Christmas can be a time of rich blessing and joy, family fun and a restful season of giving and renewal. However, it can also be a time where expectations of sipping cider by the fire and joyfully listening to Christmas music are blindsided by holiday meltdowns with family, stressful last-minute shopping trips and painful travel with relatives that make you want to throw the towel in and say “Bah-humbug!” For some, keeping calm for a stress-free Christmas is the greatest gift of all, and it seems unattainable in the midst of overexcited children, a lengthy to-do list of food preparations, present-wrapping and Christmas decorations.
Some holiday-related stress is to be expected, but how you react to the canceled flight or burned Christmas turkey makes all the difference. The stress-related pressure during the holidays hits some people harder than others. Christmas is a season for merry-making and family get-togethers, and learning how to avoid pressures and stress can make or break how you look back on the holiday season.
The following are a few tips counselors and mental health experts share for individuals and families trying to make it through the Christmas season without a holiday meltdown, followed by a Christmas “To Don’t” List to avoid stress as much as possible.
- Squash any foreseen fires ahead of time: Most families dealing with holiday family stressors know that Christmas is not the only time of the year when fighting and family meltdown occur. More often than not, there are already exiting fires that need to be put out before relatives travel in from near and far. If you know of any ongoing conflicts, arguments or potential issues that could explode later on during the holiday season, address them ahead of time and do your best to resolve them. You may need to seek a counselor, but it is important to make every effort to tell the people you argue with that you are looking forward to seeing them. If at all possible, do not go into the holidays with grudges or awkward tension.
- Plan out your days and delegate tasks: Parents can easily feel overwhelmed with all there is to do in preparation for Christmas. Rather than taking on every task yourself, slaving away for hours on your own, include your family members or friends to delegate some of the tasks. Not only will working together on an end goal make the holiday more special, but it will also give you an opportunity to help some relatives find purpose who may otherwise feel helpless or useless. Do not sweat the small stuff! Share your load – after all, that is what family and the giving season is all about.
- Share everyone’s expectations: A lot of stress-related family arguments can arise when different individuals have different expectations that are not met. Disappointment is common on any long-awaited holiday, especially among relatives who may already be out of sync in some ways. Discuss your plans with others, including your children, and take into consideration other guests’ ideas and wishes for the day.
- Plan ahead to minimize the pressure: Easily stressed individuals should plan ahead to reduce some of the stress, acknowledging what every day factors are common triggers of anxiety and stress, whether it is shopping, finances, cooking or more. Keep it simple and practical, and plan ahead when it comes to stress as well. Learn relaxation techniques, spending limits or who you can talk to for soothing words of wisdom. It is always important to have someone in your life to point you back to the true meaning of Christmas when the pressures of shopping and more get in the way.
To help reduce holiday stress, allowing you to enjoy the season more, don’t do the following:
- Spend a lot on Christmas gifts. Homemade gifts are often worth more
- Set high expectations you cannot fulfill, like crafting or an elaborate menu
- Try to cram too much into your Christmas traditions. There are only so many hours in the day to hang lights, find the perfect tree and bake Christmas cookies.
- Ignore opportunities to give and volunteer. Sometimes these are the best traditions.
- Tell everyone what the plans are. Include them in the planning process to avoid arguments.
Safe Harbor Christian Counseling acknowledges that for some people, anxiety and stress can ruin any holiday. Don’t just try to get through the Christmas season, learn how to enjoy it and recognize your obstacles ahead of time. Safe Harbor offers child and adolescent counseling services, adult counseling services and couples counseling. If you struggle with depression, anxiety or stress, self-esteem issues, anger and rage or more, consider seeking guidance from the counselors at Safe Harbor. Through a biblical framework, Safe Harbor Christian Counseling is dedicated to getting to the root of the problem to help others enjoy more abundant, happy lives.
For more information on Safe Harbor’s counseling, coaching and therapy services, visit http://www.safeharbor1.com. Interested individuals are welcome to join in on the faith-based dialogue found on our Facebook page and following Safe Harbor Christian Counseling on Twitter.