Merry Christmas one and all.
I’ve always loved Christmas. I get to spend time making things beautiful for my loved ones. I always decorate the house to look festive and inviting. I trawl through my cook books, planning menus and writing lists. I spend hours primping the Christmas tree and wrapping presents. It’s a magical time of year for me.
And then the family arrive.
Spending time with family can be wonderful. It can also be a huge pain in the backside. It can come with lots of stress and petty squabbles and old childhood resentments coming to the fore.
Wouldn’t it be lovely if you had a fail safe plan that could help you to bypass all that drama. I mean, what would that be worth to you?
Instead of the criticism and the lecturing. Instead of being told how they prefer their brussel sprouts and it’s not how you cook them. Imagine, the family arrive and appreciate all the hard work you’ve put in.
We all put ourselves under pressure to get along. To be joyful. As if it’s something that can be turned on and off like a light switch. Only that inauthenticity comes with even more stress.
In one way or another, we all have the potential to get caught up in family drama. And let’s be honest, many of us have family members who say or do things that can upset us. They make us cross and seriously piss us off.
And yet every year we force ourselves to sit around that table, pulling crackers and doing our best to keep the smile painted on our face.
Oh boy – I’m making this sound horrendous! Now I’m starting to wonder why I love Christmas so much…
So here are my top five tips that will help you to get on with all your finickity family over the festive season.
1. Stay out of overwhelm by making time to replenish (your energy not your wine glass!)December can be more fraught than any other month in the year, which is why it’s even more important to take care of yourself throughout this month. Whatever it is you need, to keep you on an even keel, you must prioritise this. For me – if I don’t get outside for my run, if I eat too many mince pies, if I don’t drink enough water, if I don’t make time to just be alone, even for just 5 minutes, if I don’t get enough sleep, then I start to feel off kilter and out of sorts, and my tolerance levels start to drop… So make sure you know what you need to keep you on that even keel.
2. Make sure you get outside and move (rushing around your local supermarket 6pm on Christmas Eve is not what I’m talking about!)Stand up and stretch, go for a stroll around the garden, go for a run, get to your pilates class, power walk the dog… When we stop moving our bodies purposely and with focus, all that extra stress and tension can get stuck. This is the beginning of a very slippery slope. Just 5 minutes of exercise can reboot your system and allow you to easily negotiate Great Auntie Gertie off the subject of, ‘spoilt children and back in my day’.
3. Remember to keep breathing.One of the quickest and easiest ways to keep stress at bay is with this amazing kundalini breathing exercise. I use it often; in meetings, before difficult conversations, when I’m stuck in a room with distant relatives (or not so distant relatives), when someone grabs the last yorkshire before I’ve even sat down at the dinner table. It’s only takes one minute and it’s gotten me out of trouble many a time. breathe in for a count of 5hold for a count of 5 breathe out for a count of 5 Repeat the sequence four times to bring you to 60 seconds and tadaa!
4. Beware – journaling may cause miracles.Those of you that know me well, know I’m a huge fan of Julia Cameron and her book The Artists Way. This is where I learnt about the power that comes with writing morning pages. You would have heard me talk about them a lot and encouraged you at every opportunity to write them for yourself. Well, December is a great time to start with this healthy habit and here’s the reason why. All the fear and anxiety and anger and frustration and love and hope and all those fantastic ideas will come pouring out on those pages, leaving you with a clear head and open heart and a stress free day to get on with your plans. So when the family descend, you’re able to welcome them into your home lovingly. Morning pages – write 3, A4 pages every morning, as close to waking up as possible. Don’t filter nor worry whether you’re making sense or grammatically correct. Write fast and no more than 3 pages, never show them to anyone else and wait at least 8 weeks to go back and read them yourself (if at all).
5. Focus on what you love about each person.This practice of gratitude needs to begin before your loved ones arrive. If you wait until you’ve been triggered, you don’t stand a chance of finding that loving focus and cousin Bertie may just end up with the brandy sauce over his head. Instead, maybe on the morning of their visit, think about what you like about them. It doesn’t have to be anything big, it could be the way they make you laugh, or the recipes they share with you, or the time they take to play with your children… Think of all the things you appreciate about them and allow yourself to really feel that love and support.
And so my fabulous friends these are five ways to stay out of trouble and off the naughty list.
Wishing you and your loved ones a fabulous Christmas.