Just a few days left, whether you’re looking forward to Christmas with loved ones, anticipating family quarrels, or spending Christmas alone, there’s no avoiding it.
Here are some thoughts on the things people most commonly talk to me about in the time coming up to Christmas. Maybe something here will resonate with you.
1. Taking on too much – It’s easily done. You want to spend time with the people you love, you enjoy planning and organising, choosing gifts and delicious food, but then at some point you realise you’ve overcommitted yourself with Christmas parties, more people to visit than you could possibly fit in to the whole month, more shopping than you have the time or cash to do, lots of guests ‘popping in’ and more people to cater for on Christmas day than you expected.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement, the prospect of some time off work, a break from routine, and a chance to spend time with friends and family. But you’ll enjoy it much more if you don’t burn yourself out before it arrives. So, slow down, and remember you don’t have to do everything yourself. People want to see you and enjoy your company, no-one really wants to see their friend exhausted by trying to be the perfect host, or rushing around trying to please them.
Take a step back, being in the midst of trying to organise everything can be overwhelming. So list what really needs to be done, combine errands where you can to save time, and ask for help when you need it. Allow yourself to enjoy the time you spend with people, rather than having your head full of next thing you need to get done. Slow down and enjoy it.
2. The same old family disagreements – We all know the saying ‘you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family’. This is never more apparent than at Christmas when you suddenly find yourself spending time with family you don’t see so often (usually for a good reason), or the old resentments and unresolved arguments come up. Add a few glasses of wine and you can soon see the Christmas cheer leave the room. Just anticipating these situations can cause enough anxiety to take the edge off your festive spirit.
So what can you do? Well you might be able to avoid them (I know people who go on holiday every Christmas just to avoid their family fall-outs), but chances are that amongst the family fun, there might be some of those old resentments bubbling away. You can’t change people, and you probably won’t be able to change their opinions, but the one thing always in your control is you.
Before Christmas, practice good self-care, be kind to yourself, build your resilience to other people’s comments or opinions. Remember you are always in control of how you react to someone. So if a critical relative starts to get under your skin, or a difference of opinion starts to build into an old argument, try not to get drawn in. If you know that no matter what you do or say, people won’t change their view or behaviour, then why waste your energy and cause yourself stress trying to change it? You can choose to set yourself back from it. Remove yourself from a room if you have to, or just practice taking a breath and allowing words to flow past you. Lastly, remember that you aren’t responsible for meeting other people’s expectations, and you aren’t responsible for other people’s happiness. However hard it may seem, let it go.
3. Spending Christmas alone – Whether this is by choice or due to circumstances, Christmas alone can be hard when we are surrounded with advertising that shows us heartwarming pictures of smiling families sharing Christmas together. Firstly, remember that that reality is often more like Number 2 above. But if you aren’t looking forward to Christmas alone, try this:
Make Christmas all about you. Decorate your space in your favourite style, fill your home with the things you love, and get your favourite foods. You can do whatever you like. So if that means trifle for breakfast and curry for lunch, go for it. Give yourself permission to indulge yourself. While everyone else is working out how many brussels sprouts they need to buy, make a list of all your favourite things to do. Reading a book, doing something creative, watching a box set of your favourite shows. Then instead of buying all that extra food (unless that’s on your list) make sure you have everything you need to do all those things, and plan your Christmas and Boxing day around doing what you want to do. This is your time.
How about volunteering? If the prospect of Christmas spent alone, even with all your favourite things, still doesn’t appeal, there are several charities who would appreciate your help. Do some research locally and find out where you could give your time to make a difference.
If you are really struggling with Christmas on your own, then reach out to someone, either friends or family, or one of the support helplines. They are there for you. And if you get a call from a friend who is struggling with Christmas alone, even if you can’t spend time with them, remember that a few minutes on the phone can make a real difference to someone’s day.
Ruth Randall is a Life and Leadership Coach, and Team Development Specialist. Ruth works with teams to help them to build trust, develop strong working relationships, manage stress, and increase productivity and job satisfaction. She also coaches individual clients who want to make changes in their lives, careers and relationships.