Christmas time with family & relatives
‘tis the season to be jolly’….well, in theory yes.
This time of the year, Christmas, should be a joyful, happy and relaxing time to spend with family and friends.
However, it’s not uncommon knowledge that Christmas is that time of the year that results in one of the highest rates of depression, loneliness and letting loose of one’s emotions, resulting in a not so jolly time.
To be fair, it’s not Christmas pe se – this time of the year triggers deep seeded emotions and feelings that have somehow stayed buried for the past 11 months.
You’ve worked hard all year, gone over and above what’s been asked of you and most likely, put up with stuff that you should not have had to (either at work or at home).
For many of us, at this time of the year, we’re exhausted, tired, depleted and have very few sympathetic bones left in us.
And while the holiday season should be seen as a time to wind down and spend with your loved ones, in many cases, it’s the most dreaded time of the year.
What causes so much stress and anxiety at Christmas time?
Ironically, the feeling of stress and anxiety during Christmas is most likely caused by or the thought of having to deal with the people you love.
There is no hard-core data to prove this, yet on an emotional level, people close to you can and will trigger feelings of anxiety most likely based on some past event or events.
Having said this, psychologists have shown that it’s not the event(s) themselves that cause stress and anxiety, rather, our perception of them.
So, why do we get so stressed at Christmas time?
In one word, expectations.
Many people, at their family gatherings, go with an air of expectation.
Expecting the worse, expecting someone will say or do something to trigger your off, expecting your brother to pick on you again, expecting to be asked when are you going to get married – you get the point!
However, remember, we ALL carry some for form of baggage – when someone has a ‘go’ at you, more thank likely they are outpouring some form of lack in their lives.
Without getting all psychology about this, you can gain control of your OWN actions – not that of others, rather yours.
How can I survive another Christmas with the family?
Eckhart Tolle from his book The Power of Now has a remarkably insightful quote (a shortened version);
“When you speak out, you are in your power. So, change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.”
When having to confront a difficult situation, such as family or extended family during Christmas, you really only have 3 options;
As Eckhart Tolle says – all else is madness.
Talking is first and foremost the most constructive action you will ever take.
Talking is not confronting the other person – rather, sitting down and listening to their point of view and then gently explaining how you also feel.
This is not an easy thing to do, however, it’s amazing how simply starting the conversation can lead to clearing up misunderstandings and perceptions.
And while there’s no guarantee of a rosy outcome, you will have at least heard the other person’s view and hopefully they will have heard yours.
Sometimes talk is not at all possible – maybe too much troubled water has passed under the bridge.
In this case, the next best option would be to remove yourself from the situation, in this case, you may choose not attend the family function.
While it may be seen as sour grapes on your part, it may just save your sanity – remember, your wellbeing comes first.
The last and least desired option is to accept the situation.
If you choose this option, you will need to do so with now ill feelings or harboured anger – this is not accepting – this is merely tolerating and those feelings will surface with a vengeance.
Accepting an undesirable situation requires you to consciously make the effort to do so and may actually take more effort and energy compared to talking or walking away.
In the end, your wellbeing, peace of mind and sanity needs to be priority.
Whatever action you choose, remember that it’s always a 2-way street – you cannot entirely blame the other person and they cannot do the same – something within each of you has triggered the response from other.
Some reflection time may be what you need.
Please take care, look after yourself and stay safe.
Wishing you a Happy Christmas (whatever you choose to do) and a safe and truly prosperous 2020.