Thursday, December 4, 2014

Christmas Tip - 21 Days to Christmas! It's Time To Cut Holiday Stress

Photo Courtesy of The Australian Women's Weekly

Article Courtesy of 101 Days of Christmas

Sure, you love the holiday season--but just not so much of it! Isn't there some way to have a simpler--but more meaningful--Christmas celebration?

If you're aiming to simplify your holidays, take time now to ponder ways to cut stress, save money and tame over-the-top traditions. Setting simplicity strategies in place now will keep you from being swept up in next month's holiday madness.

Get armed! Try these ten simple strategies to calm holiday chaos this year.

Christmas Calm: Ten Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Sure, you love the holiday season--but just not so much of it! This year, you're hoping to cut the crazy out of Christmas: to trim the celebration back to one that is sustainable and calm.

Question is, just how do you do less--and enjoy it more--during the Christmas holiday season?

If you're aiming to simplify Christmas, take time to ponder ways to cut stress, save money and tame over-the-top traditions. Setting simplicity strategies in place early will keep you from being swept up in holiday madness.

Get armed! Try these ten simple strategies to calm holiday chaos and rein in the seasonal overkill this year.

10 Simplicity Strategies
  1. Prune the to-do list. Ask, “If I don’t do this, what will happen?” Aim to knock down the list of chores to the rock-bottom necessity.
  2. Cut the gift list. Rein in gift exchanges that have been outgrown or lost their meaning. Limit gifts to children only, draw names, or organize a gift exchange.
  3. Wrap as you go. Who needs to spend Christmas Eve catching up on wrapping chores? Sticky notes will help you keep track of gift contents.
  4. Buy, don’t bake. Turn your back on the oven this year. Supermarkets, bakeries and the freezer department of the discount warehouse are a great source for delicious, pre-baked holiday treats.
  5. Call, don’t send cards. Reach out and touch someone … the easy way. Online greeting cards are easy, inexpensive and fun to send. No more lines at the post office!
  6. Scale back décor. Substitute a simple door wreath for outdoor lighting, a tabletop tree for the over-the-top tannenbaum. Focusing holiday decor on the Big Three--front door, tree and focal point--can bring a festive feel to the house without day-long decorating sessions.
  7. Cut the clean-a-thon. Focus cleaning attention on kitchen and public rooms; private areas can slide til season’s end. Better to schedule deep-cleaning chores like carpet cleaning until after the wear-and-tear of the holiday season.
  8. Downsize dishwashing. Hand-washing fine china is nobody’s idea of a good time, so move to everyday stoneware. Simpler still: paper plates.
  9. Finger food, not feast. A smorgasboard of tasty tidbits is easier on the cook and kinder to the waistline than a sit-down dinner. Share the work by hosting pot-luck events.
  10. Stay home! Cuddling down close to the hearth beats holiday travel any day. A holiday "stay-cation" allows for evening drives to see the lights, family camp-outs in front of the Christmas tree, and evenings spent with carols and popcorn. Fun!

Some additional advice on family relationships:
Article Courtesy of The Australian Women's Weekly

Christmas chaos: Dealing with difficult family members

Christmas preparations are stressful enough, even before family members start to arrive and add their 'colourful' personalities to the mix.

While we all love our family and accept their foibles and quirks, dealing with the relatives en masse can sometimes be less than joyous during the holiday season.

Here, family therapist and mother of two Nicole Robins explains to us how to handle some common personalities that turn up at our family gatherings, and how best to keep the peace, and our sanity!

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Reality Check

"The reality is that many families don't have that much contact as an extended family group throughout the year," says Nicole.

"The expectations of coming together at Christmas and creating a magical, manicured slice of family togetherness that can be treasured forever are hard to resist."

For most, during these times of heightened expectations, "Many people step into typical roles in their families to stem their anxiety," she says.

The over-functioner

Nicole explains that an unfair division of labour leads to undue stress, and women commonly go into overdrive during the holiday season.

"Unfortunately women seem to think that Christmas preparations are still mainly their responsibility," she says. "Over-functioning is a typical response where everyone tries to outdo and over cater.

Nicole's recommendation is that "If we can all hold on to ourselves and leave space for others to share the responsibility, then you will usually find that people do step up and take responsibility (including children and teens)."

Which leads us to our next personality:

The under-functioner

"Some people under-function instead of over-functioning because that has been their programming in the family," says Nicole.

"Often we blame individuals and see others as the villain or the victim. The evidence would suggest otherwise, and as a family therapist I notice that patterns of behaviour are often circular and serve a function in the family system."

We can mitigate this by taking a step back, she says.

"If women who typically rush around attending to all the details were able to step back and not take charge of every little detail they would probably notice that the day was not a failure and in fact it gave others an opportunity to shine a little, and them a bit more of a chance to catch up with lovely relatives."

But sometimes it's difficult to always see our lovely relatives in a good light, especially when they're playing the role of:

The overly-critical family member

Ever spent days, even weeks preparing for Christmas, only to have a family member criticise everything? If the answer is 'yes', then you've probably already identified who that person will be this year.

Nicole says that unfortunately, criticism often invites defensiveness, which leads to a circular pattern where neither party feels understood.

"Being defensive when faced with criticism is as unhelpful as being critical," she says. "This is interesting to observe actually because I think we tend to judge the critical person more harshly."

Nicole believes that we need to learn to manage our own emotions better in this situation.

"If faced with criticism, the most helpful stance is one of acknowledgement. This doesn't mean agreeing with the person but it does mean hearing their complaint and verbalising that i.e. 'I can hear that you are very upset and think I never wash up at Christmas parties. I didn't realise how much that bothered you.'

"The effect of a good acknowledgement can be astounding!" She says.

The other side-effect of criticism is that people can tend to drink a little more than they usually would to cope, in which case you may be faced dealing with a:

Drunk family member

It's okay to be a little tipsy at Christmas, but when people drink too much, either because they feel more relaxed, or perhaps to cope with their own stresses, they can also become rude and obnoxious and say things they don't mean.

So how do you deal with a difficult drunk diplomatically?

Nicole asks: 'How would you like to be treated if you were them?' and 'What is your responsibility in this situation?'

"It may be necessary to do something, to just make sure that everyone is safe, or time to give objective feedback," she says.

Recommended line: 'I notice you seem to be a bit unstable on your feet (or whatever you can observe rather than making a judgement) – can I help you over to a chair and get you a glass of water?'

Realistic Expectations

Finally, Nicole argues that the key to surviving Christmas is to maintain realistic expectations.

"Forget about the images of family togetherness that we are being inundated with. Be real," she says.

"If you haven't spoken to some members of your families since last Christmas, then it is very unlikely that the Christmas party this year will morph you all into a cosy scene from The Brady Bunch."

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Setting Goals

Have more realistic goals and try to focus your goals around your own behaviour (since this is really the only person who you can directly affect change upon at such short notice!).
Ask yourself what you typically find most stressful about the gathering, and what role you usually play in contributing to this scenario?

Try to have the same expectations of having a good time as you would when you go out with friends. Ask what it is about your own behaviour with friends that you could replicate with your family?
Be more open and interested in others, and perhaps give more of yourself and share who you really are with your family in a gentle and thoughtful way, rather than as a confrontational approach of 'take me or leave me just as I am!'

Set some small goals like connecting meaningfully with everyone for at least a few minutes.

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