It’s the Christmas season again. Time pressure, finding the perfect gifts for everyone and managing the children. It’s a highly stressful time.
If the burden of making the holidays epically magical for your family is wearing you down, try some of my tips below to find some balance.
Let go of Perfectionism and Pleasing
This season is rife with family and relationship conflicts. Let go of perfectionism and pleasing everyone. Try not to do everything; share the jobs. Can someone bring the dessert or starter if you make the main meal? Often the hardest thing about Christmas is managing the adults. Grandparents who give your two-year-old chocolate for breakfast. Aunts who tut when you tell your child off. Feeling watched while your little one has a tantrum. If you have set any rules, make them clear to everyone. It is okay to have boundaries with family members.
Don’t put your own physical or mental health at risk out of obligation.
For children, limits can be even more important in times of stress because they:
- Set out clear boundaries and expectations about what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
- Help you to define your battles when you may be low in energy.
- Promote respect between family members.
- Enable children to feel contained.
Create a Quiet or Calm Down Space
We all get a bit “fizzy” at Christmas, create a calm-down space in your or your relative’s home. This will help de-escalate those hot, angry and tiring moments. Ensure this is stated before a reaction. It’s helpful for everyone to know in advance. There are plenty of ideas below:
Manage Christmas Season Anxiety
You or your child may find social gatherings stressful, especially in someone else’s home with different rules and routines. Create a schedule, we will be eating then and opening presents at this time. You may want to remind your child by showing them pictures/videos of where they are going and family members they have not seen for some time.
For those experiencing the ache of loss, the holiday season can be brutal. We are acutely aware of the empty place at the table. While society is ringing jingle bells and urging us to buy more stuff, your heart may feel the pain, and needs space to grieve. It is okay to allow yourself some time, and you can say no to anything if you don’t want to do it.
Understand Family Traditions and Cultures
All families have different cultures and traditions. Inform your partner and family of any new rules. Hence, at Joe’s house, they do this; they eat at this time. Alternatively, inform your guests about your culture and what you would like them to do.
Take Ownership of Your Time
Sometimes, we must say “no” and take responsibility for our time leading up to Christmas. It is okay to say to relatives and our children, I am sorry I can’t do this right now, but we will have a special time on…. And to relatives too.
Ensure that you give your children 10 minutes of Special Time regularly. This will prevent any meltdowns or unwanted behaviour.
Prevent Blaming your Ex-partner
Christmas can be so hard for separated and blended families. It often results in children feeling sad and anxious, and feeling it is their fault. Manage any potential conflict by asking neutral friends or family members to manage the contact. Acknowledge it is hard for them not to have mummy and daddy together. Ask them what might help them get through the season.
Give yourself 10 minutes of daily “You Time”
Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year. Hence, it’s important to take a little time to relax and manage your thoughts. Take a moment to breathe, and return to yourself, even if it’s just for 10 minutes.
Don’t Forget Family Sleep
There is a recent study https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2023.1105233/full to show that we may need deeper NREM sleep in Winter. It is interesting that we “party” stay up late, which may impact our energies going forward into Spring.
Lack of sleep = no recovery, so everything else in your life will continue to be unbalanced. Ensure there are at least 7 and a half hours per night for you and more for the children.
Follow the 80/ 20 Rule
I make it a point to try to be consistent most of the time. Two/three days of consistency out of five may seem like a lot, but it will lead to a happier baby, toddler, and young child.
You Make the Rules
You are ultimately the one that has the last word on what your child’s sleep schedule looks like. If there are plans with family or friends that don’t line up with what would work best for your family’s sleep schedule, then you might need to skip out on a few activities to keep your sanity and your child’s sleep from derailing. Have a conversation with grandparents or other family members so they know ahead of time. Trust your instincts.
Set up a safe and inviting space
It’s not uncommon for your child to be hesitant about sleeping in a new space. Try to create a space that matches their room at home as closely as possible. Be sure to bring their night light, sleep clock, sound machine, and anything else that reminds them of their room.
Do not forget Social Jet lag
During Christmas we think that we can catch up on sleep but there is a cost and we suffer from Social Jet lag. Social jet lag, a term coined by German researcher Till Roennenberg in 2006, is the discrepancy in a person’s sleep pattern between the weekday and the weekend, which can cause a person to feel “jet lagged” or tired and fatigued.
While social jet lag can affect anyone, the problem is particularly common in teenagers. Teenagers are biological “night owls” who tend to go to sleep and get up late when schedules permit, such as on weekends or holidays. The problem arises when they are expected to go to sleep and get up early for school on weekdays.
Basically, there are two forces that determine when we are awake or asleep at any point in time. The first is how long we’ve been awake, and the longer we’re awake the more tired we feel and it’s easier to fall asleep.
But, there’s this other force that keeps us awake during the day, which opposes that sleepy force or sleep debt that is building up. This is called our internal body clock or circadian rhythm. Dramatically, adjusting the circadian rhythm confuses the body and brain – no longer knowing what time to go to sleep and what time to get up, which makes us feel horrible. Go to my blog here to find further information on Back to School Readjustment
Channel Your “Inner Budda“
Christmas can bring up old family wounds and rivalries like no other time. It is so hard not to have expectations. I especially like this video from Kim Eng
Quote: “We are having a relationship with an idea in our head, not the person”…
Eckhart Tolle said, ” So if you think you’re enlightened, spend a weekend with your family“
I’m with Eckhart on this one, and remember, we are only ever aiming to be good enough, not perfect!
Take a deep breath, detach, and forgive yourself and them. Sometimes all we can do is be grateful for what we have. For ideas, go to https://gratefulness.org/.
Say Thank You
The more I say thank you, the better I feel, especially during a difficult day. I often like to light a candle. There is always a blessing for food, what we have, in Ireland. It’s something I like about my culture. Maybe you can start your own culture of giving thanks.
In addition, a quote from the poet Rumi
Do not feel lonely; the entire universe is inside you.
Most of all, I wish you light through Christmas and New Year. Thank you to all of you who have read my blogs, liked my Facebook posts, attended my workshops, and are my clients. My work is nothing without all of you, and I am truly grateful.
From my heart to yours, wishing you a safe passage into 2024, I hope you find the key to open the door where every possibility awaits in 2024; with love and gratitude, Catherine.