Are you for or against Christmas? Do you relish every minute of the festive season or do you just grin and bear it? I think Christmas accentuates the tenant of your life. What do I mean? Well, if you are an incredibly busy, harried person throughout the year, Christmas will just about push you to breaking point as you attend a thousand parties and try to be everything to everyone. If you are often lonely in your life, you will find that Christmas accentuates the loneliness. We are told that Christmas is the season of good cheer but the truth is that many people dread Christmas and all the hurly-burly that goes with it. However I do have some tips on how to survive the silly season though first I want to tell you a true story about how Christmas traditions came to injure someone I know.
The story of a Christmas mishap
I know a couple who like to poach one of the little fir trees that you often see growing feral along country roads all over Australia. These little fir trees are technically regarded as weeds, because they aren’t natives and aren’t great for the environment because they are a thirsty little tree. But it is still illegal to cut down trees growing on verges beside public roads. That’s never stopped my friends. This year they spied the perfect little tree growing beside a highway. They pulled into the shoulder of the road. The tree was growing on a little culvert and the husband raced up the hill towards the tree. His wife was busy issuing instructions, telling him to cut it off close to the base and not to damage any of the branches. While giving these orders she fell over a rock and landed face first on the asphalt. She is the first casualty of the Christmas season and now looks as though she’s been punched in the mouth. She’s quick to tell everyone that her injury was not the result of a fight, but stealing a Christmas tree. By the way, they felled that little tree and it’s now looking gorgeous in their lounge covered with decorations. My poor friend says she probably fell down because she was distracted but also totally and utterly over-worked. She is in the midst of attending Christmas parties, buying presents for teachers at her children’s schools and also organising the summer family holidays.
Does Christmas usually get the better of you?
I heard a guy on the street this week saying that Christmas caused him nothing but anxiety. What are the most stressful aspects of the holiday season?
1. Financial stresses
Tis the season to spend money! Yes, we need money for gifts and feasting, and in Australia we also need money for the summer holidays. This stresses most people and strains the old budget. It is also too easy to feel guilty because you can’t buy your kids and spouse everything their heart desires, but isn’t the real meaning of Christmas about being together and happy, not financially stressed?
2. Being over-committed
How many Christmas functions are you expected to front? How many people do you have to feed at Christmas? How many presents do you need to buy? Are you having house guests? Is your to-do list endless? It is too easy to get stressed out at Christmas.
3. Christmas loneliness blues
Around 40 percent of Australians are single. Christmas is the time of year when you become more aware of your singleness, especially if you are ageing and no longer as fit or as mobile as you used to be. The ads on TV tell us that everyone else has loving friends and family – hey, you know that’s not true!
Is it your first Christmas without someone special? Perhaps a parent or spouse has died this year, and you are painfully aware of their absence. I guess you are reliving everything you did with them this time last year. Take some comfort in knowing that it is very normal.
5. Family dysfunction
The families on TV Christmas advertisements are truly picture perfect. The parents are beautiful, the children well behaved and the grandparents are doting. The reality of your family may be that you haven’t spoken a civil word to your partner for three months and the kids are at war with each other. Alas … many of us have less than perfect relationships because we are less than perfect as people. Being a Christian I can live with this. I strive to keep improving myself but I also accept that we are all imperfect. Don’t expect to have perfect relationships when we are all flawed beings!
6. Divided families and competing needs
If you divorced this year, Christmas will remind you of happy times and you will feel a strong sense of loss. Life gets even more complicated for the children who now have to juggle visiting separated parents and it gets even more complicated for your couples who have two sets of divorced parents. The stress of pleasing all these relatives is exhausting.
So how do you cope with all of these demands?
1. Get organised
You may be busy, but it is still a mistake to leave everything to the last minute. Plan your Christmas day, shop early, choose simple no-nonsense presents, and try to get a little bit done every day (whether that be cooking, cleaning or present wrapping).
2. Reach out for support
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone may be coming to your house for Christmas lunch but that doesn’t mean you can’t ask your sisters-in-law to both bring a dish. You may say that they didn’t ask you to bring anything to their place last year. Well, maybe they wanted to! Set a precedent so that next year they can reach out to you.
3. Stick to your budget
You know I’m not afraid of money or lavishing money on friends and family, however I also get a little tired of the commercialism of Christmas. Remember this is about celebrating God’s precious gift to humanity – a little tiny baby born in a very humble major. Have some humility this Christmas and buy modest presents. If you save money, you could donate it to a worthy charity.
4. Don’t be a perfectionist
You don’t need to hand paint all the Christmas decorations, stuff your own turkey and bake six Christmas cakes for friends and relatives. For goodness sake, cut some corners and try to enjoy the festive season.
5. Take time out
It is easy to get carried away attending multiple parties and living in a constant whirl of social engagements but after Christmas you may find yourself feeling very flat. It is better for you to take time out during the festive season to re-centre. You may also need some time to grieve for a deceased family member who won’t be around this Christmas, or a partner you are now separated from. Don’t feel compelled to be happy nonstop!
6. Remember those less fortunate
There are probably people around you who are struggling this Christmas with either loneliness or over-commitments. How can you reach out to them? Could you make some mince tarts for elderly neighbours and go over for a cup of tea? Could you buy extra presents and find some extra time for an elderly single relative? Could you find some spare money for charity?
You may find you enjoy Christmas more if you retreat from all the parties, craziness and commercialism and instead lavish kindness on those who need it most.
ABOUT PAT MESITI
Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.