How To Stay Sane At Christmas: 22 tips you need to know
How to Stay Sane at Christmas
The festive season is upon us again and you need to have a strategy to help you stay sane at Christmas. Tis the season of goodwill to all men and you’re in the holiday spirit, enjoying office parties and deciding what tasty treats are going to adorn your Christmas dinner table. Christmas time is when our hearts are overflowing with gladness and merriment at the prospect of spending time with our loved ones. Isn’t it?
So why is it, given our best intentions, stress levels go through the roof? We speak unkind words which we then regret, arguments abound and we spend what should be a relaxing, bonding and rejuvenating period feeling tetchy and disappointed? Did you know that there is a surge in the demand for marriage guidance immediately after the Christmas period? Hairline cracks in relationships soon become gaping San Andreas-size fault-lines. Enforced proximity, the pressure of dealing with in-laws, navigating the step-children, more than enough alcohol and brooding financial pressures all have relationship counsellors and solicitors rubbing their hands with glee as they anticipate the annual spike in demand for their services.
I say stuff the negativity! Let’s make the most of it. So what can you do to stay sane at Christmas? Prepare and prepare well. Below is a list of 22 suggestions you can use to help you to stay sane at Christmas.
Manage your expectations
Christmas time comes along with a whole heap of expectations. There is that present we’ve been dropping hints about all year which we don’t get given. We end up shouldering all the cooking, washing and hosting when we were hoping our partner would chip in a bit. Cleaning and preparing the house falls into your remit entirely while the other family members watch every possible Christmas film. Consequently you can feel your pressure cooker of a head building up for a mighty explosion. How do you stay sane at Christmas?
First, on a practical note, discuss in advance about who is going to do what so that you’re not left juggling all the jobs yourself. Write out a to-do list and have the older children and adults commit to jobs they can do.
Second, on an emotional note, we are our own worst enemy when we expect people to behave in ways we want them to. The less you expect of people, the more you are likely to stay sane at Christmas. Remember, the only person you can control is you. Any conditions or rules you create will limit your happiness and could well make you take on a Grinch-like expression and that’s probably not the look you’re after.
You simply aren’t going to be able to control things and keep them the way you want them. Things you can’t anticipate are going to happen anyway. There’s always going to be something that can bother you, if you let it. So decide in advance to let the little things go and stay sane at Christmas. More importantly, don’t allow your happiness and enjoyment of the festive period be conditional upon other people. Allowing yourself to let other people bother you changes nothing, except for you suffer in the process.
Respect your boundaries
Relinquishing control isn’t about ignoring your boundaries. Maintain your integrity. If something bothers you greatly, work out a kind way of expressing your feelings. Christmas does not mean you become a doormat. Christmas does not give others a carte blanche of expecting you to accept things you fundamentally disagree with. Furthermore, respect your own boundaries while remembering your boundaries are where your control ends.
Create your own peaceful bubble
Before Christmas events start nibbling away at your tolerance and patience, practice creating an invisible peace bubble. How you envisage your bubble is down to you. The key is for it to be a quiet and safe place of refuge for you. Your peace bubble can be around you at all times, even when politics and religion get thrown into the mix with the third bottle of wine around the dinner table. Simply see yourself in your bubble with a smile on your face. Take a few slow and deep breaths and observe.
It’s not that your mind has to be quiet. You just be quiet. You, the one inside watching the neurotic minds in front of you, just relax. Don’t get involved in it, don’t try and stop it. Simply be aware that you are observing it. That’s how you keep your internal barometer at calm and sunny. You just let it go. Essentially, this is how you help yourself to stay sane at Christmas.
Buy presents in advance
Start creating a list of what to buy for whom as early as possible. This way you have a good chance of buying something that really resonates with that individual. What’s more you might even enjoy taking the time to wrap it. Allocate a page in your diary to write notes about potential presents. Ideally start to write notes as soon as one Christmas is over so that you have plenty of ideas when shopping time comes around again. Once you have made the major purchases for your loved ones, you can then direct your energy towards other tasks which need your attention to help you stay sane at Christmas. If you buy for children, try and set a budget that allows a similar amount to be spent on each child. If you are buying for step-children, include their real parent in the discussion about budget and what to buy.
We put up our tree at the end of November this year. I’m sentimentally attached to a plastic tree my Mum bought me years ago. Also I can’t bring myself to cut down a perfectly good tree that will die in just a few weeks afterwards. So we brush off the previous year’s dust and decorate our house in anticipation of Christmas. My daughter decorates the stairs, constructs the nativity scene and the tacky electrical Christmas village scenes that make a very loud whirring sound…. Meanwhile my son and I build the tree and hang sparkly things from the beams and ceilings.
Once the decorations are up it’s just a matter of allowing our excitement to continue to build until the big day arrives! So as Christmas will take place, whether you like it or not, why not make the most of it and enjoy the decorations for a full month? Once the decorations are up, it frees up mental energy to tackle the next preparations.
Prepare in advance as much food as you can. Gravy, stock, bread sauce, stuffing and some vegetables can be prepared before the big day. Be clever with your starters and deserts and choose ones which you can prepare a day or two beforehand to help you stay sane at Christmas. If you’re cooking for people with special dietary needs, make sure that you have tasty alternatives ready for them.
If you enjoy singing carols, find a service local to you where you can go and raise the roof for a couple of hours. Singing en masse is therapeutically beneficial and will help boost your serotonin and energy levels. What’s more, you’ll be supporting your local community. Encourage your friends and family to go along with you and make it a special event. There are few things that help to get you into the spirit of Christmas as easily as singing Christmas carols at the top of your voices with a few like-minded souls.
Compile a list of Christmas music you can leave playing in the background when you have friends and family over, or even to keep you company while you’re cooking. Listening to music is powerfully emotive and will help to get you into the Christmas-spirit.
Who to spend Christmas with
Decide, well in advance, who you will be spending Christmas with. If you’re lucky, your parents will let you choose how and where you want to spend Christmas without the pressure of making you feel guilty if you decide not to be with them. If you are parents to grown up children, consider that they may want to do their own thing, especially if they have their own children. Christmas is a time when ideally families can get together, but take the pressure off of making it a necessity. If it doesn’t work for you, let it go. See each other another time. Remember that Christmas is a time of recuperation too. Make sure you come out of the festivities relaxed rather than frazzled.
Make it special for the children
There were nearly 2 million lone parent families with dependent children in the UK in 2015. That’s a lot of children who may be faced with a decision of who to spend Christmas with.
As a single parent myself, the only advice I can give is to not put pressure on the children. It puts them under tremendous pressure when they have to make the choice about which parent will have them over Christmas. You are adults. If you both have involvement in the children’s lives ask yourself honestly who you think they would prefer to be with.
Children’s needs first
If they are very young and have spent most of their time with Mum, Mum is probably the more agreeable choice until they are older and more independent. If Dad is the main caregiver, it might be that Dad is the better option.
Don’t abuse your power as a parent to say it’s your “right” to have the children if the children aren’t ready for it. My children spent Christmases with me for several years while they were young and I’ve not had them for the past four or five Christmases as it works well for them to be with their father. I have them for a traditional New Year’s Eve bash that they love being involved with.
We celebrate our Christmas on either the 27th, 28th or 29th December and have the best time ever. We had so much fun the first time we did our “own Christmas”, that we look forward to it each year now. What’s more, most people have already celebrated their Christmases while we are lucky enough to be celebrating it again!
If you have step-children, make sure they feel as welcome as the biological children. If they don’t know you very well yet, it can be daunting for them, so make it as special as you can do. Have a few games and ideas lined up that will help integrate everyone and make the magic of Christmas even more special.
On the big day itself…
Get up early if necessary
If you’re the one doing the cooking, get up early, or nominate a loving and helpful partner to turn on the oven if you’ve a big bird to roast. There’s nothing much worse that sitting around the dinner table while everyone gets more and more tipsy and more and more hungry while you wait for the bird to finish cooking. Remember to make sure you allow enough time for the bird to rest once cooking has finished too.
If you’ve taken on the responsibility of cooking, unfortunately a lie-in won’t be yours to enjoy. But try not to see this as a major hiccup and most certainly don’t hold it against your loved ones. You invited them, so make the most of it. Get the bird cooking and make good use of the early rise. You can catch up on sleep when leftovers are all that’s needed to throw together. Organised food preparation will make a huge difference to you staying sane at Christmas.
Beware touch-paper people
Over the festive period we tend to get thrown together with people we love as well as people we’re not so fond of. Consequently, you need a strategy to cope with the latter if you are going to sane at Christmas!
Imagine, the table is laid out beautifully, the meal smells divine and has been teasing your taste buds for the previous three hours. The crackers are all laid out and you take a glance at the seating plan…. And who’s opposite you? The “new boyfriend”. You know he’s a complete and utter idiot who thinks he’s God’s gift to all women. He has the social skills of a slug, gets incredibly drunk as he gets more and more excited about sharing his vast knowledge of expletives and various combinations of swear words that he thinks somehow add value to his riveting conversation. And you have to sit opposite him at the dinner table! You have to eyeball this Prince Charming for the next couple of hours! What to do?!
Prepare for touch-paper people
Set out a mental plan that you know will support you during challenging times. Your plan may involve excusing yourself to perch on the toilet for a few minutes every now and again to practice deep breathing (or taking a large slug of homemade to-the-rescue damson gin). As you feel your internal barometer heading towards stormy chaos remember that you are a tiny speck of energy within a vast universe. You can choose to sit tight and let the words wash over and through you. Or you can remove yourself for a short while and do some deep breathing exercises.
Not only will deep breathing exercises help to calm you down, they’ll flood your system with nutrients which will place you in a stronger position to deal with the next onslaught of Prince Charming’s invaluable contribution. Another tactic is to make sure you engage with the people sat next to you in the hope you can enjoy conversation with them instead.
To stay sane at Christmas, there is no better time to start to look after your mental wellbeing than right now. Meditation might be your method of dealing with the chaos and if it is, make sure you allocate time to meditate at least every day. It will help you to decipher the myriad confusing and competing messages racing through your brain. Furthermore, meditation will help to settle you and re-energise your sense of powerful self. If you don’t already meditate, I highly recommend it.
If you just don’t get the meditation thing, that’s fine. Most importantly make sure you allocate time for yourself, doing whatever it is that makes your day more livable. It might be reading a book, sweating it out in the gym, running along the beachfront during sunrise, taking your dogs for a walk. Do something, whatever it is, that is good for you and makes you feel better than you felt before you did it. And do it every day from now onwards. If you are in a bad place mentally, you can guarantee that your experiences over the festive period are only going to head south if you don’t.
Start the day off healthily
Personally I love a full English breakfast on Christmas Day (with fizz!) and Boxing Day (with fizz!) and New Year’s Day (sometimes with a hangover) … But, if that’s not your thing, make sure you start the day off with a bang for you. I eat healthily all year long and Christmas for me is the one time when I don’t work and I don’t harp on about being super healthy. However, if self-control for a healthy lifestyle wins over a bacon buttie, make sure you start the day off with whatever makes you feel good and ideally is packed full of antioxidants and nutrition. If you have a healthy start to the day you stand more chance of avoiding the excesses as the day progresses.
We all know that too much alcohol is the instigator of many-a-regretted word. Consequently, take it easy on the booze. Drinking too much won’t only take away your own fun and involvement of the day, it can lead to arguments and regrettable incidents. Don’t let the booze rule your day. Let it enhance it instead. Furthermore, if you start the day off with champagne or bucks fizz, make sure you down a pint of water every now and again to help dilute the alcohol and keep you well hydrated throughout the day and into the night. Drink quality rather than quantity. Treat yourself to wine or champagne that you don’t normally spoil yourself with and sip it!
If you need a little help on controlling the amount you drink, take a look at my alcohol reduction download. It works very well for people who want to cut down on, but not cut out alcohol.
Walk in nature
Once the big day kicks off, try and allow some time to get out into nature. Whatever the weather, make the most of it. If you have dogs you have no choice but to take them for a walk. If you have no dogs try and gather a party of loved ones so you can get outside and do some healthy bonding together.
Blow the dust off the board games
Christmas is the ideal time for family games. Whether it’s charades or your favourite board game, turn off the television and get together for family fun. You can always record the films and watch them at a later date. You’ll have more fun getting to grips with a game together. More importantly it will create more happy memories for the memory bank, so long as you don’t sulk if you lose!
Practice the art of gratitude
I think this is the most important point of all. Be grateful. Look how callous we can get with our loved ones when we find ourselves in sanity-compromising situations. All of a sudden our calm and measured intentions can subconsciously be pulled out from under us. We find ourselves in the middle of a situation that makes us feel incredibly threatened. To stay sane at Christmas, try and plan for these unforeseen occasions. Remember that we take it for granted that our friends and family are there and that they’ll continue to be there for us.
What if they died? Or if you died? What if you knew that this evening would be the last time you’d get to see them? How would you feel? How would you interact with them? Would you really bother with the little complaints and grudges you’ve been carrying around? How much love could you give the ones you love, knowing it would be the last time you’d get to be with them? Think about what it would be like if you lived like that every moment with everyone. Your life would be really different. Most importantly, remember that death does not have to be a morbid thought. Death is the greatest teacher in all life.
Death as your VIP
Imagine if death was at your Christmas dinner table and told you that next week, or tomorrow you would die. You would beg for more time and ask for one more week. Death would reply to you: “I gave you 52 weeks this past year alone. Why do you need one more? What are you doing with all those that I gave you already?”
How will you answer? “I wasn’t paying attention, I didn’t think it mattered, I was too busy.” That’s a pretty amazing thing to say about your life, isn’t it? Life has been going on for billions of years. You simply get the honour of living a tiny slice of it. So make that slice worthwhile. It is rare and it is scarce and it is highly valuable. You have this one life. When are you going to start living it as though life mattered and as though life would end tomorrow?
Make your life count and count your blessings
I labour this point because I volunteer in Hospice. And nobody there is worried about how much money they made or how many hours they spent laboring in the office. What counts is their relationships with their loved ones. That’s all that matters ultimately. Yes, we need to be able to pay the bills and we need to be able to gain an education, but how much does that really cost when we live carefully and responsibly? What matters ultimately is human relationships. How do you want to be remembered when you’ve gone? Let that be your guiding star over the festive period. Try and see the whole situation from a place high above the stars.
Hopefully you’ll find some of these tips useful to help you stay sane at Christmas this year. And shine as brightly as the brightest star while you enjoy a wonderful Christmas.
Merry Christmas Everyone!!!!