Christmas gets a bad rap (excuse the pun!), the thought of family arguments in this highly charged festive season as well as the rigmarole of planning a wedding which can also cause family friction can seem daunting.
Psycotherapist Jane Barnfield Jukes shares her thoughts...
Christmas, and the added stress it brings, is merely the catalyst to bring anger into the fore. Being aware of this and understanding the causes can go a long way to lessening the impact of the, often, inevitable conflicts that arise - sound advice for those also planning a wedding with family members who could disagree on the location, the readings and the table plans!
Prevention is better than cure! Don't wait until Christmas Day to address the bubbling issues within your family or friendship groups. Try to sort through any relationship issues during the year. That way they can't hijack you while you are trying to spread joy and cheer.
Things to be aware of…
Adjust your expectations now and try to let go of perfection. Try to recognise symptoms of escalating stresses as they occur. Headache, stomach-ache and moodiness are all signs that things are heating up. Just like a pressure cooker needs a periodic release of steam so it won't blow up, it is important for you to acknowledge stressful situations and try to diffuse them as they arise, rather than holding it in. Eventually you, too, will explode with pent up stress if you don't allow yourself to gently deal with each stressful moment you encounter. Try to detach from the drama when it occurs. You will be far more useful as a non-judgemental observer/peacekeeper than a referee.
Live in reality
As therapists we often refer to the “fantasy of family.” You aren't in a Disney Christmas movie – real life very rarely measures up. Try to love the family you have, rather than the completely unattainable “ideal” projected onto our screens. They are not real life portrayals. Don't be afraid to rethink Christmas traditions. As human beings we tend to be resistant to change. It may be that some of the things you are used to doing may not work for you anymore. Be honest with yourself and people around you. Think of new traditions that might be more appropriate to your current situation. Feel confident in creating ones that speak to you and ask the people who are celebrating with you to become involved in them. If your friends and family can't follow your rules perhaps you should reconsider your Christmas guest list (and seriously think the wedding invites also!).
Try not to be taken in by the materialistic nature of oversharing.
Money, gifts and expensive holidays are like empty calories and your Christmas table is probably full enough! Be mindful of bereavement and loss at this special time of year. It might be a good idea to raise a glass to absent friends or take the time to remember lost loved ones. Don't gloss over grief that you or the people you care about might be feeling. Acknowledge sadness in order to laugh. If you are the conductor of your Christmas choir be aware that managing all the conflicting needs can be draining. Try to avoid arguments by understanding the conflicting wants and needs of those around you. Try hard to not overdo it. Take time for yourself and find those moments of peace where you can.
What do we wish for?
Love and forgiveness every second of every hour would undoubtedly make the world a better place. However, let's just start with this Christmas season. This Christmas is your Christmas. You have the right to enjoy it as much as the ones you love. Wishing you a peaceful, loving, conflict-free Holiday Season!
By Jane Barnfield Jukes, founder of all natural supplement range, Eudeamon www.eudeamon.com, and The Practice therapy services www.thepractice.co.uk