Here’s how to have your happiest Christmas ever (yes, really!)
Whether you’re worried about the in-laws, or anxious about the questions your great aunt will inevitably ask you, Christmas can be a difficult time of year. “Have you ever wondered why, within 24 hours of being together, the first family tiff has broken out?” asks wellness expert Emily Wysock-Wright, founder of Adira (thisisadira.com). “We spend the year living with the personal space we choose, matched to the individuals we choose to spend time with, and then you reach this one day and everything changes. It’s a lovely thought when you’re planning where to spend Christmas, but living in close proximity altogether under the same roof is bound to cause friction! With no escape, a strict itinerary and having to eat every meal together, we all tend to become irritable and it’s little wonder we begin to feel like a caged animal. Until we take control, we’ll be stuck in the same cycle, with nothing but bitter thoughts of our family until we start idealising Christmas next year.” So, what can we do to keep the peace? H&W asked the experts to find out…
Lend a hand
“As much as your mum, or whoever is hosting, wants to show you their capabilities, help,” Emily tells us. “Don’t wait to be asked, offer and delegate jobs to everyone. This can be from the moment preparations are under way. Not only will this take the load and stress off the organiser, this also helps you feel your autonomy in what can sometimes feel like a controlled situation.”
Steer clear of the inquisition
“One of the most infuriating things about seeing your family at Christmas time is the incessant, intrusive questioning,” says family consultant and relationship guru Sheela Mackintosh-Stewart (sheelamackintoshstewart.com). “These can range from ‘who are you seeing?’ to ‘are you sure you’re eating properly?’ and ‘what do you actually do, again?’ and, while you may be tempted to disguise yourself as a Christmas tree until they leave, it’s best to learn to manage such occasions, as they will happen many more times in your life. So, take a deep breath and employ one of the following strategies:
- Learn to answer in a jokey way.
- Be polite, agreeable and deflect by asking questions about them instead. People love regaling stories of their ups and downs, so you can sit back and let them do all the talking.
- No matter what you do, never get any discussions involving contentious subjects such as religion or politics. Keep a few funny stories up your sleeve too in case others broach these topics and you suddenly find yourself needing to diffuse heated conversations.
- If it all gets too much, either nip out for a quick walk or, if you can find somewhere, retreat to a quiet place to zone out and clear your head.”
Take a step back
“Big arguments normally stem from small comments, so in order to avoid the explosion, become the mediator between them,” says David Brudö, CEO and co-founder of mental wellbeing and self-development platform, Remente (remente.com). “Since arguments often arise from miscommunication and rash responses, it’s beneficial to take a step back, try to understand their viewpoint, and look at the whole picture.”
Avoid drinking too much alcohol
Yes, it’s nice to have a glass of wine (or two) with your Christmas dinner, but reducing your intake could be very beneficial, especially if there’s a storm brewing. “Alcohol increases the chance of feuds and also reduces your energy levels and motivation,” Emily explains. Switch to a soft drink during the evening so you don’t end up going overboard and saying something you might end up regretting.
Look for a solution
“A great way to stay calm and not lose your head in a frustrating situation is to always focus on solutions,” says David. “A lot of the time, family situations, especially over the holidays, can make us feel as if there is no possible answer and that we are trapped in a situation, so always thinking about possible solutions will not only keep you calm and rational, but also help you solve the problem at hand.”
Own what’s yours
“Try not to project irritable feelings onto others, as this will increase the negative energy in the household,” Emily advises. “Take a breather, gain some rationale and remind yourself that this is only temporary.”
Learn to let go
“Often, when we lose control in a stressful situation, it isn’t just the immediate issue, but an accumulation of little thoughts that crowd our heads, which eventually break free and make us lose control,” David explains. “Try to let go, get a better understanding of why the issue might have arisen, and try to forget before arriving at the family festivities.”
“Sometimes, people can say hurtful things without noticing,” David tells us. “Instead of adding fuel to the fire, put it out by answering with a diplomatic response, such as ‘thank you for your opinion, I’ll think about it’, or ‘what did you mean by that, could you explain a bit further?’. Be understanding and listen to the other party.”
Remember that Christmas only happens once a year, and you might not see these relatives for another 365 days. “Show gratitude for being together and for everything you give and receive,” says Emily. “This will shift your focus and help share more positivity .”
Try adding a fragrance to the festivities. “One of the best tools to alleviate tension is aromatherapy, as inhaling certain scents can reduce adrenaline, increase serotonin production and trigger positive sense memory,” says Katie Allen, spa director at Titanic Spa (titanicspa.com). “Many people associate the holiday period with stress and family arguments, so introducing scents that evoke positive memories can help instill a calm, happy mood. One of the most stabilising scents is lavender, either from a diffuser or a candle. It helps release frustration and angry feelings by boosting and altering moods for the better. Vetiver carries an earthly fragrance, so it has a calming, grounding effect on emotions, allowing an individual to conduct themselves better in the way they respond to negative stimuli.”