‘Christmas comes but once a year and when it does it brings good cheer’. Well that’s the theory – in practice the cheery stuff can be in woefully short supply.

Some years it’s not quite the Pinterest-worthy, picture book epitome of Christmas perfection, more a living nightmare where everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

Family members argue and fights break out.  A melee ensues to wrest control of the TV remote as if it were the ‘The Precious’ of Lord of the Rings-fame. The children hate their presents jealously eyeing the ‘much better’ gifts of their siblings.  Despite extensive forward planning, the Christmas meal ends up, not so much a Masterchef marvel, more like something out one of Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares.  Worse still, over consumption of food and drink becomes rife and tipsy relatives upset all and sundry with inopportune remarks.

Perhaps for some the rhyme would be re-worded – ‘Thanks goodness Christmas comes once a year as when it does it’s a time to fear’.  At times it’s enough to wish you were a bear and just hibernate through the whole thing!

However even if things don’t quite conform to the festive ideal help is at hand! It’s possible to avoid a stressful time by equipping yourself with a Christmas stocking’s worth of stress busting strategies.

Lower expectations
Women in particular, as mothers and hosts, often have high expectations to deliver a perfect Christmas time – placed on their shoulders by the rest of family, but more importantly by themselves.  Remember we aren’t superheroes – whether it be of the Wonder Woman or Superman variety.

It has been called ‘The Problem of Perfection’. Psychologists have identified the constant quest for a flawless state as one which all too often leads to unhappiness.  It is next to impossible to achieve and so perfectionism is bound to lead to disappointment.  So called ’80-percenters’ tend to happier – they are people who lower their expectations to more realistic levels. This type of person is much more likely to meet, rather than falling short of their goals.

Be more present
To elaborate a little more on the perfectionism problem – the perfectionist is never fully present. Their minds are stuffed to the gunnels with unconstructive thoughts.  These are either replays of past events, and especially mistakes, or lists of mental to-do’s, plans and worries about the futures. One place their mind doesn’t go is to the here and now.

Many studies have shown that a sure fire-way to elevate the mood is to be mindful – to be in the present.  So rather than worrying about your Christmas going perfectly to plan or dwelling on the odd misstep – appreciate what’s going on right at this moment. Savour the good things – and don’t agonise about the bad.
Say no

Saying ‘no’ can sometimes be difficult but learning to say this simple two letter word can be one of the best ways to reduce your stress. Invitations may come in thick and fast leading to a feeling of pressure to accept.  However, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything. You’re not being selfish by saying ‘no’ and instead you’ll actually enjoy the things to you do say ‘yes’ to.

…and some practical things
If the Christmas workload makes the whole holiday seem like a hurdle to get over rather than a time of enjoyment – take some practical steps to ease the burden – for example:

  • Shop online – avoid the Christmas rush and get presents delivered to your door
  • Buy in Christmas food rather making it yourself
  • Spread the load – delegate the jobs
  • Don’t do everything at once – a bit at a time is the way to go
  • Try diffusing essential or fragrance oils to help create a calming atmosphere

The true meaning of Christmas – return to ‘happiness’ values
It has become a cliché to decry the fiesta of consumerism that Christmas has become. The fact remains that for many people the amount they spend seems to take precedence over the amount of that fabled ‘good cheer’.

What happened to love, kindness and togetherness? These are often described as embodying the ‘true meaning of Christmas’.  Feelings of wellbeing are much more likely to follow from things that engender and celebrate our human nature as social, gregarious beings.

We weren’t designed to ‘shop till we drop’ –  we were made, however, to enjoy each other’s company – and what better time to do that, than at Christmas!

Wishing you a merry stress free Christmas!

Image: ‘christmas candle snowman with lights’
Author: Digidreamgrafix – DigiDreamGrafix.com

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