Christmas is an emotional time. Not least due to the reality of family life, it also brings back some painful memories, reminds us of those we’ve lost, and marks the passing of time (yes, you are too old to expect Santa to fill your stocking).
With the crazy build up, financial stresses, lists, parties and shopping – don’t forgetting the shopping – then the post-lunch crash and bad TV on the day, Christmas is an emotional roller coaster. So, how do you remain balanced and calm while the rest of the world loses its peace and goodwill?
1- Don’t try to be sane
Christmas is not about sanity. Look around you. You’ve brought a dead tree into your room and covered it in tinsel. You are singing religious songs in a voice so high your throat is hurting and wearing a jumper so cheap you keep getting electric shocks. Don’t even think about normal – nothing is normal at this time of year.
Now, more than ever, you need to remind yourself what you love about your family members, even when they are driving you up the wall. See their flaws (and your own) as touchingly amusing (or in the worst-case scenario, worthy of an anecdote for your therapist) rather than disastrous signs of failure. Be kind. All we can do here on earth is support each other amid the insanity. It’s not easy being human and imperfect; and that basic, shared understanding is as good a place as any to start.
Whenever I hear people say, “I just want this Christmas to be perfect” my heart sinks. I don’t say it but I’m thinking, you are doomed, my friend, and so too is everyone in your crazy radius. ‘Perfect’ is a pretty high bar, so is “special”. We’re talking about a dreary day in December trapped indoors with your family eating mostly brown or green food while wearing fire-hazard jumpers or onesies. As the great writer Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.”
Social media has a lot to answer for, but we all know that each online snap happens when the camera holder forces everyone to smile probably mid-argument or sulk before they go back to being moody and human. And yet we beat ourselves up with every perfect picture our friends post, deciding to believe that everyone is perfect except us. One of the best pieces of advice on how to keep sane comes from author Matt Haig, who posted on Twitter, “Do not compare yourself to other people.”
Personally, I’m a fan of imperfection. It’s more entertaining and often very amusing, especially when told afterwards to a group of friends in a wine bar. Perfect is robotic, scary, and boring. Our flaws are what make us unique. I suppose you could argue that being a perfectionist is an interesting flaw: maybe it is for everyone else when your impossible standards have failed to be reached and you have a total and spectacular meltdown.
You may want to run away, but you can’t. So, learn to escape in your own head. Picture somewhere beautiful you would rather be and visit it in your mind whenever you start to feel your heartbeat increase and your jaw clench. Try to do this before you start imagining strangling your relatives. If you are stuck for visual images, head to a beautiful spa and have a blissful treatment – then re-imagine it in minute detail whenever you feel yourself getting stressed. Light a candle with a spa scent to help transport you back to a place of calm.
If there’s one thing guaranteed to send you over the edge this season, it’s lack of sleep. Easily done, due to the excitement of parties, the dog knocking over the Christmas tree, singing drunks at 3am, holiday sniffles, never mind the stress and Christmas lists whirring around in your head. Prepare for Christmas insomnia by getting in some extra hours zzzz beforehand (if you struggle to drop off read our sleep tips here).