Christmas: A "magical" time of year... (until your family comes together!)
If you didn't grow up in the "perfect family" dynamic (aka the happy Brady Bunch) and your family can be a little "lively", especially after a few drinks, then Christmas can be a tense occasion.
Feelings of worry start to come up as we think about everyone coming together.
Stress from not knowing how it will play out. Will everyone get along? Will someone start an argument? Will someone drink too much? Or... will everyone place nice?
Because "it's Christmas" we gather with our family and extended family - who we probably don't often see that much, and let's face it, sometimes don't have a lot in common. Some of these people we may not even share the same values with.
Family members often bring past history and "junk" that they have held onto or the generations before have been harbouring with them. Mix in some alcohol and... bang ANYTHING can happen!
Everyone seems to have an opinion after a few drinks - don't they?
If you are hosting the get-together yourself you've also got the added stress of cooking, cleaning, gifting and keeping the peace to put on a great day.
"Will everyone get along? Will he/she behave themselves? Will they like the food (that's my biggest fear being a so/so cook!)? What will they think/say about this?"
Eeeeek, so much to overthink about, right?!
My friends at Al-Anon, a support group for the families of Alcoholics, shared with me that setting healthy boundaries during the Christmas period, both for yourself and other people who might trigger you – is a good way to keep calm.
#1 – Limit Alcohol on the Day (Yes, it is possible!) If you are hosting Christmas as your place and maybe you are worried about alcohol fueling the fire in some people… then you actually have every right within the walls of your house to ask people to not bring alcohol (gasp I know!).
This may sound drastic and a little overwhelming but let me ask you – what’s worse? An anger fueled drunken argument that ruins the day, or a few people getting their nose out of joint?
You don't have to ask them in person. It is as easy as sending a text message prior kindly asking them to refrain from BYO.
If these people love you, then they will respect your wishes. If they don’t respect your wishes on the day then maybe ask yourself "what is the most important thing?"
It may seem like a far fetched idea, but this boundary is achievable. I've used it before and can tell you from my own experience it was a wonderful meal together, one of the best on record
Or, opt to drive to a family event - so you can make an exit if you want to
#2 – Move Away from Negativity If you find yourself sitting around family where the conversation is spiraling into topics that you don’t want to listen to, or you feel will trigger you then I want you to know that you have a option.
To move away and NOT engage in the negativity.
You can stay listening and get dragged into it, consumed by the problems and drama letting your anxiety levels sky rocket and zap your energy.
OR - you can stand up and quietly excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, check on the kids, play with the dog, help in the kitchen.
Anything to move away from the conversation and - TAKE A BREAK.
It doesn't mean you have to walk off in a blaze "I'm not listening to this!". You don’t have to storm off or cause a scene. You can quietly and kindly move away from the negativity and energy that you know will not serve you. Take 5 deep breaths of really amazing fresh air and clear your mind.
Remember YOU don't have to get involved in any conversation that doesn't serve you!
#3 HAVE AN EXIT PLAN If you know from past years that the event is likely to get rowdy then plan ahead and set expectations early. “I can only stay for 1 drink actually” … “I may have to leave early to XYZ”
If you are having a good time and decide to stay longer – then that will be a good surprise!
If you have not pre-empted your host and you feel uncomfortable and want to leave - then remember your life is on your terms. It is OK to leave.
You leaving means you are looking after yourself and guarding your energy. Sneak out quietly!
#4 CALMING A RACING MIND
Move away from the person or thing that is triggering you and focus on DOING A TASK
Keep your hands busy
Take a 5 deep breaths!
Keep the task simple, nothing that is too complex or requires brain power, something to keep your hands moving.
This will allow you to just "be present" in that moment while your mind and emotions calm.