Managing Christmas Expectations

I love Christmas, I love the twinkly lights, the excitement of my kids, the anticipation of the John Lewis Christmas commercial, re-watching christmas movies, getting the tree... and this year, finally getting around to decorating it!  However, this time of the year also makes me sad, I miss my Aunt who is no longer here (I did inherit all her incredible Christmas decorations though).  I don't tend to get into town much these days so at this time of the year when I do I become even more aware of our homeless crisis and then struggling with the guilt of all that I have when there are those families that have nothing.  For me even the emotions that run through me watching people coming and going at Dublin airport stirs all sorts of memories!

I watch people trying to 'live' the perfect Christmas (I've been that soldier) and the pressure of choosing the perfect present for everyone can not only lead to overspending and financial pressure but huge emotional stress too.  Family dynamics, in-laws, siblings, social engagements and the need to say 'yes' to everything and everyone can result in unnecessary emotional and physical stress.

There are so many reasons why you may be feeling low, tearful, stressed or overwhelmed this festive season, and it may seem easier to avoid your feelings or avoid talking about them, but bottling up your emotions only delays dealing with them and often accentuates them.

To help ease some of the stress that comes with Christmas, here are some tips;

· This year has made me really become aware of the saying ‘be kind, everyone is fighting their own battle’. So the next time you’re getting stressed, waiting ages to get parked in a busy shopping centre because someone is holding up the line of traffic, or you end up getting stuck behind someone in a que, who seems to be lost in their own thoughts - take a minute - you have no idea what may have happened to that person that day - they may have lost a loved one, they could be taking a break from visiting a serious ill child in hospital or just lost their job. So breath, smile and remember everyone is fighting their own battle – and Christmas is just one day.

· Spend time with people, especially those who you can open up to and can lift your spirits - chats over the kitchen table with people that lift you up are priceless, if you can’t meet someone then call or text them. Social connections even the virtual ones are so important.

· Learn to say ‘no’ to social commitments. Fear Of Missing Out is not worth it! Christmas should be a period of rest also, not just a marathon of nights out and boozy dinners.

· With that in mind start enjoying JOMO - the Joy of Missing Out. Because, really what are you missing?

· Exercise regularly, and where possible, outside. A simple walk can increase endorphins and help your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Aim to get even a short walk in every day.

· Avoid over indulging with alcohol and sugar (as much as possible). Alcohol acts as a depressant, can put extra strain on strained relationships and make situations seem much worse to manage.

· Put a budget on gifts with friends and family, or agree to not buy presents and treat one another to a coffee or lunch instead - an hour or two spending time with someone who loves your company is priceless.

· If you've decided to host dinner ask everyone to take responsibility for bringing one dish. The stress of hosting dinner for lots of people can be a financial struggle and stressful for the cook. Share the load!

· Perfectionism doesn’t exist. Putting pressure on yourself to recreate a movie like Christmas experience is liable to result in expectations not being met. Instead focus on the people around you, the time with friends or even just enjoy time on your own.

· And remember, breath. Take time out and look at what you have in your life, not on what you don't.

· If you or anyone you know is struggling please seek help - call a friend and talk it through, see your GP, the Samaritans freecall 116 123.

Siobhan Murray

I’m Siobhan - Resilience Coach, Expert Psychotherapist and Best-Selling Author, and I help women re-ignite their self-worth, build resilience and grow into their full potential.