Christmas is one of the most wonderful times of the year. It is filled with beautiful lights, festive decorations, delicious treats, and colorful presents. It is an amazing time of celebration and excitement for people. But it is also a time where we set very high expectations towards what we can reach and how Christmas Eve should be. We often want the decorations, the food, the gifts and the atmosphere to be perfect on Christmas Eve so everyone has a good time. However, meeting such high expectations can be quite challenging... So how can you avoid stress and disappointment for Christmas?
1. Make a plan and have realistic expectations as to what you can achieve
Although you may want to create the perfect night for your family and friends, it is important that you enjoy it as well. So, try to take a step back and think about how you envision things and how realistic your vision is. Feel your energy level and think about what has gone well and what has not in previous years and put that plan on paper. Having thoughts and ideas on paper decreases more stress than when we have them in our heads. It ensures that we have included the time-consuming details, and it is a good way to check whether the plan you envisioned is realistic. Try to create more time for the moments you enjoy and cut down or reorganize plans that have gone wrong in previous years. For example, last year, in the afternoon leading to Christmas Eve, we decided to jump into the outdoor spa and hang out there for a while with some of our family members. Although it was nice, it really delayed the afternoon small-cakes and mulled wine we had planned before finishing cooking dinner. This then led us to be in quite a hurry to dine and exchange gifts before the kids bedtime.
2. Delegating and aligning expectations
Creating the Christmas Magic is not a one-man job, especially when you have small children and a full-time job. You will need help. When you have identified who you will be spending Christmas with, make sure to send an outline of how you have thought it should take place to your co-organizers. Ensure that there is enough time for everyone to be able to contribute and when the plan is agreed upon, distribute tasks to those involved. If some tasks remain untaken and you feel that you have enough on your plate, be creative! Maybe you can replace home-cooked cakes with cakes you buy or order some of the dinner out or serve only one type of meat that evening? The most important thing is to have a good time and be together.
3. Follow your inner compass, respect your limits and give yourself some flexibility
I use this notion a lot when doing stress coaching. Being in close contact with our own limits and wants is key to feeling well. In these enchanted Christmas times, we can easily be head over heels creating Christmas magic and forget to listen to our own needs and wishes. But not respecting yourself will prevent you from enjoying this particular time of the year, leaving you stressed out, exhausted, and in a bad mood. Therefore, I would like you to keep asking yourself during this time, “What do I feel like doing now?”. It might not always be a possibility to do what you want to, but it is always a good idea to ask yourself this question so you become aware of what your needs are and how you may be exceeding them. A good rule of thumb to self-care is to do what you want to do and ask yourself this question at least once every third time you feel something stressful pop up. If this means that something will be delayed or not taken care of, then make sure to give yourself the flexibility to review your plans by dropping or delegating some things. Remember that if you end up being exhausted, it is likely that you will be irritated and spread a bad mood, which might be upsetting.
4. Prioritize being in the moment
Now that you have created your Christmas Magic, make sure to live in the moment and enjoy it. Plan an hour where you get to relax before your guests arrive. You can opt for a power nap or an episode of your favorite series on Netflix. It will enable your nervous system to calm down so you are rested and filled with energy when the festivities start. Also, acknowledge that some things might not go as planned and that it is ok. You have done your best with the resources you have. So if the meat should end up being overcooked or dried out, accept it for what it is. If you can’t do anything about it, then there is no reason to use more mental space on it. Take a deep breath, pour yourself another glass of wine and enjoy the moment.
With those words, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.