Sunday, 12 December 2010

Keep Your Cool this Yule

Christmas is the most stressful time of year for most people and is the cause of many arguments for a lot of families.  According to the statistics, more than half of Brits have disagreements at Christmas; a quarter saying it creates added strain on their relationship and an eighth of those saying a festive argument made them want to split up. 

Tempers are more likely to get flared at Christmas as a result of too much alcohol, spending too much time with relatives than normal and disagreements over the who gets the TV remote and washing up!  With many families being fragmented or extended, it also can create extra strain on relationships at Christmas when there are expectations to make it a happy time of year for all concerned.

To Prepare for Christmas
  • It is important therefore to make sure that you let go of the idea that Christmas has to be ‘perfect’ and avoid taking responsibility for everything.  Remember, it is only one day in the year and seeing the bigger picture will help you to enjoy the day as much as possible. 
  • Think about the person(s) who tend to make you feel angry and remember that whatever they do or say will be over in a few days and getting angry or stressed maybe isn’t worth the long term effects.  Make a list of their good points and try to focus on those instead when you start feeling heated. 
  •  Look at what needs to be done in advance such as shopping, cooking and entertaining and work out what can be delegated and what can be done in advance.  Don’t take responsibility for everything otherwise you’ll only feel resentful; even the children can help by putting decorations up or wrapping presents and will enjoy getting involved.  Aim to have a plan two or 3 weeks before so you make provisions for emergencies, agreeing beforehand who does what on the day.
  • Also agree in advance with relatives some ground rules and arrangements so things run as smoothly as possible.  If there’s something that annoys you every year like Aunty May feeding her dog at the dinner table then make sure you set boundaries beforehand in a gentle way so that you feel more in control of what happens.  If there is something that annoys you that they refuse to stop doing then also prepare yourself for how to deal with that on the day and ask yourself ‘Is this worth me getting angry for?’
On the day
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol as this lowers your inhibitions and can alter your mood.  Drinking water or soft drinks in between can help to slow down the effects, as can eating slow burning carbohydrates like wholemeal bread.  Set yourself a limit on how much you are going to drink on the day so you don’t regret drinking too much later on.
  • If you feel yourself getting angry, take yourself out of the situation and cool down for a while. If you can go out of the room or fgo or a walk, it will give you time to calm down and gain perspective on the situation and feel more in control.  Using deep breathing exercises can also help to lower the stress response and enable you to remain calm. Try breathing in slowly for a count of four then out for a count of four for 5-15 minutes.
  • Listen to what the other person is saying, even if you don’t agree with it.  Be aware of your tone of voice and body language as we often forget about how we come across to the other person when we feel angry.  Rather than shouting, discuss how you feel and rather than blaming and telling the person: “you make me x”, use words like “I feel”,  “I think”  to help you to put your point across.  
  • Think about the consequences of starting an argument; remember it is inevitable you have your mother in law saying something you don’t like or something will go wrong so learn to accept those things and let them go. Focus on the positives instead like your children’s smiling faces or all the lovely food and learn to let the little things go. As Ralph Waldo Emerson says, "For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness".

If anger or relationship issues are more of a long term issue, it can be worth seeking professional help. Consulting a counsellor or therapist can help you to gain perspective on a situation and see it more objectively so you can overcome your obstacles and seek a new way forward.  

Alexandra Bacon is a certified Advanced EFT Practitioner, Counsellor, Bach Flower Remedy Practitioner, Wellbeing consultant and Trainer. To book your personalised treatment session please call Alexandra on 01629 825968/ 07950 568635.