So you’ve made it through the December build up. But now’s the big moment. How best to handle holiday stress on Christmas day itself?
10 Ways to stay sane on Christmas day
Never fear, more Harley Therapy holiday stress tactics are here! Below are our best tips for surviving Christmas day.
1. Give up your part-time job as a fortune teller.
Before you work yourself up into a frenzy that the turkey will go wrong, or great Aunt Effie will pick a fight with Uncle Stan again, remember that you don’t have proof. You do not actually know the future (unless you really are a fortune teller!).
If your anxiety is rising, remind yourself that thoughts are just thoughts. The truth is, there is just as much a chance that the turkey will be a dazzler and Aunt Effie will be docile as a duck this year.
2. Steal the motto of scout groups.
The motto of girl scout groups is ‘be prepared’. Even on the day of, it’s not too late for some planning. Ten minutes at the start of the day to write out how you plan things to go, the things you have to remember, and what order you are going to prepare the meal in might seem simple. But it appeases those out-of-control thoughts we just mentioned, meaning you can be more present for the good things that unfold throughout the day.
3. Be prepared for the emotional challenges, too.
Christmas day can mean we find ourselves having a tipple when we usually don’t, or struggling with exhaustion after a week of preparation. All leaving us more sensitive then usual.
If you know your sister always gets catty about how much you are eating, would spending time the day before visualising yourself not being bothered by her comments help? Or could you plan a signal with your spouse whereby he changes the conversation?
4. Share the holiday stress.
Not, however, by projecting it and picking a fight with your partner or teenager! But by asking for help and delegating.
Nobody likes a Christmas martyr, moaning later about how they have to do everything themselves. So don’t be one.
Remember, what is stressful to you might even be fun to another. Some people like stuffing the turkey, and some even enjoy doing the dishes!
5. Give your Christmas stress a face. (And a hat, if it helps).
Often we just moan ‘I feel stressed‘. And without thinking about why exactly that is, we just indulge that vague sensation of anxiety until it grows bigger and bigger.
But we can’t deal with something if we don’t even know what it is. When you feel holiday stress rising ask yourself, ‘what exactly is it that is stressing me out?” Get as detailed as you can.
If it’s the meal, then that means you can figure out how to make it easier. But if you are telling yourself it’s the meal but really it’s about seeing a relative you’ve been avoiding, admit this to yourself so you can work through your feelings and be ready.
6. Time out.
The pressure cooker of Christmas can have us far from feeling ourselves, so it’s important to find a moment of privacy to get centred before engaging in any dispute. Do whatever you can to step way from the situation. Take the dog for an impromptu run around the block, sneak out to the garden, lock yourself in the loo.
7. Write it out or breathe it out.
A great way to work through emotional stress is cheap and easy. Grab a piece of paper, and promise yourself you’ll rip it up when you are finished (this gives your unconscious mind a safe space to let loose). Then write down everything that comes up, even if it feels childish or crazed and mean. Tear it to bits, throw it out, and notice how much better you feel. Such is the power of journalling with intent.
Can’t get privacy to write? Try a quick mindfulness break if you can’t get enough privacy to do some writing. This entails a few deep, measured breaths along with noticing the sights and smells around you and the sensations inside of you, instead of just attaching to the chaos in your head.
8. Find a balanced thought.
If you are feeling panicky or upset, see if you can find a thought that is not black or white but somewhere in the middle. This means recognising the thought, finding it’s opposite, then searching for the balanced idea.
For example, “I am talking too much and annoying people again. Well the opposite is I’m not talking enough. The reality is I might be talking more than others but some people enjoy it and it’s best to be myself.”
9. If conflict does arrive, keep it clean.
- Start sentences with ‘I’, not ‘you’. “I feel”, not “you make me feel”.
- Don’t bring up the past or other ‘sins’ they have committed, stick to what is happening today.
- Communicate how you feel and the result you want. “I feel like a disappointment when you say I look tired. I want to feel good about myself today so can we please not discuss how I look, I appreciate it.”
Try reading our 10 Tips to Difficult Conversations for some more helpful advice.
10. Don’t make a triangle.
Try your best not to pull in a sibling, partner, or one of your children into the battle. This just spreads tension and makes that proverbial mountain out of the mole hill. And definitely don’t take it out on someone else you love and cause a second Christmas war!
The holiday stress of a burnt turkey?
If the turkey does, god forbid, burn? Remember, no matter how much you wail, it will not undo what is done. And you are worth more than a turkey.
So although it’s perfectly normal to spend about ten minutes feeling upset, and by all means have a private cry and allow yourself to process the disappointment? Try to contain the upset. Don’t put it on others. Go for the bigger picture – what went right? How wonderful is it that you have family to laugh at burnt turkey with? If others attempt to cheer you up, try not to get angry at them. It’s just their way of showing you that they love you, more than any turkey in the world.
Need help handling not just holiday stress, but with how you handle stress in general? We get it, and we offer some of London’s best therapists for stress in lovely central offices. Or use our sister site to find affordable UK-wide therapists now.
(Image credits Dino Abatzidis, James Vaughan , Pedro Vezini, and Nina Matthews via Compfight.)