However, as amazing, wonderful and air-punchingly lovely as Christmas can be, it can also be a time of immense pressure. Let’s be honest here, days spent having compulsory fun with family can often end in high drama. You might as well fill a pot with riled-up emotions, put it on high heat and leave it to bubble for two weeks, ready just in time for December 25.
Not only do you have to negotiate the minefield of where and with whom you’re spending the holidays, but decide who’s cooking what, who’s bringing what, who’s drinking what and who’s going to sit on the rickety old chair bought in from the shed. There’s an expectation that we’ll all fulfil certain roles – Christmas can bring the kid out in all of us and not always in a good way. When Dave gets away with not helping because “That’s just Dave!” it can be impossible to stop yourself pouring eggnog in his ear.
Spending the whole time worrying about everyone else means you’ll neglect your own needs. Biting your tongue (just enough not to draw blood), acting as mediator and saying yes to everything can make you explode and/or hide in the garden necking nan’s best sherry.
Remember: it’s impossible to keep everyone happy. You’ll fail if you try and then feel grumpy, stressed and unappreciated. Others will take advantage of your can-do attitude if you let them – some people intentionally (those that deserve eggnog in the ear) and others unintentionally. If you’re running around offering to do everything, why wouldn’t people take you up on it? Ensure you delegate where you can and say no when you need to (and want to).
Also, be aware of your own desire for praise. Sometimes our need to be needed can make us step on other people’s toes. Others have roles they need to fulfil too so if Aunt Judy wants to make the gravy LET HER. (Even if she will ruin both it and Christmas in the process.) If you’re only doing things to get thanked, you’ll quickly resent it when gratitude is thin on the ground. Instead, try to take pleasure in a job well done and reward yourself with a glass of fizz or an early present (reward is a great motivator) – then any other thanks will be a bonus.
Make sure you schedule in time for yourself. There’s inevitably going to be things you’re obligated to take part in (Blind Man’s Bluff with ‘uncle’ Alan is only ever fun for Alan), but by balancing them out with stuff you actually do enjoy it’ll be easier to disguise your grimace as a grin.
Also, speak up. People generally can’t read minds. Everyone might think you love cooking dinner because you do it every year (and they might be scared of treading on your toes by offering to help) when secretly you HATE it. If no one knows how you feel they won’t automatically change their ways. Ask for help or suggest a compromise.
Tradition is a funny thing. People can be scared of change or not realise it’s needed. If you’re suffering from anticipatory anxiety over what you think will happen (“They’re going to make me sit on the kids’ table AGAIN”) be proactive about doing something about it now.
And if all else fails, go for a five minute walk and chant, “It’s only once a year, it’s only once a year, it’s only once a year…”