We all know the festive season can surface tensions and be stressful as we spend more time with our nearest and dearest. I have been thinking how to help us through it and here I am sharing my Top Tip No. 1 for de-stressing Christmas.
First, let me tell you about Gina. Gina had Christmas all planned out. She had bought all the presents, signed all the cards and knew what the itinerary was for each day, especially meal times. She would be cooking for seven people on Christmas day, for her and her husband Geoff, their two daughters, grandma and granddad and aunt Susan.
A week before Christmas, one of her daughters, Michelle, decided to become vegan. Aunt Susan had a massive row with granddad about Brexit and grandma began to insist that the main meal on Christmas day had to be at 1pm, so it would all be finished in time for the Queen’s speech, even though Gina had planned to eat at 3pm.
Gina was stressed out. She was stressed out because these were unexpected developments she didn’t like and couldn’t control. What Gina had forgotten was that she was not responsible for fixing everything or for preventing family arguments.
Fortunately Gina’s friend told her about the locus of control. See, there are basically two categories: 1) things you can control and 2) things you can’t control. Things you can control include what you eat, when you sleep, what you tell yourself, what you learn, how you respond, the boundaries you set and when you ask for help.
What you can’t control is what other people do, say or think. You are not responsible for other adults. No, really. If cousin Joan wants to sing carols around the piano whilst uncle Herbert wants to watch Toy Story 2, that’s a conversation they can have. It’s not your stuff to sort out.
It can be liberating to know you are not responsible for making everyone else’s Christmas be perfect. You can then focus on what you can control.
Think through what’s the worst that could happen? The reality is likely to be less awful than you imagined, but even if it did happen – the turkey is burnt, the kids have filled up on sweets before lunch, your brother Richard is running an hour late and Nanna and Grandpa are bickering with each other, what would you do? Actually do a pre-mortem. When you face your worst-case scenario head on, it loses its power and frees you to focus your energy on other things.
Take good care of yourself too. Regular eating and sleeping habits and taking some exercise will help reduce stress. Mindful practices like yoga or meditation help you live in the ‘now’ where you don’t end up worrying about either what’s happened in the past or what might happen in the future.
So give yourself a break this Christmas and focus on what you do control. See what differences you notice as a result. And then tell me about it as I would love to know.