Aaah Christmas. A time of jingling sleigh bells and jangling nerves. Of togetherness and family, and massive rows with your nearest and dearest. Yes Christmas is a time for joy and celebration, but it's also a time that causes most people an untold amount of stress.
What makes it all worse is the fact that we feel like we're supposed to be merry and jolly, so sometimes we slap on a smile and keep busy, while inside we're more stressed out than an elf who's lost his pointy hat.
Not acknowledging how you feel and carrying on regardless puts you at risk of burning out. You may turn to unhealthy habits, such as overindulging, just to get yourself through the stress. Or you may put on a happy face, trying to please everyone, only to find yourself snapping at people later because it's all got too much.
But these sorts of coping mechanisms only lead to more stress in the end, as you make yet another New Years resolution to lose the Christmas weight, to cut down on alcohol, and not to shout at Uncle Bob again just because he made you lose at Pictionary.
So how can you get through Christmas without losing it or becoming a candidate for a housing scheme in Stepford? Here are my top tips.
- Be mindful: Often at Christmas there is so much to do that we don't take the time to notice how we're feeling or if we are coping in a healthy way. Pay attention to your mood and how it fluctuates over the festive season. If you notice you're feeling tense, be gentle with yourself and take frequent breaks to breathe and restore your energy.
- Look after your body: Eating junk, staying up late and drinking too much alcohol may be synonymous with Christmas, but all these things make your body less resilient and less able to cope with the extra strain of a busy festive period. Eating nourishing food, keeping hydrated and getting enough sleep will give you the energy you need to get through Christmas.
- Adjust your attitude: We often ruin Christmas by having certain expectations of what it should be like and worrying that it needs to be perfect. So what if you burn the brussel sprouts or your turkey could be used to make tyres? Take the pressure off yourself. You've done your best and that's all you can do. Most people will appreciate your efforts anyway.
- Create a Christmas you love: So most people spend Christmas ensconced in a haze of tinsel, Christmas telly and too many mince pies. If you really hate all that, then don't do it. You don't have to be like everybody else. I really don't like the normal Christmas shenanigans, so I spend it helping out at a homeless shelter. I love helping people, so this means I have the perfect Christmas every year. Do what floats your boat and makes your Christmas happy and meaningful.
- Focus on the three Gs: Some people spend the whole of the holiday season wanting things, wanting more of things, or wanting to complain about things not going as they want them to. Instead of gluttony, grievances and greed, why not focus on gratitude, goodwill and giving. Fill the festive season with positive emotions and it may just be your happiest Christmas ever.