Bethan O'Riordan

How to avoid an emotionally draining Christmas

The festive period is a time when families come together, or not come together, which means that we are in relationships in a way that can be difficult.  Differences can be highlighted, old inner child wounds re-ignited and this can make Christmas feel like hard work both emotionally and logistically.

Here’s a few tips from a therapeutic perspective to help you create a Christmas that works for you.

1. Set your intention

Who is important to you this Christmas?  Is it yourself and your children? Your siblings, parents, cousins, friends, grand parents, aunts and uncles? And if you’re thinking all of the above, that’s ok too! But if relationships in your family are tricky, take time to consider who you really want Christmas to be magical with and set your intention.  By this I mean work out how you want things to be, who you’d like to be and work backwards with making a plan from there.

Then, if things go a bit belly up, remember the intention that you set and see what you can do to come back to it.

2. Don’t take it personally

If people around you are reactive, spikey, finger pointing, pass remarkable or anything else that feels like they’re having a dig, take a step back and try not to take it personally.  You can’t be responsible for the wellbeing of other adults (even if they’d like you to be!) and know that anything that’s said is them playing out their insecurities. Which aren’t yours to fix. If anything comes your way, remember your intention, which will help carry you over anything that is logistically difficult and stop you going critically  inwards or explode outwards. Remember that behind every behaviour there’s a feeling, and behind that there’s a need.  So if you’re feeling upset, hurt or put out, it’s not that you’re doing anything wrong.  It’s that the other person hasn’t worked out their needs.

3. Find your key phrases

So many difference can be aired at Christmas, but you don’t have to engage in them.  So if there’s a political, social, emotional, financial (add your own…) debate going on, or you feel uncomfortable with how someone is talking with you, have a sentence prepared that gives you safety.  So often people can unwittingly be the one who regulates the family or be the one that keeps the peace even though it feels compromising. You don’t have to regulate anyone else, you don’t have to respond to appease and you can take time to regulate yourself before you respond.

To do this, try saying something like:

“Mmm, I see where you’re coming from”

“Oh, I’d need time to think about that”

“I’d not considered it before so don’t really have a response right now”

“I’d need time to think about that”

4. Take comfort in your own traditions

Do what feels right for you and your family. You set the emotional tone for the family so if you are feeling compromised this trickles downwards. Traditions don’t have to cost money, or look Instagram perfect. Find connections with yourself and those important to you that feel right. And enjoy every moment of it. Nurture your senses so that you feel warm, safe, relaxed and connected with those who you want to connect with…and include alone time in this.

5. Ask for help

So often we forget to let people in.  Ask for help, be specific and let others support you.  I am personally terrible with ambiguity so be direct when it comes to what you need done.

6. Be realistic

Try not to expect from others what they can’t give.  I don’t mean present wise (although perhaps this too), I mean emotionally.  Many people can’t be in a relationship in the way we would like them to be.  Yes, this can hurt, but it’s not about you, it’s about them.

7. If you’re missing someone

If you’re missing a loved one who has died this year, or missing a friend or family member due to logistics/a falling out, take time to go easy on yourself.

Find a way to remember them, remember the good times with them, even have a small personal ritual to remember them by.

And if you’re feeling sad, then be sad. Create a time for your sadness a it’s an equally valid part of the festivities.

If anything in this blog resonates with you and you’d like support to create change, you’re welcome to book a free call with Bethan here to explore your support options. Make sure you download your free 5 Steps to Calmer Parenting and if you’re looking for immediate parenting support, you can start your free 7 day trial in the online parenting community, Calm Parenting Club. The Calm Parenting Club is open throughout Christmas to offer nurturing support throughout this time.

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