Dealing with festive stress

Christmas is a beautiful time for most, a time for families to come together, if you’re lucky enough to still be part of one.

However, while family support and involvement can often be an important facet of wellbeing, in the short-term your family can be a cause of stress. The obvious example of this is political or cultural clashes caused by generational or even geographical differences, which result in tense atmospheres or furious rows over the dinner table, particularly in these polarised times of covid and vaccine debates.

Thing is though, even if there’s no obvious source of disagreement or even conflict, a prolonged period in close quarters with a lot of your family can still be stressful.

There’s the relative lack of privacy that comes from having your house full of people, a known cause of stress.

There’s also the weird aspect of regression. You return to your childhood home and stay with your parents with your siblings around, it seems like your brain “resets” and reverts to the schemas that governed your behaviour and thinking when you were in that context before (which usually bedded in over many years). Trouble is, you’re typically not a teenager any more. You often have your own partner and children with you. So now you’ve got competing perspectives in your head, with your “responsible adult” thinking crashing against the “subservient child” behaviour patterns. This causes confusion and uncertainty, yet another source of stress.

So…. how do we move through these moments of possible discomfort?

Here are some tips, to keep calm and have a fun and enjoyable festive period.

1 – Remember to breathe. If you’re getting triggered by your parent, sibling, auntie, uncle, partner. Remember to pause, take 3 deep breaths, and calm your nervous system. If it’s going to take more than 3 deep breaths, maybe excuse yourself to the rest room and have some me time.

2 – If there is competition between siblings, cousins, friends about toys, presents etc. Encourage them to share what they have so they can all enjoy the experience of these new items. If that fails, maybe offer up a team game that they can all get involved in to change the vibe and get them in a supportive mindset.

3 – Remember your boundaries around eating and drinking. The festive period can be one of indulgence, which is wonderful & we deserve to enjoy all the treats in life, with our loved ones. However, if you’re on a particular diet or health protocal, or trying to avoid alcohol because it just doesn’t serve you anymore, then stick strong with your no. You know what is good for you, and what isn’t and keeping the fam happy is not going to help you through your hangover anxiety or overeating stomach pain the next day.

4 – With that said, try not to guilt trip yourself for enjoying some extra cheese, or a slice of cake, or a tipple to celebrate with your family. Everything in moderation, life is for enjoyment, and you can always go for a walk in the morning to clear the mind and get your body moving.

5 – When someone is bothering you, instead of getting into defensive and irritable moods, try to look at them with compassion and remember the things you love about them. (Even if it’s just 1 or 2 things ;-))

Try to see them as the person that they are and that we didn’t choose our families, and we are all just doing our best.

6 – Lastly, if some tension or conflict does appear, try and take it back to laughter and joy as quickly as possible. ’tis the season to be jolly, so just try to enjoy the moments, all is temporary and many people aren’t lucky enough to have loved ones around them. There is gratitude to be found in every moment.

Have a wonderful festive period all, and thank you for all your support in the year of 2021!

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