Updated: Feb 19
Christmas trees are going up, more (and more) mince pies are appearing, and the wide array of Christmas ads are fighting for our attention for what we need to do to have the ‘perfect’ Christmas.
The lived experience for some people is that the run-up to Christmas adds more things to the to-do list and it can become stressful as the often over-extended expectations gather pace like a festive snowball running down a hill. To avoid getting ‘splatted’ by that snowball when it has become huge, here are three ideas to consider.
Start with what’s truly important. Take a moment to think about what is truly important. Giving a bigger-picture perspective can help with this. Yes, you want everything to be perfect for the holiday celebrations, however, if that ‘perfect’ comes at the cost of stress and arguments are we getting it right? Many people find that it can help to write the important down. That can help you navigate the things that are likely to come your way. It’s unlikely that you will have a particular brand of Christmas Crackers on your truly important list? Yet that’s not how it can feel when you can’t get them. Just saying…
Manage your expectations. More than any other time of the year I find people have a set of expectations that fall short of the reality they face. Theodore Roosevelt said “comparison is the thief of joy”. I’d say often our own expectations are in the same category. There are a whole load of influences that form our expectations and some of those are hard to manage. However, when we are aware of them we put ourselves in a stronger position to do something about them. This is not to say don’t have expectations. They are important motivators. We need to ensure that our expectations are seen in the context of the reality they find themselves in. If we set the expectation that everyone needs to have a brilliant time then there is a fair chance you will fall short. Firstly ‘brilliant time’ is relative to the individual and secondly, it’s outside of your control. That doesn’t mean we can’t create an environment that can influence a brilliant time. Just be careful that our own joy isn’t fully reliant on other people’s positive experience.
Take breaks. There’s some great research on the importance of breaks. The accumulative stress that builds up when we don’t take breaks is hard to argue with – if you’re interested here’s an example of research from Microsoft. This doesn’t just apply to our professional lives. When it comes to stress management your brain and your body does not make the distinction between personal and professional. We all instinctively know this yet find ourselves driving forward relentlessly. Only to find we snap at someone or have a disproportionate response to the situations we face. Or the heavy cold you come down with as your stress-induced and turbo-charged immune system relaxes making you vulnerable on Boxing Day – known as the ‘let down’ effect. Prioritising time to recalibrate and refresh is key. It doesn’t have to be long. However, in my experience of working with people these short breaks will never find themselves making their way to the top of your to-do list. You have to prioritise that yourself.
Whatever you end up doing this holiday season I wish you well and all the very best for 2023.