Christmas stress

Agony answers: Christmas Expectations

Q: Each year, Christmas gets more and more hectic and it makes me feel utterly exhausted. I’m separated from my husband, who now lives overseas, and I feel like I’m left high and dry and expected to cope. I have ageing parents and inlaws at opposite ends of the country who both expect to spend time with their grandchildren, a busy job that doesn’t afford me much time off, and two children who expect their Christmas to have all the trimmings. I feel I’m just not able to live up to people’s expectations. Help!

A: Christmas has become ridiculous. Did you know that The Samaritans receive more crisis calls at Christmas than at any other time; doctors dole out more tranquilizers and anti-depressants; psychotherapists report a boom period and Relate offices are inundated with cries for help. A MORI poll found that one in six of us actively dread Christmas.
Of course you can’t live up to everyone’s expectations – it’s totally impossible. So let go of that one right away! Now think about what you want for Christmas – not what everyone else wants. What are the key qualities you want – think in terms of emotions, not fancy presents and trimmings.

Then I’d suggest you turn the tables on those parents, inlaws and children: ask them what their solution would be? Maybe have everyone talk about Christmas – ask each person how they want Christmas to be, and what each of them will do to make it happen. Christmas is too big to be hung around one person’s neck – but make it a group production and it all becomes much more manageable. It’s very easy to take it all on your shoulders – drop the load.

Inevitably there will be compromises and things that don’t go according to plan. We all yearn for a ‘just right’ fairytale Christmas because we frequently hold onto childhood (hence irrational and unreasonable) expectations. Recognise that 100 per cent perfection simply isn’t possible – but a 75 percent Christmas would still be pretty nice. Point this out when your mother is complaining that the sprouts are al dente and your father in law is moaning about the Queen’s Speech.

Children are horribly commercial (blame the TV, blame playground peer pressure, whatever). But they are also smart and sensitive. Talk to them about the real meaning of Christmas – if you’re not religious, stress that it’s about love and the celebration of family. I know it takes time but get them to make their own presents – planting bulbs in pots for example or painting portraits of the recipient and putting it in a hand-made cardboard frame. It teaches them that money isn’t everything.

Let’s get away from the huge production number and money-fest that is modern Christmas and get back to basics: quality time spent with the people we need. It’s so simple really.

Christmas survival strategies

1. Put a few drops of orange oil in an oil burner (or a bowl of hot water) – it’s a great mood-lifter.
2. Turn off all the overhead lights and lie down under the Christmas tree. Let your body sink into the ground. Breathe deeply. Watch the sparkling lights.
3. If you’re burned out and have been burning the candle at both ends, try homeopathic Nux vomica. If rabid perfectionism is your problem, try Arsenicum. If you’re overly anxious and veer between constipation and diarrhea, try Lycopodium.
4. Sit quietly and gently and rhythmically massage the spot in the centre of your face, just above your eyebrows (the third eye). Use a tiny circular movement – with a little sesame oil if you wish. It’s a deeply soothing ayurvedic technique.

This first appeared in Natural Health magazine.