Avoid the Great Christmas Meltdown
Christmas spirit is brewing all around, but with the risk of sounding like the Grinch, this time of the year is also loaded with less favourable emotions.
The stress of getting the house in order, buying and finding the “right” gifts, financial strain, deciding on where to spend Christmas, rushing to finish off work before the break, etc, can all take its toll. However, the pressure can be managed through putting some simple strategies into place.
This year, make the festive season a time to recharge properly for the New Year ahead.
1. Set realistic expectations
Avoid the hype and comparisons of what the perfect Christmas “should” look like. Aim for “good enough” and remember that you can’t please everyone. Find out the key things the people you are celebrating with (including yourself), would like to get out of the holiday break.
Perhaps you wish to tweak the traditions? Maybe you don’t need all the trimmings with the Turkey, can do your shopping online, arrange Secret Santa, don’t need to visit every relative, etc. Identify what’s truly essential to you, reach an agreement and stick with it. This approach removes some of the added pressure and stress building up.
2. Sharing is caring
Avoid feeling you have to do all the work yourself. Suggest guests to bring dishes, set the table, help with the washing up, or get the grandparents to look after and spend quality time with the kids, so you can also enjoy a break.
3. Avoid the triggers
If you are not used to spending much time together, there is added pressure that everything has to be “perfect”. Every family has their own sensitive issues that can escalate into full-blown conflicts (especially when alcohol has been involved).
If there are children around, try to put your adult conflicts to the side avoiding the “no-go zones”, as this is not the right time to deal with it.
4. Anger coping strategies
If it all still gets too intense, try to remove yourself from the situation to give you a chance to cool down and think things through, before you act.
If you cannot change the situation, then use distraction to manage strong feelings, e.g. count to ten in your head, listen to some music, call a friend or do some housework.
Alternatively, you can use humour to help you take a step back from your anger, e.g. if you refer to someone as a racist or dictator, imagine your in-laws dressed up as President Trump, Hitler, etc. this somewhat silly technique can assist in keeping things in perspective.
Lastly, you can influence your emotional state through changing your physical state, e.g. through doing some deep breathing to settle raised cortisol levels or progressively tensing and relaxing each of your muscle groups.
5. Engage in mindful conversations
Instead of just reacting to disagreements, try to imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes and really listen to where they are coming from. Try to get underneath their views and opinions. Genuinely listening to someone can build strong connections.
If you have reached your limits, it is important to keep your integrity through speaking up. Try not to degrade the other person or label them, but keep to simply stating your own point of view in an assertive way.
6. Reach out
Christmas can be a difficult time to get through if you recently experienced bereavement or are spending it on your own. Try not to isolate yourself, reach out to family and friends over email, Social Media, phone, etc.
Get active; there are plenty of charities and churches in different locations that offer Christmas gatherings, markets, carol singing, etc. If you need to speak to someone confidentially; Samaritans Hong Kong offer a 24hour operated phone service on: 2896 0000.
Focussing on what is truly important to you and your family and avoiding comparisons can make Christmas a more relaxed and energizing holiday.