The festive season is often highlighted as a time for joy, laughter, and family togetherness. However, at times it can feel more like a scene from National Lampoons’ Christmas Vacation.
Looking back at the year that’s been, the build up to the next year and trying to balance general busy-ness of the December – February period can be a daunting and stressful time. So, here are some tips to help you optimize the precious time you have for yourself and your family over the holidays, or at any other
“special” family time…
- Communication: do it. It’s often in times of stress that communication goes flying out the window. This is unfortunate, as good communication is key to reducing stress. When it comes to communication it can be beneficial to pick your battles and choose your timing wisely (think: is this an issue that needs to be addressed here and now?), be assertive, keep to the point and be prepared to listen and negotiate.
- Plan your time: most of us are fairly time poor, especially in the lead up to the festive season. Consider distributing tasks amongst the family, helping you and providing an opportunity for others to contribute. Avoid overloading on commitments, space out activities or events to give everyone time to unwind and re-energise. Creating a visual representation of upcoming events can be helpful, especially when there are multiple people and / or activities to consider.
- Mental preparation and resilience: the festive season often involves lots of socializing, even if it’s not with the people of your choosing. To help you make the most out of these kinds of situations, think about the environment you’re going into (and the people in it). Being mindful of different personalities can help us to keep calm and carry on!
- Be on the lookout: everyone gets stressed. It might be useful to take a moment to think about how you and your family manage (or don’t manage) stressful situations. Make a mental note of this and then be on the lookout for early warning signs. Addressing these things early on can assist in reducing the risk of something (or nothing) escalating into an argument.
- Go easy on the booze: alcohol is intrinsically linked with accidents, violence, arguments, slowed reaction times, poor health, dehydration and hangovers. Alcohol consumption is illegal for under18’s. If you do drink, do so in moderation, and if you are hosting a get-together, ensure there are always lots of non-alcoholic drinks, food and entertainment available to keep guests occupied.
- Self-care: remember to take time out for yourself (eg read, have a bubble bath, garden, walk, go the gym, have a coffee with a friend, or watch your guilty pleasure TV show). It can be easy to prioritise others and forget about ourselves at this time of the year. However, you and others will be happier if you are relaxed and in a good head space.
- Engage and enjoy: make the most of your time when you’re out with the family. Identifying a few things you’re looking forward to can positively affect your frame of mind and mood. These things don’t have to be particularly significant, take solace in the little things in life (eg location or weather). Participate and allow yourself to let go and enjoy the moment.
- Think outside the square: it can be difficult to keep coming up with activities over the long school holiday period. Here are a few ideas to get you started (mix it up a little to ensure everyone in your family is able to enjoy one activity or another): BBQ, group games (Wii, board games, sports), movies (at home or the cinema), going out for a meal, having friends over, kayaking, swimming, rock climbing, catching a train or ferry and exploring a different part of the city, shop together at the markets, visit an art gallery or museum, try ice-skating or surfing, be a tourist in your home town for a day, or catch some thrills at a theme park.
Christmas gatherings, weddings, funerals, bamitzvahs, graduations and a host of other events all have the potential to be logistical and emotional challenges. But that is OK. Just remember to take things in your stride, not everything needs to be done at once, and most importantly, remember to enjoy yourself along the way!