Christmas is a time for joy, but for some, it can be a terrible source of stress. From buying presents to expertly timing Christmas Day cooking, there are a hundred things that can go wrong and it can all culminate when the time comes to sit down to lunch with your family.
Everyone’s family and Christmases are different, but here are some examples of typically tricky scenarios that we can help you manage with love and compassion.
Whether it be about your cooking or how well decorated your tree is, receiving criticism is never easy, particularly when you put in a strong effort. At this time it can be incredibly easy to lose control of your emotions and say something you may later regret.
The best course of action is to respond, not react. Before you say or do anything, take a deep breath and listen to the rhythm of your heartbeat. If it’s thrashing like a lion in a locked cage, take deep breaths until it slows down to a more calming rate.
Respond to your relatives criticism by letting them know you value their input, but you are happy with the results of your effort. Responding with kindness will defuse the situation and allow you to keep your cool. Choosing to react with a hot head will result in negative interactions that could affect the enjoyment of everyone else around you. Stay respectful but true to your feelings. Try this; next time your mother-in-law comments on how the roast potatoes could be fluffier, don’t immediately react with a biting comment back. Try and see where she is coming from, maybe she feels useless because cooking Christmas dinner is usually her job, or perhaps she has control issues with letting her son go. Although it may feel like a personal attack, criticism of any kind rarely is. It usually comes from a place of low self-worth. In this scenario, you could ask your mother-in-law how she would have cooked the potatoes instead, allowing her to feel valued and needed again. Then, asking her to help you make dessert might be an excellent opportunity to bond with each other.
From being the butt of a joke in front of your significant other’s family to breaking a wine glass after one too many, embarrassing situations happen to the best of us.
But feeling embarrassed can sometimes be overwhelming. It’s easy to escalate a single emotion until you have convinced yourself the whole family hates you and you’re an awful human being.
It’s important to remember we are not our feelings. The emotions we feel do not define us. Thoughts and feelings come and go, it is the essence of who we are that is constant, and you are not consistently embarrassing! Try this; when a situation arises that causes you embarrassment, do as the Buddha suggests and name the feeling. Say to yourself, “oh look, I am experiencing embarrassment.” Look at the emotion, where does it manifest in your body? How does it affect your thoughts? Observing emotions in this way takes away your ownership of the feeling, giving you space to experience it and allow it to pass on. Feeling embarrassed is a very healthy emotion, but holding on to that feeling and letting it affect how you see yourself is not healthy. Be kind to yourself; you are a beautiful soul having a human experience!
Questions about Love Life (or lack thereof)
Many people identify worth with whether someone has a partner or spouse. Family members who love you want to see you happy, but generational gaps can mean they don’t understand how happiness can is achievable on your own.
It can be easy to feel as if you are justifying or defending your life choices around relatives. First, remember the questions come from a place of love. Many people show love through anxiety. Phrases such as “you’re so beautiful, why are you wearing that?” or “when I was your age, I was already married with three kids” can sound incredibly rude and confronting. As hard as it is to believe, there is no malice behind these words. Society tells us to look for happiness within another human and it is only in the last twenty years or so that we are starting to focus more on finding happiness within. Therefore, your parents and grandparents might not fully understand this concept, believing you are not complete until you have found a partner.
Try not to take it personally. Stand firm in your answer and maybe you can enlighten your family on the importance of self-love?
Feelings of disappointment and bitterness are prevalent when significant events hold a lot of expectations. It can be hard not to get your hopes up when the whole year has been leading up to this moment. Having expectations about an event, or of a person, is normal psychological behaviour, but is something us humans need to try and limit. Approaching scenarios with no prior assumption of the outcome means you are free to enjoy the moment and all its surprises. Try this; before you sit down to exchange gifts, say to yourself “I am happy to be here with my family. Anything more is a bonus.” By allowing yourself to be content with the simple act of being together, receiving presents won’t be viewed with such high expectation. Then, when your grandmother disappoints you with a pair of cheap socks, you can appreciate the fact she thought of you at all.
Intoxicated Family Member
It’s a common misconception that alcohol is necessary to have a good time, and the act of drinking until drunk is so ingrained in Western culture that it can be challenging to know when to cut someone off. Asking someone to slow down with their alcohol intake could be met with embarrassment and sometimes aggression. Choosing your timing and wording is important here. Excessive drinking can be a sign of broader emotional issues, so it’s important to take the situation seriously.
Consider offering water next time the person asks for another drink. Usually, that will be enough for them to realise they have gone too far. If they are acting uncharacteristically unfavourable and you typically have a good relationship with said person, consider finding a moment away from the party to gently encourage them to act more appropriately.
Keep an eye on how regularly they get excessively drunk as it could be a sign of underlying issues that need addressing in the future.
Anyone under the age of 10 is going to find Christmastime overwhelmingly exciting. Excitement manifests itself differently for every child, so observe how yours reacts to over-stimulating emotions. Typically, enthusiasm manifests itself as adrenaline, which is why you’ll find children running and screaming when they are enjoying themselves. If they are allowed to channel this adrenaline positively, you shouldn’t notice them being too disruptive to the flow of the day. Make time to engage with your children. It can be difficult juggling all the responsibilities expected of you during Christmas but dedicating an hour or two to play with your kids gives them the attention they need, while also allowing you to learn how your child interacts with the world. Playtime is integral to a child’s development and creates lasting bonds between you both.
It’s also a great idea to allow the kids to get out of the house for a few hours. Go for a family walk or let them take their toys to the garden or local park. Time in nature is very healing, plus they have the space to let out all their energy before returning home.
If you find your child in a negative mindset, maybe they are heading for a tantrum; they are refusing to share with their peers; or feel particularly needy while your attention is elsewhere. Take them aside to a quiet part of the house, get down to their eye-level and speak softly to them. Tell them you understand their frustration, that you love and respect them, but it is essential that they try to relax. Breathe deeply together, counting each breath up to ten before starting again. Repeat this exercise until they calm down (yes, this could take a few minutes!) Anger and frustration is a sticky part of growing up, especially when children are unable to articulate their emotions yet.
But above all, lead by example. Children are especially receptive to energy. If you are feeling anxious, stressed or are pre-empting negative behaviour before it happens, your child will pick up on this and act accordingly. Work on centering yourself and the rest of the family will follow.
Christmas is an interesting time filled with extreme highs and lows. Don’t forget to put yourself first above all else. If you aren’t feeling ready to cope with a stressful or anxiety-inducing situation, then remove yourself. Taking even five minutes in the bathroom away from everyone can be enough to balance yourself and find inner peace. Practice deep breathing throughout the day and try to find enjoyment in the little things. Laugh at your grandmother snoring in front of the TV, or feel grateful that your father-in-law offered to wash up the dishes. Life is about simple pleasures and Christmas shouldn’t be any different.
Instead of focusing on stress, you should remember what Christmas is really all about.
Find your bliss and enjoy!