Christmas Stress – How to Ditch It
Every year the Christmas stress creeps up and gets me.
No matter how hard I try to avoid it. So I have to take a deep breath and get things back in perspective.
Stress, as I have mentioned previously, usually comes from inside ourselves. This means that a lot comes from our expectations of ourselves and others. As well as our response to other peoples expectations of us.
We have no control of other people’s expectations of us. But we do have control of our own expectations of ourselves. In the same way, you can manage your expectations of Christmas.
What are your personal expectations for Christmas? Will you be disappointed if there is no snow? Will your face drop if you do not get perfect gifts from others. What if you don’t receive the presents you asked or hoped for?
Likewise, if the table decorations don’t match. Or perhaps the gravy goes lumpy?
What will you expect from others? Delighted faces and a helpful family. On the other hand, maybe you want to just veg out and binge watch TV while someone else does the work.
I used to dream of my family not squabbling, moaning or looking disappointed. If only someone would take away the workload. Equally important was for the day to be ‘perfect’. Although I wasn’t sure what that meant. I wanted help but I wanted everyone to have an ideal day. But I also wanted to stay in control.
My expectations were unrealistic. Because of this Christmas stress was part of my life for many years.
In contrast, we can be affected by other people’s expectations. Now, we have no control over other people’s expectations, even when they are directed at us. So this means we have to manage how we react.
Firstly, you can reflect objectively. Have you got your facts right? Often we make assumptions about what is expected of us. For example, are you assuming that you have to cook dinner? On the other hand, are you presuming your partner will not help with anything? Have you considered they may believe you want it that way?
We can all be guilty of subconsciously mind-reading each other. If this is leading to unhappiness and stress for you then take a breath.
Once you have understanding of the situation you can then decide how to respond.
Getting The Balance Right
To begin with, if you have done wrong or let someone down, intentionally or not, you can apologise.
On the other hand, the other person’s expectations of you may be unrealistic.
In that case, you can explain how their behaviour and expectations are making you feel. This is the time for rational and objective discussion. But not worth pursuing if a few too many have been drunk by either side!
What is within our control is asserting ourselves in an adult fashion, detaching their behaviour from them as people, so that they can understand how we feel when they behave in a certain way, without it being a personal affront on them. This can be summed up in words similar to “when you […do a, b, c]…it makes me feel […x,y,z]”.
Maybe this approach doesn’t work. Given that you have explained your side and no agreement or compromise can be reached, what next? Then it is back to you again to manage your expectations. This may mean you have to lower them again and again.
So where do you draw the line?
Peace and Goodwill To All
You are only human and no-one has a right to expect too much of you and neither should you expect too much of yourself. This may not be the right time to make changes in your life. But you may need to consider it.
A strong message to hold onto at Christmas is that of peace and goodwill to all. That means you too. Be kind to yourself, manage your expectations and refuse to take on others expectations on you that are unrealistic. You may find changing your attitude is all it takes.
If you know in your heart that you have done your best, then that is good enough. Use the season to rest and recuperate, to spend time with family and friends. Ask yourself am I being good to myself?
So are you ready for Christmas? If you can shrug off the Christmas stress I’d say the answer is yes.