By the time Christmas day actually comes due, many of us have worn ourselves into such a frazzle that given our druthers we’d climb back into bed with the covers over our head. There’s no doubt that the two most stressful areas in the lives of most of us are money and relationships – and Christmas brings these together in a double whammy.
So, you do what most of us do, Google to see how you can reduce or eliminate Holiday stress. You find that in order to do this you should have started 3 months ago – you know, baking so that you aren’t up till midnight Christmas eve trying to cookies made and get the turkey ready; making meaningful presents instead of blowing your budget on something that will just be returned anyway.
But here it is, a week until the day. You don’t have time to go out and get a second job so that you can afford all the gifts you have bought. You have already offered to host this year’s Christmas dinner so ALL the family will be over, bright and early. So what might you be able to do to reduce stress on this day? Here are some things to consider.
Loretta LaRoche, author of Life Is Not a Stress Rehearsal points out how important it is to keep things in perspective. Everything does NOT have to be perfect. You don’t have to prepare turkey AND ham, AND goose, AND hamburgers. You aren’t running a restaurant. Folks don’t get to order what they want. They also get to NOT eat what they don’t want and no apologies are necessary from you over their food preferences.
Dysfunctional families have arguments and fights over the same things each year. It may be politics that sets off the screaming match, or a current issue such as refugees, carbon tax, religion – you name it and some families will find a way to disagree, loudly. So, to reduce the likelihood of arguments and disagreements, declare when each person comes over, that the following topics are off-limits for discussion for this day. And then give them a list of non-discussable topics. Jump in immediately if anyone forgets. An interesting list of things that are interesting to discuss is provided at http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2013/03/50-family-dinner-conversation-starters/ where they provide 50 different topics for discussion. You could give one or two questions to each person and have them ask the question of everyone in the room, including kids.
Don’t have an open bar. Sure, it’s more work to get up and pour drinks for everyone, but the only way that you’ll keep Uncle Doofus from getting plastered by 11:30 a.m. is to keep control over how much liquor goes into every glass Pretend you’re a bartender. This, of course, is a little easier to manage if they are drinking mixed drinks rather than Scotch neat. Encourage them to have some sort of snacking food as they drink – it may help to slow down the absorption of alcohol into the blood stream.
Do something different during the day. Depending on the weather there may be an outdoor activity that is possible. Design a scavenger hunt for the kids – count the Christmas tree lights on the house next door; count the number of fir tress in your block; find a Santa Clause in a house window and write down the address. Or, you may want to sign your family up to volunteer to serve Christmas dinner to the homeless or needy. Talk about experiencing the spirit of Christmas giving! And if you take your family out to serve dinner that acts as a pretty good excuse for the others to pack up and go home. This means that you might want to invite people over for Christmas lunch or brunch rather than for a whole day ending in dinner.
Set up a jig saw puzzle in a separate room for people to work on if they begin to feel overwhelmed by anything – bowl games on t.v., conversation, crying kids, out of control pets.
Print out some funny Christmas quotes ( see http://www.keepinspiring.me/funny-christmas-quotes/ ), give one or two to everybody and have them read them out to everyone else. Some will appeal to kids, many of them just to adults, so select wisely.
Don’t think you have to do everything yourself Most people appreciate having some small task to do that will help out. If people volunteer to help with the cleaning up, ACCEPT THE OFFER. Don’t be a martyr, and especially don’t clean up and wash dishes while others are relaxing in the living room. Even better – use paper plates. What – sacrilege? Going back to being a martyr, are we?
And above all, keep your expectations reasonable. Why would you expect your great aunt who holds the world record for complaining to be any different at Christmas? Do you really think that your in-laws who find fault with everything you do will let the day pass without finding some little thing that “might, just might have been done differently, dear? “
Don’t expect people to read your mind. If you want someone to set the table, ask them; don’t do it yourself while sighing loudly.
If the group is playing Pictionary, participate (regardless of whether or not you hate it) in the spirit of contributing to the group enjoyment. Do NOT sit there engrossed in your cell phone or tablet.
And here is the truth, and possibly the magic of Christmas. If you spend your time trying to make the day pleasant for others, it will be amazing to find out good you feel that evening.
Merry Christmas, all.