How many films have been made all about the stress of family life over the Christmas period? Quite a few. Many of these films are comedies, and most end with everyone enjoying their family Christmas. But the reason we find these films so funny, is because we can relate to that Christmas family stress all too easily.
Family can be a real strain at Christmas
On a serious note, many of us actually get highly stressed and feel anxious about Christmas, and these anxieties maybe about one of the following:
- A need to have everything run perfectly and for everyone to appreciate your efforts
- A need for other people to show the manners that you expect them to have
- A need for everything to be easy and comfortable
You may have just read that list and thought to yourself these are all reasonable expectations. But if you are feeling anxious about any of them, then something isn’t right…
It is reasonable to want things to run perfectly. It is reasonable to want all family members to appreciate your efforts. It’s reasonable to want all family members to behave appropriately and it is reasonable to want everything to be easy and comfortable. Anxiety is, however, triggered when you transform your wants and desires into needs and demands. When this happens, everything HAS to be the way you want it or else.
This type of thinking is at the heart of anxiety and stress, and at Christmas time, this can be amplified. At Christmas you become anxious about family members who are not acting warmly towards one another; or family members you may have problems with; or family members who behave in a passive aggressive or discourteous manner; or family members who do not chip in and help or simply a family member you just don’t like very much. It’s these scenarios that we find in many Christmas films, and they are scenarios we all relate to on some level.
How to manage those anxieties
If you find you are anxious or stressed about any of those family scenarios or issues, then how do you manage that anxiety? Well here are a few pointers that will help you manage your anxieties better:
- Accept imperfection. No one is perfect and your Christmas day does not HAVE to be absolutely perfect. Remembering this will help you feel more relaxed.
- While it would be fantastic that everyone showed appreciation, you certainly do not need it to have a great time. It’s not a reflection on your worth, unless you make it so. If you do, then you will feel stressed, so don’t judge yourself negatively.
- Remember that you don’t control other people. If someone acts in a way that you are not happy with, don’t get too stressed about it, rather address the situation, calmly but firmly explaining why that behaviour is unacceptable. Remember, if it’s not a major thing in the scheme of things, you can choose to tolerate it.
- You are in control of what you say and do. Imagine the things you are worried about, and think in advance of ways in which you can deal with those things. Most of the time anxiety is maintained because we spend mental energy trying to ensure the bad things don’t happen.
- If you really aren’t looking forward to being with a particular family member, then remember that it’s only for a limited time.
- Always remember the bigger picture and meaning of Christmas. The message is always there – celebration, peace and good will to all. Make sure you don’t lose sight of this.
- Focus on what’s important, by doing this it enables us to handle tensions and stress far better
Our unrealistic expectations are often provoke Christmas stress. So set realistic expectations and look to enjoy the Christmas period, with family and friends.