Despite being the season of goodwill, for many of us Christmas brings stress, difficult emotions, problems and perils at every turn. So whether you’re worried about your family getting on, or the amount you have yet to do, here’s how to negotiate the season to ensure it does not negatively impact your mental health.
Don’t aim for a ‘perfect’ Christmas
Avoid putting pressure on yourself by having ridiculously high expectations of the festive period. Rather than trying to be the ultimate hostess, packing your house full of distant extended family (in the hopes this is year everyone will get on famously) and spending hours cooking and baking, try instead to think of Christmas as just another – if longer – weekend. Aim to simply do your best, rather than be a miracle-worker. If you overestimate how great it’s going to be, you’re heading for disappointment. Much wiser to underestimate the experience – you may even end up pleasantly surprised
Keep an eye on your spending
In my consulting room, I see a lot of aggrieved adults who feel that they were poorly parented. But no one has ever said: “My parents didn’t buy me expensive Christmas presents.” Most of us spend far too much at Christmas. Try to cut your costs so you can enjoy Christmas without it being a stressful holiday knowing that you will have to face the debt in the New Year.
Cherish your partner
Sadly, many relationships end during the Christmas period. In fact, lawyers call the beginning of the first full week in the New Year ‘Divorce Monday’. Even if you aren’t at an end point, a lot of needless rows and a stressful holiday could be avoided if we focused on our relationship with our partner over Christmas. It’s easy to focus on relatives, cooking, cleaning, and present-buying, then have no time left for our spouses. When we feel neglected, it’s easy to become miserable and argumentative. Be sure to carve out some couple time.
Ration your party-going
You may think having too many party invitations is a nice problem, but if you say ‘yes’ to every get together, you may head for exhaustion. It’s easy to get stressed and fatigued when you try to fit too much into every day, so allow yourself to give some parties a miss and catch up on sleep and relaxation.
Keep visits short but sweet
This is the time when we feel we should see lots of family, but if you’re cooped up with people you have little in common with — or rarely see — it’s a recipe for tension and a stressful holiday. Often family get-togethers go better if they’re kept short, so if you’re visiting someone don’t feel you must stay all day. And if you’ve got a house full of visitors, try to break up each day by giving it some real structure.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
You might want to play the doting hostess, making everything enjoyable for your guests. But what about your experience? Don’t feel bad about involving your visitors in preparing meals, or clearing up afterwards.
Do something that makes YOU feel good
Try to at least spend a portion of the day doing something that will make you feel good. If you’ve gone through a recent breakup or aren’t close with your family, spending Christmas alone can trigger feelings of depression and loneliness but the first thing to remember is many people who are with their families wish they were free to have a long, solitary lie in the bath. So, it might help to count yourself lucky that this year, you can do whatever you fancy while many people are wishing they could.
• Tips courtesy Dr Bahjat Balbous, specialist psychiatrist at Euromed Clinic Dubai.
Dr Bahjat Balbous is a specialist psychiatrist at Euromed Clinic Dubai