Embrace calm instead of combat
I had a client tell me the other day, that in her household, the week before Christmas is referred to as ‘Hell Week’ — even by her kids. Read that again, this entire family, children included, actively referred to the week before Christmas as Hell Week.
Yep, insane right?
I shared the story of the festive season as a marathon. However, this client’s dread about how awful that particular week was going to be was next level. This client continued to state how awful each of the commitments was going to place a strain. They exclaimed how busy and rushed they would be from one event to the next. It was like a weather forecast — rain, torrential rain with the possibility of a cyclone.
Naturally, I called bullshit and we unpacked the big emotions about their perception of this heavy schedule. We worked through some fears and we also addressed some unrealistic expectations.
I quickly pulled them up on their mental attitude and self-talk language — they were manifesting all manner of chaos to knock on their door.
Additionally, and I think more importantly, this person was subliminally teaching their children to become fearful of this time of the year, or that something was wrong because they were busy. When one of the kids present at the session expressed shame. In tears, he told his mum that he felt bad for dragging his mother to attend his school concert because she was so busy.
It was a potent reality check for everyone. I guided the conversation out of shame, blame and guilt with the question “What can you now choose to change?”
The child was hugged and there were tears shed. The child was reassured that mummy was excited to attend the concert. I then asked this family “What are you in control of?”
This client and I identified at least 7 key strategic things that their family could do, to change their attitude and improve their ability to cope with their scheduled festivities.
Here are 7 ideas that allow you to embrace rather than combat the season.
1. Choose your attitude
It’s so easy to default to a negative attitude on a subconscious level when thinking of a busy week ahead. However, it takes a little effort to mentally cancel thoughts that don’t align with how you want to feel, and then reframe into something neutral or ideally positive.
When it comes to the festive season and its default ‘busy-ness’, you get to choose your encounters. If there are things like school concerts and end-of-year celebrations, choose who you will sit next to. Choose what you will be most excited to see. Choose what might make you happy.
2. Discern obligations
Just because you’re invited to social outings doesn’t mean you automatically have to say “yes”. Choose one event for each day of the festive season. And be wise even with these activities.
Remember Christmas is like running a marathon, you don’t achieve everything in a day or even a week. You are allowed to say “no” as an adult.
You are allowed to ask yourself “What will light me up from the inside?”, and then do that activity. But I encourage you to discern what will drain you if I squeeze in anything else.
Here in the southern hemisphere, those of us with teenagers are in the summer school holidays. Summer signifies an entire season of fun. If you can’t fit a celebration in during December, try rescheduling for January before school goes back.
3. Manage family expectations
So often I hear about unreasonable expectations from family members that involve discussions about tradition. Here’s the thing when you get married — you are expanding your tribe. There has to be negotiations. There has to be sharing. There also has to be some acceptance (aka disappointment) that you are not entitled to always get your way.
Negotiate a rhythm of exchange that works for everyone. Everyone takes a turn coordinating the gathering, playing host or sharing the cooking chores.
If there are big feelings, unresolved feelings or expectation resentment between family members, then make your larger tribe gatherings in a public place. This will infer you can come and go on your terms. Public places also help people to keep their manners in check.
4. Your presence is a gift
Cut back on the gifts purchased, and consider gifting experiences instead. Some of my fondest memories with my late mother involve her teaching my daughter how to make gingerbread. Their laughter in the kitchen was the priceless sound I captured on video.
Other favourite festive memories involve lazy grazing over a bowl of prawns. The mouthwatering mechanics of shelling the prawn and dipping it into the sauce whilst going around the table sharing stories of what we are all grateful for.
Now that my daughter is almost an adult, we have the most beautiful conversations about the experiences she’s chosen over the years instead of gifts. Our trip to New Zealand to visit ‘Hobbiton’ was one of the more memorable, not just for the places we’ve been to, but the experiences we shared with our travelling friends.
My heart expands when I hear my daughter talk of her visceral memories of our adventures. I realise when she describes a landscape, I have gifted her the gift of being present when she experiences anything. She doesn’t just see a new place, she feels, hears, and smells the colours of life all around her. Is this not a gift that keeps giving?
5. Plan Ahead
When I know I’m busy, I jump into food prepping. The meals are either cooked in advance or at the very least portioned and containerised in the fridge ready to go. The week’s menu is on the family notice board. There is an unwritten rule that everyone pitches in.
It’s not rocket science, but food planning means that we all maintain nutrition to fuel our bodies to do all the things on the schedule. It also means we don’t overindulge with extra calories from the festive food.
6. Maintain exercise routine
Without fail, I walk every morning at sunrise. It’s not negotiable. Moving my body guarantees ‘me time’. This precious quiet time also means I get to be laser-focused on my mental planning for the day ahead. I get to create a vision of how I want things to flow.
Walking at dawn also enables the liver to dump cortisol and sugars into the blood system to help you ‘wake up’ and get going for the day. The movement in the early morning orange light also resets your circadian rhythm, and generates energy for you to utilise later in the day.
Often during the festive season, you’re socialising with people you haven’t seen for a year. This is often family, and there are instances where there have been historical disputes that create unfinished business.
This can equate to uncomfortable conversations. Decide to be a pleasant adult, and take the high road. Say “Hello, how are you?”
If you can’t say a simple statement like this, then I challenge you why are you accepting the invitation?
Keep the topics of conversation light and fluffy, and steer away from politics. If you are attending an event with a friend or partner practice your statement of topic changer if you feel triggered. Additionally, discuss and agree on a ‘code’ word to activate your departure if conversations become hostile.
The festive season implies joy and merriment, not combat or defence. A little time invested in being present in meeting your needs doesn’t have to be time-sucking or energy-depleting. Remember it’s a season, and just like running a marathon, it’s important to savour what is important — special moments with loved ones.
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Karen Humphries is a Clinical Hypnotherapist, Kinesiology Practitioner, Health & Business Coach, LEAP & NES Practitioner, Intuitive Meditation Facilitator, and published author. She is a self-confessed laughaholic. She loves being of service to the world with her humorous and positive approach to life, encouraging people to ‘choose to change and bloom from within.’