Keep expectations realistic and appreciate the time spent with your family this Christmas.
A few years ago, a survey found that the average British family will have at least five arguments on Christmas Day!
The Christmas and New Year period is such an interesting time. On one hand we have the magic of the lights, the Christmas tree, catching up with friends and family or reviewing the year gone by and making new plans for the year ahead; to the inevitable festive challenges which come with buying gifts, juggling holiday time and throwing people who rarely see each other together for the whole day or longer.
And as we are all too aware, it is often the people we most want to spend Christmas with – our loved ones – that also press our buttons.
I can speak from experience. Up until two or three years ago, I would go to Germany at Christmas to spend about 10 days with my family. I was always excited about seeing everybody again. Then, when I got there, I would soon feel annoyed about this or that, about things that were said or not said when we all gathered together. And once again, we all got a bit edgy, uptight, reactive, dissatisfied and couldn’t wait for the festive season to be over ! I’d come away feeling that we hadn’t spent any real time together.
So then I thought; what could I do to have a more satisfying, positive and enjoyable Christmas experience when I go home to see my family?
Here are some things that have worked for me.
1. Let go of expectations
I don’t expect anything. I just go and remind myself that time spent with my family is precious and that I don’t see them very often. I remind myself that my mother and aunt are elderly and that they may not be around for many more years. This helps me to open up my mind and heart, to relax into what is. It creates a soft and spacious feeling within.
2. Seek out the pleasurable things
When I arrive I look for what is there rather than what is not there. I appreciate the small things that happen and focus on these. For example, I absolutely love that my mother leaves a welcome bar of my favourite chocolate on my pillow when I go to sleep the first night upon my arrival and I appreciate that she puts the wooden stove on for me although she keeps all the doors open for the cats and it gets freezing cold!
3. Be bold – do something different and inspire others
After lunch on Christmas day we now go for a walk rather than sit inside the house all day which tended to drive us all a bit potty. I made the suggestion and everybody was up for it. It only needs one person to have an idea and to share it.
4. Be curious
Rather than presuming that nobody wants to talk about things, I allow myself to be curious. I now ask everyone (or nearly everyone), How have you been? What’s been happening for you?. And I listen. It’s a different question to ‘How are you?’ which never gets much of an answer! People love to be asked how they really are and to get the attention. I have really appreciated some quite different conversations; some short at times, but all precious.
5. Experience gratitude for our parents
Having lost my father in 2006 and seeing my mother age, it’s stopped me from taking her / them for granted. It’s helped me to become more patient with her ways and more generous in listening to her and doing things for her and overall more appreciative of her motherly care for me (even though it might not be exactly how I want to be cared for).
I’d love to hear form you. Any tips for getting through the Christmas period with less stress and maximum enjoyment? Please get in touch. Or if you would like to book a taster life coaching session outdoors in Victoria Park or by phone or by Skype in January 2015, please email Karen@greenspacecoaching.com