Top tips for surviving Christmas

Coach Amanda Alexander gives her top 10 tips for getting through Christmas in one piece.

There are so many "Tips for Surviving Christmas" in women’s magazines, but when I read things like "two weeks before Christmas – now is the time to ice your Christmas Cake" and "shed half a stone before Christmas" I don’t get the feeling that these tips really help many mums feel less anxious about the "stress" of Christmas.

The following tips won’t tell you how to be a Domestic Goddess at Christmas, nor will they instruct you how to "get through" Christmas without tears.

Christmas is (should be) a time of new life, new hope and happiness, so I hope that my Christmas tips will help you to discover what works best for you.  My intention is that they will lighten your mood and encourage you to really enjoy yourself with your family. They will help you thrive throughout Christmas, not just survive!

1. Make your alternative Christmas List. What do you love about Christmas and what do you hate about it?

Take a piece of paper, fold it in half and label the two columns at the top – "love Christmas" and "hate Christmas".  Spill out all the words that come to you when you think about Christmas.  You might have one word in both columns – family is one that is commonly classed in both the love and hate categories!

Choose one of the things that you hate, but that you can control.  Now decide what you will do to minimise it or even eliminate that dislike for you. Now take steps to put your elimination actions into place.

2. Laugh! Regain your sense of humour about the things that niggle you about Christmas.  Laugh at it all.  Life was not meant to be taken too seriously, Christmas even less so (with no disrespect to Jesus of course – I’m sure he’d prefer if it we laughed our way though his birthday).

3. Walk in their moccasins.  Is your mother in law driving you mad? Or your father? Or your kids? Or all of them? Take a step back and seek to understand things in their world. Understanding other’s behaviour will not only help you to cope with the behaviour more easily, when people feel understood and heard, behaviours can magically improve. Try it.

4. Time out!  If you really can’t fit into their moccasins, take ten minutes and go for a walk.  Let the fresh air calm you down and clear your mind.  Look at a tree, at a bird, at the sky. think about how small we are in this vast universe and put it into perspective.

5. Get moving! In fact, get some fresh air anyway.  Go for a walk – exercise helps release those feel-good endorphins, it "clears" your head, helps digest all that stodgy food and is the obvious antidote for "cabin fever" and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  If you can get the whole family out on Christmas day, so much the better.  Even if it’s pouring with rain, force yourself outside.  Just think how great and how virtuous you’ll feel when you are back inside – and you will appreciate the warm house much more!

6. Christmas Values.  Take a moment to think about what Christmas means for you and what messages you want to give to your children.  What do you want them to understand about Christmas? What do you want them to learn from Christmas? Take a moment to think about your family values and how you can ensure those values can be practically expressed over the Christmas period. It might mean donating a toy to children in need, enjoying a pantomime as a family, volunteering some of your time for a charity, or simply smiling at everyone who catches your eye whilst you are Christmas shopping.

7. Be selfish in order to be selfless! It’s a truth universally acknowledged that mums make Christmas happen.  But that comes at a cost. In order to face Christmas like a Duracell Bunny, you need to charge your own batteries.  Set aside some quality time for you over the Festive Season. Mums are notoriously bad at thinking about themselves.  Don’t be a martyr this Christmas!

What special "time treat" would you like to look forward to over Christmas? It might be a long hot soak in the bath on Christmas eve, an evening out with your partner one evening, half an hour with your feet up, a good book and a mug of mulled wine.  What is your "selfish" Christmas wish? What will make you even nicer to be around? Make that wish, but don’t keep it a secret – let your partner or family know and ask them to help you make it happen.

8. Act like a big kid.  Let go a little of your adult inhibitions and re-learn simple, childish pleasures. Recapture the excitement of Christmas for yourself – look in wonder at the Christmas tree and its sparkly lights, go and feel all the Christmas presents and try to guess what’s inside, go and visit Santa in his grotto (kids are always good accessories for this) and tell him what a good girl you’ve been all year! If it snows, grab a bin bag and race your kids down a hill or build a snowman.  Have some FUN!

9. Live in the present (i.e. the here and now, rather than the one enclosed in gift wrap!) At no other time is this a more valuable lesson. Enjoy each precious moment of Christmas with your children because you will never have that moment again.  When you see your children’s eyes light up, whatever age your kids are, be there in that champagne moment, not in the "what if there ain’t enough potatoes" negative self talk!  Remember, there is no such thing as past or future – the present is all we have.

10. Be thankful.  Even if you’ve had a few minor confrontations with the family, or the turkey was dry and overdone, take a moment to give thanks for at least 10 things each day over the festive season.  Look for the little things (which you will notice because you’ve been living in the present). If you are reading this, you probably have many blessings to be thankful for: Start noticing them.

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