Forget everything you’ve read, seen or dreamt about a perfect Christmas. Bid the mental image of a perfectly decorated table, impeccably wrapped gifts and a sublime ready-to-be-photographed feast, farewell.
Banish the idea of a family gathering in which everyone laughs, gets along and behaves like they’re in a Country Road catalogue or a Myer ad.
Forgive yourself for not hand writing Christmas cards to everyone you know and care about.
Dismiss your concerns about asking for help or getting your kids the perfect gifts.
Overlook the fact you might not be able to replicate your grandmother’s recipes for Christmas pudding, stuffing, trifle, mince tarts or any other dishes of enormous sentimental value and immense technical difficulty.
The research is in and despite the emotional pull many of us feel to create the perfect Christmas, this “dream” is actually the stuff of nightmares. The festive season is stressful and lonely.
The American Psychological Association has shown that 38 per cent of people say the holidays increase their stress levels and a further 26 per cent of people feel sad or lonely during the holidays.
The good news is, it doesn’t need to be like this.
The key to a Christmas in which you can keep your sanity and enjoy yourself (which sounds pretty close to perfect to me) is this:
- Lower your expectations
- Practise forgiveness
- Slow down
Repeat after me. Lower your expectations. Practice forgiveness. Slow down.
Don’t you feel a weight off your shoulders just reading that? It’s counter-intuitive.
This is the time of the year we’re meant to be rushing around, getting work finished for the year, buying presents, planning meals, decorating, cooking, going to end-of year concerts, attending Christmas parties and juggling kids on school holidays.
Generally, the idea is we live one of the year’s busiest, and most expensive, months whilst also creating THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS.
Is it any wonder it creates stress? Even before you factor in grief, mental illness, family tensions and financial stress, it’s a ticking time bomb.