Don’t put pressure on yourself to be happy
Feelings arise, feelings inhabit us for a while, and feelings pass. That’s a natural process. Christmas seems to require us to be happy; it’s an additional pressure many of us feel at this time of year.
Christmas present resonates with Christmas past. There may be unwelcome feelings and memories. It’s the sticky complicated feelings that bung us up. Whatever feelings you have, try to separate them out and acknowledge them. Give yourself time and space to process. Tell someone if you can, or express yourself creatively. Once the stuck feeling is out of you, there’s space for other feelings to arise.
Christmas can seem to be about what you have. But children remember what you do
Christmas means so much more than presents. It is a chance to connect with your children and find comfort in relationships. With this in mind, consider starting a Christmas tradition that you can do each year. Talk to your children and find out what they would like to do. Perhaps you can all make a decoration for your home or Christmas tree together or all have breakfast in bed on Christmas morning. Whatever it is, it can be something you do each year. These may be small things but your children will remember them in years to come.
Managing family conflict at Christmas
Christmas often means spending time with family members we would perhaps rather not see. Sometimes we find ourselves locked into patterns of behaviour, with messy, unwanted but entirely predictable consequences. What to do? Reflect on your own patterns. What is it that you always do? Can you factor in a change? How can you act outside your pattern – without exposing yourself to hurt? A difference in you invites a difference in the other person, and new possibilities arise.
Make a little time for yourself
Most parents struggle to make time for themselves and this is particularly true at Christmas. Have a think about how you could find (or steal) some time for you. Self-care is essential. Even just 5 minutes a day will make a difference to how you feel. Perhaps take a bath, read a book or go for a short walk. Set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to do this each day. It helps your children. ‘I need ME time to give YOU time’. Make it your mantra.
When all else fails, remember to breathe
When we are feeling stressed and anxious, it activates our fight or flight response. This makes us breathe faster and shallower, which in turn increases our stress and anxiety. When you feel triggered, breathe OUT. Then, without inhaling, breathe out AGAIN. Without air inside, you’re not fighting or fleeing from anything! Those few seconds of calm space open a vital reflective gap.
Remembering to take a few deep breaths whenever things get on top of you can really help to calm you down. Combining this with a positive mantra such as “This too shall pass” or “It’s ok to not be ok” will also help to ease your tension.