Here we go. We have been thinking about the many facets of this single day for months. Despite your attempts to prepare, organize, improve the whole process.. Come on, every year we fall into the same patterns. Christmas stress because of the last-minute gifts; for trying to satisfy the desires (masked by more or less compelling needs) of half the family.. obviously in contrast with each other, and in contrast with yours. Sometimes, you just wish the holidays were over. How can you overcome Christmas stress? In finding what matters…
Why are we victims of Christmas stress?
What is Christmas today? Beyond its strong religious significance, that may not be shared by everyone, it remains a universal Holiday that is celebrated in many parts of the world. This website shares Christmas traditions of about 80 countries in the world!
If we all gather under the red and the white a big man carrying the gifts in the name of the family, of the importance of giving and sharing joy; why does Christmas easily foster disagreements and anxieties?
What expectations do we have for these special 24 hours ? Where being alone puts you at suicide’s risk, but sharing it with extended families is equally problematic?
Introduction to the game: 2 key-factors for eliminating Christmas stress
Here’s the deal. I propose you to devote ten minutes to go through this game, or reflection if you want to stay more serious. It will surely help you eliminate all your Christmas stress and rediscover the magic of the Holiday.
But before we start, I invite you to close your eyes, and imagine your day. What do you think you’ll like? What can go wrong?
There is, perhaps, the pleasure of finding ourselves among loved ones. Then, maybe, your thoughts will run to :
The last gift you’re still missing. Oh no! you have to run and buy it right now before the shops close!
Meal preparation, and all those traditional dishes that cannot miss from your table, and that still need to be done.
Your cousin who can’t control his tongue and makes fun of everybody, always raising sensitive topics. Your grandmother gets offended and stops talking. And therefore, your uncle gets mad and snaps back, so that the atmosphere becomes gloomy..
If so, two remedies (if for this year’s too late, they’ll be useful next time !)
Improve your organization. Put a reminder on your phone around mid November to deal with gifts and stuff with a little more advance.
Reduce your expectations. Don’t naively believe that since it’s Christmas, we’ll be all nice to each-other; and others will suddenly change those attitudes that create tensions within the family. Imagine your time and presence as a gift: give for the pleasure of giving, without waiting for anything in return. (think of the power of gratitude!) If things go as usual, you won’t be disappointed; if they improve, you can fully rejoice !
Christmas Stress? Take ten minutes to play!
Okay, now that we’re ready, let’s begin with the serious stuff. The game takes its cue from an exercise I made some time ago in a leadership training. Here are the instructions:
Take paper and pen, alone, with your partner, or your whole family.
Now, think of 7 values that represent you, or that are important to you. (For example: honesty, humor, sincerity, sharing, seriousness, kindness, generosity, altruism, independence, and so on.)
If you can’t, try thinking about your favorite character, or movie, or book. Why do you like it? What attracts you? Which characteristics do you identify with, and to what choices would you like to orient yourself? Or else : what would you like other people to say about you, when you’re not around, or at your funeral?
Once you have 7 elements, write them in column; and next to each one, add a brief descriptive sentence.
Read them again; and adapt each value to your Christmas !
I’ll help you with an example!
To help you do the exercise, I’ll show you how it worked for me 🙂
Overcoming Christmas stress with: #1 Humour !
Humour – take a step back, find the funny side and smile.
If your turkey got burnt; if you spent the whole morning in line at the grocery store and then found out that they’re out of the main ingredient you still need; your children cry because despite the dozen gifts, the only one they really wanted is missing …
Is it really that important in a life perspective ?
Is it so important to have your best service out, impeccable floors, the chaos of excited children cleaned right away? When we could laugh at it together?
Overcoming Christmas Stress with: # 2 responsibility
Responsibility – be present and involved with everything you undertake.
Don’t look at your cellphone every 3 seconds. In fact, maybe you could just put it away for the day.
We are together because my thoughts and words are fixed on you, the people that are right with me, today, now.. And maybe it can be a good workout for the rest of the year? Children, parents, grandparents. Today my responsibility is to be with you.
Overcoming Christmas stress with : #3 sharing
Sharing – When you live something important, open the door: together we grow .
Are you ok with sharing different ideas? With introducing something new, or even enlarging the concept of the family itself ?
Maybe sharing the party with someone who’s alone. Maybe sharing our time and attention to truly listen to others.
And who knows? even changing your Christmas dinner menu for once.. Eliminating the “never” from our vocabulary.
Overcoming Christmas stress with: #4 Kindness
Kindness – Welcome others without judgments, with respect, and truly listen.
You know that family dinner talk .. When one provokes, and the other gets offended.. Then the others tease him… Those family dynamics that explode on great occasions? (See paragraph above).
It’s never too late to break them. Stop feeling wounded by other people’s statements. Welcome diversity as an opportunity to get to know us better, going beyond wounds and disappointments.
Overcoming Christmas stress with: #5 freedom
Freedom -I f you love, do not impose your will. Accept your needs, as well as the needs of those you love, even if they are different.
Let’s take a common experience, such as a vacation.
Why do we want one in the first place? Our first need is to rest, free our mind, get out of the routine and leave new regenerative spaces. Fine.
How do you rest? My favorite way is by traveling. Not necessarily far away; but leave the house, change places, show my eyes different landmarks.
Through the discovery, the search for an interesting detail, the creation of an adventure to involve the children (an archaeological site becomes the circle of magic stones created by a magician many years ago; the ruins of a castle are the remains of a fairy tale; the Walk in the woods allows you to look of fairies, gnomes, goblins, wolves; and so on).
For my partner, traveling is a new source of fatigue. You have to organize, prepare the children, persuade them to leave; think about what they will eat while we’re around.
And the idea of this preparatory phase tires him more than how expectations of a different afternoon together can cheer him up . For him, rest is doing nothing. Read a book, sit on the couch thinking, look outside the window.
That would be impossible to me. I’d just see all that dry laundry that I need to fold and put away, the empty shelves in the fridge that’s about to unplug got cleaned by itself (I soooo much wish it could!!) Anyways : staying at home reminds me of all the tasks I still need to do.
But then, what does freedom mean?
Then, if just two loving souls so easily fall in two opposite extremes of the same need, what happens when we gather with other members of the family? The spectrum of needs extends into an infinite circle.
Accepting that the diversity of our needs does not imply anything about our love for each other is primordial for survival at family gatherings.
Because it means that if the cousin you haven’t seen since last year, decides to go skiing right the day you arrive, that’s still ok. That if your brother-in-law goes out with his friends one night instead of playing yet another game with the children is not because he hates them. And that you have the right to say no to an afternoon of family games and go out for a walk instead, if you feel you need it.
Overcoming Christmas stress with: #6 honesty
Honesty – Dare to openly express who you are, your ideas, your feelings, without altering them.
Talking of family dinners’ conversations. Remember this sentence :
Expressing oneself does not mean judging who is different in thoughts, words, deeds, and even omissions.
In French they talk about the “Tu qui tue”, or You who kills. What does that mean?
Instead of directly accusing or criticizing your brother-in-law for not ordering the turkey on time, transforming the single episode into a eternal victimization :
“You always forget to do what I ask you!”
We talk firsthand, contextualizing :
“I have the impression that you didn’t give enough importance to my request, I felt disappointed and sad”
It means talking about what we think and feel, instead than generalizing with it’s always, it will never, it is good, right, handsome, ugly, inconceivable..
Overcoming Christmas stress with: #7 passion!
Passion – put enthusiasm, dazzle, and brilliance in your daily life.
Looking at the sleeping heads of my children, ready to jump up when the thought of Santa Claus and presents will sneak in between their dreams, I can only smile. And when you smile, everything buys new vigor.
Put some nice music on, and dance. Sing at the top of your lungs. Run instead of walking. Look for what makes you shine, and enlighten the room!
And finally.. What do Values have to do with Christmas stress?
I know that on Christmas Eve, you will have little time to read this article and do the exercise. Personally, I also had to overcome the Christmas stress many times.
I imagined you, as you clicked on the link that brought you here. And this game popped up in my head.
Because the only way to overcome Christmas stress, or any anxiety .. Is finding what really matters. Your guidelines.. It will make you look at your fears from another perspective. (And don’t forget to breathe !)
Before Wishing you merry Christmas, let me ask you 3 more things :
If you have a friend under Christmas stress.. Send him this article! Sharing is caring 😉
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Have you played the game? I’m curious to read your poster of values! Write them in the comments section here below 🙂