MANAGING STRESS OVER THE FESTIVE SEASON
Handling your own stress and stressful situations which present during every festive season, requires communication between ALL family members. Lack of this essential communication is one of the biggest reasons why relationships within families, hit tricky patches which can sully the entire holiday.
Everyone has their own take on how Christmas should be. If we just stop and think about the fact that family life is a blend, a merging of different individual family backgrounds with all the complexities, nuances, expectations and traditions this brings, it is not difficult to see how easily things can go wrong and how this can create enormous stress on a day when all we really want to achieve is happiness and enjoyment for all.
How many of us actually take time to discuss what each of us expects Christmas to be like. For example: how many presents should children receive? What time of the day do they open the presents and do they open them all at once? Who is responsible for what in the kitchen? Who is fetching elderly relatives? While one of us is cooking, does the other one look after the children AND play host to guests? In fact, what is the routine for the day?
Rarely does this type of dialogue take place and all too frequently couples end up fraught and unhappy. This is avoidable to a great extent by being open to discussing mutual needs and expectations - well in advance.
To ensure the next holiday period goes just as we would wish:
Most of us, men and women alike, have a mental image of what the perfect Christmas or perfect holiday should be like, often based on what we have experienced as children. We run internal movies of all the details of such occasions. It's pretty arrogant actually for any of us to assume that we know how to create the best and not to canvas agreement to the ideas we have from our partners or others.
What happens is that all too often the idyll falls short of our expectations? We develop strong feelings of hurt and resentment. We create conversations in our heads which can run as follows:
"If he/she cared about me, he/she'd know I really need help in the kitchen and why isn't he/she sorting the kids or pouring the drinks? Why is it always me doing all the work and missing out on the fun?"
We inadvertently set people up to fail and in doing this we create a dangerous cocktail of emotions, stored responses and worrying levels of unhappiness and stress which ultimately produces unnecessary suffering all round.
We all tend to function better when we know what the boundaries of any situation are and what is expected of us.
When did you last ask your partner what their expectations were for a family gathering or event? Why would you not do this?
With all the extra pressures there are today for all of us, it is important for couples to take the time to discuss and co-create a 'holiday plan'. This planning should be an exchange of ideas in an endeavour to meet everyone's wishes and preferences.
Without discussion and planning together how we will deal with and cope with Christmas, visiting relatives, vacations etc., we often end up bumbling along and wondering why we're not having a great time. Dissatisfaction all round.
There is enough dissatisfaction around our lives at the moment with the recession and job insecurity to name a few. However, it is also due to this that I am now seeing more and more people seeking contentment and happiness within their families than ever before. This is encouraging. Life is for living and we need to take from it, all the enjoyment we can.
When things go awry and stress abounds then emergency measures may be required. As a meditation teacher I would hope that everyone makes good use of the 'tool for life' meditation provides as a preventative measure. I am, of course, talking about the daily practice of meditation to quieten the mind and banish the negativity stress creates. This negative stress, when not dealt with can undermine our wellbeing, health and relationships. We owe it to ourselves and those we love to maintain our balance and keep as grounded as we possibly can.
Creating our own memories of really happy family events, not an idyll, is what we and our children will remember and hold dear. The impromptu chill-out, breaking the rules, laughter, these are the kind of memories we hold on to all our lives.
Do the groundwork well in advance and lay healthy foundations for a very Happy Christmas!
For best results, make 30 minutes of Peace of Mind Meditation a daily ritual.
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Copyright: Sonia Wynn-Jones and Sue Blake 2009