It’s the season to be jolly, yet your anxiety levels are through the roof. Just the very thought of it is making you tense. If only it were over already.
Typically this revolves around spending the day with our families and all the potential for things to turn sour. It can be a time rife with conflict and tension. When I was a teenager and called a friend on Christmas day, the first question – even before what presents you got – would be: “How is it going? Has everyone started fighting yet?” It was a given that tempers would flare at some point.
Mum is feeling overwhelmed and has become snappy; Dad feels like he can never do it right and shuts down; Uncle Barry drinks to much and manages to offend everyone; the sister in law disapproves of how things are done in this family and is not even trying to hide it; the teenager is sulking with every fibre of his or her being; brothers pick on sisters; sisters pick on brothers; and the presents are a minefield all on their own. Feel free to mix and match to suit your particular version of Christmas.
So how do you deal with all that? How do you cope and deal with the anxiety it causes you?
Firstly accept the whole disaster as it is. As much as you would like for things to be different, you cannot change the way others act, and stewing over it solves nothing. Detach yourself from the merry go round and stand on the sidelines.
Don’t take the bait. You know what your triggers are, what gets you going every time. So spend some time preparing mentally, rehearsing different ways of reacting. Deactivate your buttons for the day. Sometimes the best reaction is no reaction at all.
If someone has strong views on how the day should proceed and insists on controlling everyone and everything, (we all have one of those) – let them do it. Let them have it. What does it matter? Let them be responsible for the lot and enjoy simply being an extra to their production.
Limit your alcohol intake and exposure. Drinking is going to make it much harder to not get engaged and keeping a cool head. Limit the amount of time you hang around to the bare minimum – the less you are present the easier it will be to remain calm and unaffected. Fake illness, organize an urgent phone call – a friend in distress maybe – whatever you can sell best. “I would love to stay, but …” – fibbing to your family is a small price to pay for your sanity.
So sometimes Christmas is a game you have to play strategically. Plan ahead, cover contingencies and keep the goal in mind – being stress and anxiety free over the holidays.
Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas of sitting back and relaxing. Enjoy.