Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Right?
Well for some people it can be the most stressful and unhappy. Feelings of overwhelm and pressure are all too common with expectations running high and the lead up prolonged – and that’s just work!
Family life can be as tricky with extended family visiting, in-laws staying, financial pressure to spend, spend, spend and the time to relax is non-existent as we fill our days with fun festive activities.
Did you know that more than half of Brits have family disagreements at Christmas?
According to Relate calls go up by 59% over the Christmas period with the average family having their first argument before 10am on Christmas morning. Sound familiar?
Why is Christmas so bad?
- Our expectations are high, and we want it to be perfect but that’s not very realistic. Life isn’t perfect so spending loads of money and time trying to create perfection is a thankless task.
- The Solution: Try and be a bit more relaxed about things. Flexibility is key here. Go with the flow when things don’t quite go according to plan and just accept what is.
- Financial pressures can be a huge cause of stress all year round but especially when spending is at a premium and there seems to be no end in sight.
- The Solution: Decide upon a budget at the beginning of December and stick to it. It might not be easy for the first year but it’s a whole lot easier than managing debt in January. Set your expectations with family and friends early and explain you’ve decided to be a little more careful this year, maybe have a secret Santa draw so you only get one present each, set a spending limit or stop buying for anyone over a certain age. Planning and communication is the key to this solution.
- Family visiting can be a tricky business even just for a day trip, let alone the 2-3 day stop-over. Tensions can rise with everyone cooped up in the same space and bickering begins.
- The Solution: Try to organise a few events during a stay where you can each do some activities separately. Perhaps you and the kids could head to the park while the in-laws have a winter walk? Or you could have a long hot bath listening to your favourite music while everyone else makes supper? The key thing to remember is that while family are here to visit it doesn’t mean you have to do everything together all the time.
- Blended families have become commonplace with divorce, separation and bereavement creating challenges at every turn. If there has been a life-changing event during the year which is making Christmas particularly challenging it can put even more pressure on people. Perhaps the idea of festive fun and eat, drink and be merry are the last thing you feel like doing.
- The Solution: Take a step back and try and get some perspective on the situation. Try to be clear on what it is you do want for the holidays. The key here is to remember it’s only one day and it won’t last forever. If you really don’t want to join in explain to your family or friends beforehand that while you appreciate their excitement you just can’t do it this year. Asking for help and support are good and reassures others you are ok, but explain you just need quiet time and space.
We are taught from a young age that Christmas is about giving but we are also programmed to believe that means giving gifts, cards and food. However, perhaps we should re-consider our experience of giving and think about giving our time, being present and giving to ourselves.
Giving yourself space, patience and kindness is very often overlooked and underestimated. However, when you give these things to yourself you very often find that it becomes so much easier to give the same to others without thought or consideration. It becomes a more natural state of being because we are kind to ourselves and understand the impact it can have.
Managing your stress at Christmas is entirely possible when you remember a few key traits: to be flexible, make a plan while giving ourselves and others the space and time to simply be. Managing expectations is the key to a Happy Christmas without the guilt, debt and pressures to over-indulge and over-spend.
Give Yourself the Gift of Good Mental Health and join us at one of our next Mental Health First Aid Training sessions:
28th & 30th January 2020 OR
21st and 25th February 2020