Christmas is just around the corner and once more we are embarking on a rollercoaster! With its ups like the house wrapping itself with beautiful decorations and scents, children getting excited about the presents being delivered under the Christmas tree, mulled wine and delicacies, feelings of joy, excitement, sharing and love... and then the downs. Endless to-do lists (from sending cards to finding the perfect presents or cooking the more delicious elaborate meals), the need to satisfy everyone with presents and food, the family reunions with its unavoidable tensions and sometimes even a huge sense of loneliness – all can build up the uncomfortable and negative feelings of stress.
Relying on that good old glass of wine hoping to blur your way through the more negative parts of your Christmas holiday isn't the answer though. It won't actually help you have a stress-free Christmas. Here are some simple tips to help keep you through holiday stress management, help keep you feeling authentic to who you really are (and sane for that matter), and most importantly, to help remind you to embrace the joy that comes with this very special season.
Tips for a great Christmas
1. Forget about perfection
Perfectionism is a toxic behaviour that mostly affects our ability to be happy and boost happiness in ourselves. Remember this if you have trouble letting go – the only certainty we have in life is that life is uncertain. Things hardly ever go to plan. Setting extremely high expectations can only lead you to a sense of disappointment or worse, failure thus attacking your confidence.
Also, bear in mind that traditions can be broken. It is not the end of the world if your usual 80 Christmas cards do not get sent this year or if you decide to simplify the menu because you actually want to enjoy the day, around the table with your friends and family rather than slaving away in the kitchen. So go for 'good enough' – Christmas is not about being the best, it is about trying your best and sharing happiness.
2. Accept and let go
Allow others to be disappointed – whether it be by their present or the turkey being 'too dry'. It’s OK, we acknowledged that we are not going for perfection. It is not your job to keep everyone happy. What really matters is that you genuinely tried.
And, allow others to be who they are. Again, this is about expectations – do not expect people to change for Christmas. They are who they are, with their qualities and their flaws. Your mother-in-law still might make fire cutting remarks at everyone, so just let go and focus on what makes you feel good. Christmas is not the time for you to solve family issues, frustrations or upsets. Accept what is there and make the most of it.
3. Focus on the good
Focus your thoughts on all the good things about Christmas, the opportunity to engage in loving, kindness, generosity and gratitude. It is the ideal period to show gratitude for what you have right now and forget about what you don’t have.
Why not start a Christmas gratitude calendar, similar to an advent calendar, where the container for each day is empty and is to be filled with a little note from each family member with something they are grateful for. Reading through all the things everyone is grateful for on Christmas day by a warm cozy fire would be so energising, fun and for sure induce more love and happiness.
4. Throw kindness around like confetti
Christmas can sometimes trigger a feeling of guilt when we realise that there are so many others who are lonely, poorly or underprivileged. It is the perfect time to spread kindness, get involved with a local charity or community or simply pay a visit to a lonely neighbour.
There is a lot of scientific research out there demonstrating the connection between kindness and happiness. Being kind to someone not only raises the happiness level of the receiver but it also activates your dopaminergic reward circuits. In other words, it contributes to your own happiness too. Science also suggests that kindness is one of the most contagious social behaviours in our repertoire (1). So go ahead and be kind – kindness is good for you and the world around you. Happy holidays!
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