How would your dream Christmas look like if you had the courage to shape it as you really want it and not as your environment expects you and if you also had the time for everything you just want to fit into your busy schedule?
I have beautiful memories of Christmas as a kid, it was truly magical and full of happy excitement. But as I grew older, I also remember my mother getting a nervous breakdown almost every year, exploding, then getting lost for an hour outside in the cold to cool down and later we all were just desperately trying to save the festive spirit for the rest of the holidays. Our family was not the only one feeling pressured and stressed out during Christmas and let's be honest, it is typically the mothers who take care of most Christmas-related preparations, above their daily work. As an adult, I see now quite clearly some patterns for such dramatic holidays and I have some strategies how could we avoid them.
1. Perfect imperfection
First of all, can we just consciously say that the goal here is to have a nice Christmas period and not a perfect one, as that is more realistic. There will be always things that you can’t control, kids get sick, presents get lost, the food gets burned, people want to visit you unexpectedly – that is just life happening. By trying to control everything we put ourselves into a very vulnerable situation and we set up ourselves for indisputable frustration and failure.
What if we try to check with ourselves every time if the events are really within our control and if we could do anything about it? Acceptance of imperfection can be hard, but possible, and can give you a huge relief if you can let the control go and just go with the flow. So, what if a present gets lost and it will arrive later, or if a meal won’t be perfect? Years later these surprises either will become the best family anecdotes or were never important enough to even remember them.
Also, even though we want to have a nice holiday with a lot of preparations, we might not have as much time as we want for the execution and for arranging every little detail.
So, what we can do to avoid being overwhelmed is to lower the pressure on ourselves. We can ask ourselves a very simple question, what are the things that we definitely need to have in place and what are in the nice-to-have category? From the must-have ones, which are the ones that others could do, what could we outsource?
My in-laws have a very different approach to Christmas. Last year when we visited them on the 25th for lunch, my mother-in-law was comfortably reading on the sofa, which is an impossible and unnatural image for me for Christmas day. She was not stressed and overwhelmed to finish the last bits of preparation and it was just so strange to see! What they do is they typically order the food for Christmas, and they don’t waste hours and hours preparing it. In my family, this was something unimaginable, even though it made my mother super nervous each and every year.
So, when you think about all the tasks and endless to-do lists, what are the things that cause you so much stress, and what alternative solution could you imagine for them? Can you double-check your list of must-haves and see if you could see them from a different perspective?
Yes, Christmas is a family holiday and it is nice to share some quality time with your loved ones. But it doesn’t mean that you need to be available all the time for everyone, even if your family has a very clear idea of how you should spend your Christmas. What would you like to do if you could organise the whole festive period? Who do you want to see and in what setup, do you want to invite them over for dinner or tea would be enough for you? Can you schedule some alone time for the Christmas period, or maybe some quality time to spend outside with your kids?
There are family dynamics everywhere and typically all family members want to keep up the same dynamics and avoid changing anything, but are you happy with the current set up or would you like to change something to have a more peaceful and relaxed holiday? While it is nice to adjust to their needs, don’t forget that your necessities also matter, and you also have the right to enjoy this period after working hard the whole year.