Christmas is supposed to be a lovely holiday – friends and family celebrating, joy to the world, peace and harmony – so why do so many people end up feeling incredibly stressed?
Did you know that the suicide rate increases dramatically at this time of year? Also the divorce rate soars in early January. How sad that this season creates so much unhappiness.
I think most of the problems are caused by expectations. You want it to be perfect. You want to feel loved and love in return. You want everyone to get along.
So my first tip is…
Manage your expectations. If you have a group of people coming together, don’t expect the all to get on. There will be friction (especially if there is alcohol involved) so expect it and have a plan to deal with it. That plan could be just to let it go, not to worry about it. It could be to plan an activity or game that will keep people occupied. It could be about mediating and finding common ground – whatever it is , have a plan, but also accept that your plan may not work out how you want it to.
If you are going to be alone you still need to manage your expectations. At a time of year when everyone is talking about how important family is, how great it is to be in a relationship etc etc you need to own your singleness. I’ve been alone at Christmas a few times – sometimes it’s been utterly depressing, sometimes it’s been awesome. That tells me that my happiness doesn’t depend on whether I’m with people or not, but it does depend on how I feel about it. Don’t dwell on what you think it should be, accept what it is and make the absolute most of it. Plan something wonderful for yourself. If you have the money, go away, book a trip, do something you’ve always wanted to do. If you’re broke, get your favourite snacks in, plan a personal pamper day, grab the cosy blankets and a good book/film and enjoy it (all the while thanking your lucky stars that you’re not spending the day running yourself ragged trying to please a load of unappreciative family who will just have a fight and ruin your day anyway)
Which brings me to tip 2
Plan and Prepare. Try not to give yourself too much work to do on the day. It might seem a little over the top, but a little planning goes a long way. Write yourself a list of things that you need to do for YOUR Christmas. I can’t give you a list as everyone’s Christmas is their own, but think about furniture that you need, food that you want, games that you want to play, decorations you want to have, gifts you want to give, how you want to wrap them, people you want to see, cards you want to send. Do as much as you can as early as you can. Leave NOTHING to the last minute. Last minute = stress. Avoid it where possible. Cards can be written, addressed and stamped now. Some food can be prepared and frozen. Online shopping lists can be created. Get on it now – not only will it reduce your stress, but you’ll also feel amazingly smug and well organised when you hear about other people stressing.
Despite what I’ve just said, you also need to remember tip 3
Keep it simple. Your job is not to put on the most elaborate Christmas celebration that has ever existed. You don’t have to handmake soaps in the shape of wrapped Christmas presents, you don’t have to cook like a gourmet chef, you don’t need to buy everyone a uniquely thoughtful gift that speaks to their soul. Sometimes a scented candle or some bed socks are OK. Pre prepared food still tastes great and most people will be happy with the slightly dodgy Christmas TV and a nap after dinner.
Which brings me back to expectations and tip 4 is
It’s also OK to manage other people’s expectations. As a business owner I know how important it is to manage other peoples expectations. If I tell you I’m going to do something, I need to be able to deliver that. If I don’t deliver, I disappoint. If I do what I said I was going to do, then my clients are OK with that. If I exceed what I said I was going to do, everyone is happy. So, underplay what you are going to do and over deliver.
My final tip for today is
Don’t try to do everything yourself. This is a double edged sword. Firstly, by delegating tasks you avoid the stress of having to do everything. That’s a win. The weight of Christmas is not ALL on your shoulders. The other side is that your guest may actually really enjoy contributing to Christmas. It makes them feel involved and gives them a chance to show that they can make something wonderful too. If people offer to help, don’t get defensive. They are not trying to tell you that they don’t think you can do this. They just want to help and to be involved. Let them. Christmas does not belong just to you.
All of these things will help to keep things a bit calmer, more relaxed, under control. However some people will still struggle with stress at this time of year. Please, however you feel, don’t let seasonal stress get to you. If you can manage it yourself- fantastic. If you can’t please get help. There are lots of professionals around who can help you to feel the way you want to feel, to live the life you want to live. As a hypnotherapist I help people all year round, but stress, anxiety and loneliness are more prevalent at this time of year ( and weight loss is more prevalent in January!)
Here’s to your stress free Christmas