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Holiday Stress #3 – How to Stay Calm Even if the Turkey Burns

Stress at Christmas timeSo you’ve made it through the December build- up, and hopefully our other articles on Holiday Stress- Facing the Struggle and the Zen of Managing Christmas have helped.

Now on to dealing with Christmas Day itself! Ever notice we don’t just put our stockings up for it, we also put up our hopes and expectations? So many of us pressure ourselves into trying to make a day that is already one of the most demanding into also the most perfect. And we wonder why we feel so stressed!

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, see if you can recognise that thoughts are just thoughts, and reality is a surprise. 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. Be a Scout.

The motto of boy and girl scout groups is ‘be prepared’. And preparation is one of the best antidotes for stress – yes, even on the day of, it’s not too late for some planning. Taking 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 even when she knows how hard you try to stay a healthy weight, would spending time the day before visualising yourself not being bothered by her comments help? Could you come up with a counteractive saying you plan to repeat in your head when she starts in on you, such as, “my sister constantly tells me I have an enviable career?” Or could you plan a signal with your spouse whereby he changes the conversation?

Stress free Christmas4. Share the stress.

Not, note, by projecting it and picking a spat with your partner or teenager! But by asking for help and delegating. Nobody likes a Christmas marytr, moaning later about how they have to do everything themselves. 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 ‘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, is it the potatoes not being peeled yet, or that you are not sure you made enough cranberry sauce? Once you know what the stress is, ask yourself, “now what can I do to fix this problem?”

And what if Aunt Effie really does go off on one, but on you this year? Or your mother criticises you again for not doing enough with your life? Or your husband accidentally tells you you look fat in that dress?

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.

If you managed to grab a piece of paper before you hid in the loo, take five minutes to let ‘er fly. Promise yourself you’ll rip it up when you are finished (this gives your unconscious a safe space to let loose) then write down everything that comes up, even if it feels childish or crazed or mean. Tear it to bits, flush, and feel surprisingly better.

8.Breathe it out.

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 instead of just the chaos in your head. Read our guide to taking a two-minute mindfulness break.

9. Feel it out.

It is more ideal to manage with upset when you are not surrounded by an audience, haven’t had an extended glass of champagne, and don’t already have the stress-o-meter cranked. Ask yourself if you really need to have this out on Christmas Day, or if it is best left for a conversation after Boxing Day. Don’t see not reacting on Christmas day as weak or ‘letting them get away with it’. See it as doing something for yourself. You are not letting them ruin your Christmas. It’s you being powerful, not a pushover.

10. Find a balanced thought.

Before you approach the person who upset you, see if you can find a thought that is not black or white but somewhere in the middle. For example, if in this moment they are making you feel you don’t achieve enough, when do they support what you do? When have they felt proud of you?

11. If you have to get into it, use clean fighting techniques.

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 something like that, I want to feel good about myself today so can we please be nicer to each other.” Try reading our 10 Tips to Difficult Conversations for some more helpful advice.

12. Don’t make a triangle.

Try your best not to pull in a sibling or 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 battle!

And if the turkey really burns?

Surviving the Holidays Know your worth. Remember, no matter how much you wail, it will not unburn what is burnt. 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.

Have you enjoyed this article? Would you like to share your own personal Christmas day stories or tips? Comment below, we love hearing from you.

(Image credits Dino Abatzidis, James Vaughan , Pedro Vezini, and Nina Matthews via Compfight.)


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