Christmas can be a super-stressful time. But with these strategies, you can survive your family Christmas with your sanity intact – and maybe even with dignity and grace!
Christmas is a high-pressure time. Put together family who may not spend much time together, along with budget blow outs, complicated menus, and the potential for many a childhood wound to be reopened, and it’s no wonder many of us feel more in the need of spirits than the Christmas spirit come the 25th of December.
At the same time, most of us would admit that there’s something very un-Christmassy about spending the holidays with your immediate family having leftover takeout for lunch.
The best way to deal with this catch-22 is to arm yourself before the day with a packet of Christmas survival tips to get through the day with your sanity intact.
Christmas survival tip 1: Reduce your expectations
Your anxiety about your upcoming Christmas get-together is unlikely to be conjured from thin air. Chances are you have a few past experiences that are the stuff of nightmares. You know how fiery your brother-in-law can get once he has a drink in him, and how your mother-in-law will spend the entire day making veiled references about your lack of housekeeping prowess. So imagining or hoping the day could double as a feel-good Christmas movie is pointless.
In addition, the beauty of having low expectations is that it doesn’t take much to exceed them. So expect little and whatever happens, you’re not going to be disappointed.
Christmas survival tip 2: Fortify your walls
If you know you’re going to put yourself in a situation where you’re under stress, it’s important that you face that situation in the best shape possible. That means that before Christmas, make sure your physical health is as good as it gets. Eat right, sleep right and exercise right. Check your spiritual and emotional health as well. Essential aspects to wellbeing explains how you can do this. When your walls are fortified, it’s less likely they can be breached!
Christmas survival tip 3: Rehearse stock responses
Speaking of walls being breached, there are key conversations guaranteed to make you feel bad. These could contain questions about whether or not you’re having children, the success of your business, the state of your marriage… You know what your triggers are, so instead of being blindsided by them, plan what you’re going to say when they’re activated – and then rehearse that response until it rolls off the tongue naturally.
In addition, make sure you communicate these with your spouse (if he didn’t help you come up with them in the first place!). If you don’t, there’s the chance that one of you may say something the other one doesn’t want mentioned.
The other plus is that you can make it into a game – bet how many times you get asked that particular question for example – and have a prize for winning that will give you a way of changing pain to pleasure!
Christmas survival tip 4: Have a code word
In case the stock responses don’t cut it, or conversation around the dinner table starts taking a turn that you don’t like, then you need to be prepared with a code word or phrase. This indicates to your spouse that you need rescuing. The level of rescuing can also be predetermined – whether it’s to merely change the topic or to get out of the house – so that you feel confident that no matter what, you have an escape route.
Just make sure the word or phrase is something that you can say without it being too obvious, whereas at the same time isn’t something you’re going to slip out in normal conversations.
Christmas survival tip 5: Put your husband first
Something very strange happens when we return to our childhood homes. Suddenly we revert from these fully functioning adults to the age we were when we left home. Part of that is that our parents – if we haven’t spent a lot of time with them in our adult lives – treat us that way and we reply in turn. As a result, your husband may find himself with someone he doesn’t even recognize.
We can also find it hard when we have a conflict of interest. Maybe your mother tells you that you need to go and visit your Aunt half an hour after you walk in the door, but your husband is exhausted. You please your mother, and annoy your husband.
If these things start to happen, then pull yourself up. Your husband should be put first in all circumstances. If faced with a situation like the above, attempt to find out what he wants before you agree to anything. In stressful times, it is more important than ever that you two remain a team. This is especially true if you are staying at your family home.
Christmas survival tip 6: Stay in Switzerland
If you know that the holiday time will be extremely tense, then try to stay in a neutral place. This may be a challenging thing to do, based on how much space is available in the family home at which you are staying. However, being able to retreat to this space at the end of the day, or even for some afternoon time out, may be the breather you need to get through those hours of enforced contact.
If you can’t pull this off without causing great offense, then look for other opportunities to get out of the environment, such as going for an afternoon walk under the guise of burning off some post-Christmas pudding calories.
Christmas survival tip 7: Look for future stories
There’s that great quote- if you can’t be a good example, be a horrible warning. The worst experiences can make the funniest memories. As you watch the day unfold, when things get truly terrible, think to yourself how this is going to make a hilarious story to recount to your friends back at work, or to laugh at with your husband when you go to bed.
Christmas survival tip 8: Reward yourself
After Christmas in New Zealand is Boxing Day and Boxing Day is one of the biggest sale days of the year. So that item you’ve been hanging out for? Make buying it dependent on your ability to get through the day with grit and grace. When things get tense, remind yourself of the treat you’re going to earn from this experience.
Christmas survival tip 9: Think of the long game
Even though it can be easy to get caught in the moment, the reality is that these family Christmases will not be around forever. Time will pass, and your family members will too, and after that happens, the day will not be the same. As much as possible, try to set aside all feelings of negatively and enjoy the day for what it is – a chance for family to come together, to share one day together and to make some memories together.
Christmas can be a super-stressful time. But with these strategies, you’ll be surviving Christmas no problem – and maybe even with dignity and grace!