yourself under pressure to be a domestic god or goddess. Rather than aiming for a perfect Christmas, aim for one that’s relaxed and remember, Christmas Day is a single day in the year.
Be Self Aware
Understanding your own stress triggers will help you head off disaster. If you know who or what is likely to start your blood boiling you’ll be more ready to cope with it.
If people offer to help with the washing up or putting the children to bed, accept it gratefully. Often guests assume their hosts prefer to do everything themselves so be ready to hand out the tea towel and the bin liners and enjoy sharing the responsibility of a Happy Christmas.
Break the Habit of Excess
One of the greatest causes of stress at Christmas is concern about the cost. This is something that needs to be tackled early. Broach the issue with friends and relatives and set spending limits, or agree not to exchange presents at all or better still, try handmade presents. Instead of buying a gift for your closest relatives, agree to do something together instead. Spending time with each other can be far more valuable than anything that can be wrapped. If the kids want to buy you something for Christmas but have no money suggest as a special present to you, they create a promises jar. List all the things you’d like help with and pop each on a piece of paper and put in a glass jar to choose randomly whenever you like. Don’t put too many in but 10 jobs could be the best present ever for a parent!!
With a little forward planning, Christmas could be one of your most relaxed times of year, giving you space to just enjoy being with the people you love.