Christmas is a time of joy, magic and love, but can also be a difficult time for a number of people.
For some, spending time with extended family can be tough, for others it’s remembering loved ones who are no longer around. It can also be as simple as having too much to do with not enough time, or social media envy where everyone else’s life seems perfect.
Here are some things to remember if you find Christmas has lost a little of its sparkle.
Manage your own expectations.
Understand most things don’t go to plan, and Christmas is no exception. Don’t worry if the wrapping paper is last week’s newspaper, the mince pies are a home brand, and the lawn isn’t mowed, you can still have a great day. In fact, you’re much more likely to have a great day if you don’t get too stressed making sure everything’s exactly right.
Nothing is compulsory.
It’s OK to say no. If you find that you can’t make it to all or any of the parties don’t worry. Prioritise, work out the events most important to you and go to those. Make apologies for the ones you can’t go to. Family and friends may be upset but will understand.
Spending time with family can be stressful.
At family get togethers, there’s always the roll-eyeing inevitable questions like, why are you still single? when am I going to be a grandma? or when are you going to get a proper job? You may even have a relative that’s likely to make offensive remarks all through dinner. To help manage these situations, consider planning responses to awkward questions or even exit strategies in advance.
Two good techniques are offering a vague answer and then encouraging the person to talk about themselves. For example - “I’m enjoying being independent, but I’m dying to hear all about the cruise you took Uncle Joe – what was your favourite thing about it?”
And a quick exit - “Gee, I’m stuffed after that delicious dinner – who wants to come walk off some of the pudding?”
People are probably not trying to upset you
Remember people are usually not deliberately trying to upset you – even if they are managing to push all your buttons!
Try imagining the whole situation as a sit-com – you’ll often find you’re able to laugh at what the characters are doing instead of getting upset with Mum/Dad/Grandpa/your siblings/your kids.
Name your feelings.
“I feel really upset,” “I feel angry,” “I feel sad,” – articulating what you’re experiencing reduces the power your emotions have over you and helps you deal with them more constructively.
Doing something healthy can help you feel better.
Instead of reaching for another glass of bubbles or serve of pudding, take some time out for your mental health – go for a walk, watch a funny movie, use a meditation app (try Tara Brach’s meditation podcasts, the Brain.FM app or Insight Timer) to calm your mind. You can also call a friend for a chat, or talk to your Employee Assistance Program if your employer provides one.
If all else fails, remember the festive season will soon be over and everyone will be talking about the Tennis instead!