It’s interesting that many people comment about how quickly Christmas comes around, and here we are again. Christmas is generally associated as a time where we can relax, enjoy catching up with family and friends and leave the stress of the year behind. It’s also a chance to get away for the extra-long weekend, or even head off for a longer break. In Australia, unlike Europe and North America, Christmas time heralds in our annual big summer holidays. So, for many, the festive season continues long after presents have been unwrapped. Fun in sun, long days lounging around and of course the ubiquitous sounds of test cricket not quite warbling in the background.
However, Christmas time can also be stressful, conflictual and anxiety provoking.
With Christmas seemingly so quickly upon us, it is common for people to have left their planning to the last minute. So already the guilt pressure is there. Combine this with crowds, queues and quick tempers, it’s not hard to feel a little frayed around the edges.
There is also the added pressure of providing a good Christmas experience to family and loved ones. The right gifts, the right lunch or pre-Christmas party, you can feel the pressure rising even further.
Yet and with that pressure, how often is Christmas accompanied by our expectations being dashed? That we feel let down, disappointed and deflated that all our efforts have come to naught
Under these conditions Christmas brings out the best but also the worst in people. A seemingly relaxed Christmas lunch is going swimmingly only for cross words to be spoken that turns the atmosphere from cheer, to oh dear! Or the ‘family’ decision that Christmas is better at your place because you, a) are central b) have a pool and c) have a 40 square meter dining room. You run around doing all the work only to fall in a heap at the end of the day exhausted and resentful.
So now that we can see some of the elements that contribute to a stressful and not so peaceful Christmas, we can look at what you can do to limit some of the more negative aspects of the festive season.
One of the biggest factors that feeds into Christmas frenzy is one’s own expectations. Overly high expectations can render one vulnerable to stress in the first place. So much emphasis is placed on the expectations that surround the festive season and, Christmas day itself. We want so much for the events that surround Christmas to go well, for our family and friends to get along even for them to be thankful that we have put in so much effort in making it so. We can invest enormously in the emotionality of Christmas in the hope that this year will be good as, or at least better than last year. Add to this we are also expecting, ok, well hoping, that there will be some downtime for us. This means that we have loaded so much into this period of the year that it’s not surprising that our actual experience falls short.
So, one thing that may be helpful is to lower your own expectations.
Keep in mind that you can only do so much, that you are unlikely to please everyone and that you also will want some time for yourself.
Another mental strategy is to recognize that everyone is stressed at this time of year. Therefore ‘’going with the flow’’ can really help and add a level of sensibility to an occasion. Rather than trying to make things work under any circumstances, try and see the humorous side of mishaps. Normalize glitches that inevitably occur; laugh instead of getting mad. This will help lower stress levels and allow everyone to move on from a problem. Remember to breath!
If you’re responsible for an event or hosting a lunch or function, do what you can, given the time and resources at your disposal. If your resources are limited, then let modesty prevail. Invest more in the mood than the main course. Most people are likely to appreciate the effort that you are making as it has left them off the hook!
Don’t be afraid to ask people to help. If you’re the host, ask people to bring a plate or divide the food and drinks amongst those invited. People often rise to the challenge of showing off a culinary skill and are only too happy to lend a hand. Share the love.
Alcohol can be one element that can ruin a function or get together. While we all like some Christmas cheer. Too early in the day or on an empty stomach can lead to loose lips. So, limit alcohol at your function or serve once people have had something to eat. If your guests head for the drink’s cabinet or Esky, politely ask them to hold off until lunch or nibbles have been served. You may want to preface this request by saying that drinks are off bounds until you make a toast to herald in Christmas.
Christmas get togethers for some reason are seen as an opportunity to settle some scores. If this occurs, and you see an argument beginning or some frostiness start, step in and calmly ask people to save sorting out their disagreements for another time. Stress that this is a time for people to get along together. This is also another reason to keep your eye on the consumption of alcohol. Nothing fuels a fight like an alcoholic lubricant.
You can always ask people to leave! After all, if the function is at your place this is your right!
In fact, taking yourself out of circulation is not a bad stress reliever anyway. You can say to people, sorry I just need some alone time, I’ll be back in a moment, I just need a breather. Again, if it is you that is hosting a function, this is your prerogative.
If you want to avoid it all, try the following. Why not have your function at a restaurant or hotel. Several restaurants and hotels cater for Christmas lunch these days. It’s not a guarantee but guests may be more likely to behave better in public. It also saves you the trouble of cooking and cleaning up afterwards. Have someone else do the work!
If Christmas is that threatening take you and yours away for the period. Again, many hotels and resorts cater to people wanting Christmas away. This makes it easy when approached by family and friends asking what are you doing this year? Sorry, we’re away.
Above all, try and make sure that you spend Christmas doing what it is that make this period meaningful for you, even if it is just a moment in time. Better that, than when it is time to go back to work or resume 2020 you haven’t had some time that suits you!
Matt Garrett Manager Hunter 2019