December 14, 2009

The Holly and the Anxiety! (Mark)

Mark was interviewed recently by BBC Radio Essex to give advice to their listeners on getting the most out of their Xmas break and avoiding the stress and depression that often occurs over this “special” time! The following is a summary and contains some gems of advice.

It’s all supposed to be idyllic isn’t it, Christmas? In reality…well not quite so!

There are 5 basic reasons why Christmas is actually a very stressful time:

Problem: The first problem is our expectations: we’re supposed to have this warm cosy glow surrounded by our family. Well this is what it looks like in the glittering TV ads and so we assume that that’s what everybody else is experiencing. The trouble is we’re so geographically mobile in the UK, most of us don’t see our family from one month to the next and so to expect us all to get on like a house on fire is asking an awful lot. Little Freddie will knock of the Christmas tree and Grandpa will be grumpy! But then everybody else will be the same.

Solution: Adjust your expectations and expect things to be difficult; this way you can make plans for when the arguments do come!

Problem: The second problem is that because we don’t see each other often, we don’t communicate very well or take into account others feelings or viewpoints.

Solution: The first thing to do is find out what everybody is expecting. The best way is for everybody to do the following quick exercise: take a blank piece of paper and draw a line vertically down the middle. Then on the left hand heading write “Things I love about Xmas” and on the right hand side “Things I hate about Xmas”. Then compare notes and let everybody see everybody else’s preferences. It’s essential everybody’s honest. You’d be surprised what a difference this little bit of knowledge makes to our behaviour.

Also Mum should ask for help and be prepared to delegate: we don’t mind peeling the veggies if everyone’s in the kitchen talking anyway.

Problem: The third reason for stress is that we assume that because Xmas is about relaxing with the family that we shouldn’t need to take care of ourselves. Actually with all of the eating and drinking we need to take care of ourselves even more than usual.

Solution: A good brisk walk after a big Xmas lunch is invaluable, as is plenty of me time…reading a book for example. Getting enough sleep and drinking plenty of water is equally crucial.

Problem: The fourth reason Xmas is often more stressful than we’re expecting is that with the busy lifestyles we all lead, we don’t get enough time to plan, so we end up doing the shopping at the last minute…along with the rest of our local populace! We also fail to set a budget and end up getting depressed over the January credit card bills.

Solution: Plan, plan, plan! Budget, Budget, Budget! And there’ll be no nasty surprises. Do the pressie shopping by mid-December at the latest and agree budgets with everybody, so that we don’t end up trying to outdo each other! Do the food shopping a week before Xmas; if you really need to, then leave the fresh stuff, so you can nip in and out with a basket, while everybody else is doing “trolley wars”!

Also if you have young kids, try and stick to their routine or schedule; if your kids are happy, then you’re happy too!

Problem: Lastly Christmas can be a very lonely time if you’re on your own, especially if you’ve just lost a loved one.

Solution: Firstly make sure you stay busy…plan things to do. Go to any of the local community events: for example, the local carol service. You won’t be the only one on your own. Also you can still keep in touch with people by phone or even e-mail; the key is not to shut yourself off. Also know that the media hype Xmas terribly; everybody else isn’t having the most amazing family time, so you don’t need to feel envious or left out. Lastly, even if you’re on your own, it’s still worth making an effort with the Xmas lunch.

Christmas can mean a well-earned rest, but being realistic and planning is essential and make the difference between the family threatening not to speak to each other ever again and actually enjoying each other’s company.

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