How to Have a Calm and Content Christmas

26/11/2014 11:21 GMT | Updated 25/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year, particularly if we have family members who don't really get on with each other! What is the secret to staying calm throughout the festive season, no matter what it brings? It's self-esteem.

We each experience stress when we perceive the demands being placed on us as exceeding our ability to cope with them.

Christmas bring stress because of how much we expect from ourselves. We might be aiming to find perfect presents for everyone, to wrap them perfectly, write cards on time, prepare perfect food and find perfect decorations, the list goes on...

We feel at our best when our self-esteem is good. We usually feel confident in our ability to cope with life, even under unpredictable or challenging circumstances, and we don't feel too sorry for ourselves.

Those who find Christmas the most enjoyable, are those who can accept it might be challenging, and that perfection is impossible. He or she doesn't 'beat themselves up' if they forget something, or if something goes wrong. They focus instead on what they can control, they maintain their self-belief, and they focus on building themselves and others up.

What controls how we feel about ourselves?

If we feel overwhelmed by our circumstances then we are being emotionally threatened and our physiological fight or flight instinct kicks in. This causes physical changes such as an increased heart rate, and we might feel hot, nauseous, or agitated. We will interpret and describe these physical experiences as negative emotions, such as frustration, anger, panic, or fear.

If we are unaware what generates our negative emotions, then we will also be unaware that our subsequent actions are attempts to protect or repair our self-esteem. We instinctively do what makes ourselves feel more in control and 'better' at the time, maybe become angry or defensive more quickly, or argue with our spouse or children, or do something to take our mind off it such as drinking or eating too much.

If we are behaving in a negative way to ourselves or others then it is a clear sign that the pressure of Christmas is affecting our self-esteem.

What can we do to stop feeling stressed?

First of all, take responsibility. You are the only one responsible for how you feel about yourself at any moment. Take responsibility for maintaining and building your own self-worth and self-confidence so that you can praise yourself and 'be at your best'.

When you start feeling stressed, or start 'getting at' yourself or other people, find somewhere to be alone, even for a couple minutes. Take slow deep breaths and imagine you are breathing in a warm, bright light and breathing out self-doubt and self-criticism, type 'Stay Calm and Content' into YouTube and you will see a video explaining 'Toilet Seat Therapy' which is a very effective instant stress-relieving technique.

Say to yourself, out loud if possible: "I am okay, I can only do my best, I can cope with this, I believe in myself." Smile and stretch your arms to relieve your tension.

Top Tips for a stress-free Christmas:

Prioritise pleasure for yourself - if you love a walk, a quiet bath, or a night out with your partner then don't forget these things during the festive period - they are important to you and you are important. Find time for them and don't feel guilty about it.

Dealing with the family - those we care most about have the most powerful influence over our self-esteem. Emotions run high at Christmas. Remember; you decide how you feel about yourself. If someone is unpleasant to you then they will be feeling low about themselves for some reason and are attacking you to try to feel better. Try to understand rather than criticise this.

Encourage and praise your partner, your family, friends and children during this festive season. Giving praise and recognition shows healthy self-esteem and is the most likely way we will receive the same in return.

"Don't wait for people to be friendly, show them how" - Anonymous

Focus on being kind, supportive and welcoming, no matter how others are behaving, and you will ensure a happy Christmas for yourself and those around you.