Sometimes the “most wonderful” time of the year can really bring out the worst in us. Interestingly, the anger that spills out in family arguments in this highly charged festive season has often been there all year long, simmering under the surface. Christmas, and the added stress it brings, is merely the catalyst to bring this anger to the fore. Being aware of this and understanding the causes can lessen the impact of the, often, inevitable conflicts that arise.
Prevention is better than cure! Don’t wait until Christmas Day to address the issues bubbling up within your family or friendship groups. Try to sort through any relationship issues during the year. That way they can’t hijack you while you are trying to spread joy and cheer.
Things to be aware of…
Adjust your expectations now and try to let go of perfection.
Try to recognise symptoms of escalating stresses as they occur. Headache, stomach-ache and moodiness are all signs that things are heating up. Just like a pressure cooker needs a periodic release of steam so it won’t blow up, it is important for you to acknowledge stressful situations and try to diffuse them as they arise, rather than holding it in. Eventually you, too, will explode with pent up stress if you don’t allow yourself to gently deal with each stressful moment you encounter.
Try to detach from the drama when it occurs. You will be far more useful as a non-judgmental observer/peacekeeper than a referee.
As therapists we often refer to the “fantasy of family.” You aren’t in a Disney Christmas movie – real life very rarely measures up. Try to love the family you have, rather than the completely unattainable “ideal” projected onto our screens.
Don’t be afraid to rethink Christmas traditions. As human beings we tend to be resistant to change. It may be that some of the things you are used to doing may not work for you anymore. Be honest with yourself and people around you. Think of new traditions that might be more appropriate to your current situation. Feel confident in creating ones that speak to you and ask the people who are celebrating with you to get involved in them.
With the advent of Facebook, it is hard not to be overwhelmed by the materialistic nature of oversharing. Money, gifts and expensive holidays are like empty calories and your Christmas table is probably full enough!
Be mindful of bereavement and loss at this special time of year. It might be a good idea to raise a glass to absent friends or take the time to remember lost loved ones. Don’t gloss over grief that you or the people you care about might be feeling. Acknowledge sadness in order to laugh.
Love and forgiveness at every second of every hour would undoubtedly make the world a better place, however, let’s just start with this Christmas season. This Christmas is your Christmas. You have the right to enjoy it just as much as anyone. Here’s to a peaceful, loving, conflict-free Holiday Season!