Cat Williams, a relationship counsellor, Army wife, mother, writer, blogger, and the author of ‘Stay Calm and Content No Matter What Life Throws At You’ shares her thoughts.
Christmas can be one of the most stressful times of the year, particularly if we have family members who don’t really get on with each other!
What is the secret to staying calm throughout the festive season, no matter what it brings?
The secret of a calm and happy Christmas is self-esteem.
We each experience stress when we perceive the demands being placed on us as exceeding our ability to cope with them.
Christmas bring stress because of how much we expect from ourselves. We might be aiming to find perfect presents for everyone, to wrap them perfectly, write cards on time, prepare perfect food and find perfect decorations, the list goes on…
When we feel ‘at our best’ is when our self-esteem is good. We usually feel confident in our ability to cope with life, even under unpredictable or challenging circumstances, and we don’t feel too sorry for ourselves.
Those who find Christmas the most enjoyable, are those who can accept it might be challenging, and that perfection is impossible
He or she doesn’t ‘beat themselves up’ if they forget something, or if something goes wrong. They focus instead on what they can control, they maintain their self-belief, and they focus on building themselves and others up.
What controls self-esteem?
If we feel overwhelmed by our circumstances then we are being emotionally threatened and our physiological fight or flight instinct kicks in. This causes physical changes such as an increased heart rate, and we might feel hot, nauseous, or agitated. We will describe these physical experiences as negative emotions such as frustration, anger, panic, or fear.
If we are unaware what generates our negative emotions, then we will also be unaware that our subsequent actions are attempts to protect or repair our self-esteem.
We instinctively do what makes ourselves feel more in control and ‘better’ at the time, maybe become angry or defensive more quickly, or argue with our spouse or children, or do something to ‘take our mind off it’ such as drinking or eating too much.
If we are behaving in a negative way to ourselves or others then it is a clear sign that the pressure of Christmas is affecting our self-esteem.
What can we do to stop feeling stressed?
– First of all, take responsibility. You are the only one responsible for how you feel about yourself at any moment. Take responsibility for maintaining and building your own self-worth and self-confidence so that you can praise yourself and ‘be at your best’.
– When you start feeling stressed, or start ‘getting at’ yourself or other people, find somewhere to be alone, even for a couple minutes. Take slow deep breaths and imagine you are breathing in a warm, bright light and breathing out self-doubt and self-criticism. Say to yourself, out loud if possible, – “I am okay, I can only do my best, I can cope with this, I believe in myself”. Smile and stretch your arms to relieve your tension.
Get prepared. Use a diary and write everything in the same place, appointments, events, card list, addresses, gift ideas. Tick things off and you will see how well you are doing to manage it all.
Make a present plan and set a budget – could all your relatives get vouchers, hampers, or a home-made gift this year?
Ring the changes – perhaps a new tradition might bring new pleasures, could everyone bring a dish to share, or could you splash out on Christmas lunch in a hotel or restaurant?
Ask for help – Fully appreciating an occasion means playing a part in it. Give others a chance to help, whether it’s with present buying, wrapping, or food preparation, don’t be a martyr.
Prioritise pleasure for yourself – If you love a walk, a quiet bath, or a night out with your partner then don’t forget these things during the festive period, they are important to you and you are important, find time for them and don’t feel guilty about it.
Don’t expect perfection, it isn’t necessary for a happy festive period over all. There will be ups and downs, so expect them.
What really matters?
Let go of expectations and traditions if they are not really important to you. Focus your efforts on whatever really matters to you and those closest to you.
Dealing with the family!
Those we care most about have the most powerful influence over our self-esteem. Emotions run high at Christmas. Remember; you decide how you feel about yourself.
If someone is unpleasant to you then they will be feeling low about themselves for some reason and are attacking you to try to feel better. Try to understand rather than criticise this.
Encourage and praise your partner, your family, friends and children during this festive season. Giving praise and recognition shows healthy self-esteem and is the most likely way we will receive the same in return.
“Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how”
Focus on being kind, supportive and welcoming, no matter how others are behaving, and you will ensure a happy Christmas for yourself and those around you. Good luck!
‘Stay Calm and Content No Matter What Life Throws At You’ covers more than 25 different topics and is a short and jargon-free look at how to live a happier life; it is an ideal present this Christmas! Only £9.95 on Amazon, multiple 5 star reviews.
You can also visit Cat’s blog on www.staycalmandcontent.com and ask her confidentially about your dilemmas, she is @catstaycalm on Twitter and Stay Calm and Content on Facebook.