Even though Christmas Day it is still over a month away, the anticipation and lead up to it can cause stress and anxiety. Depending on the amount of stress and anxiety the though of Christmas Day causes, it may be taking up quite a bit of your time and energy now.*
There are three main steps to reducing stress on Christmas Day.
The first step is to zoom in and identify exactly what is stressing you.
Throwing your hands up and saying I hate Christmas, it's all too hard isn't actually that helpful. What exactly is causing the stress. Let's have a closer look at this.
There can be complex reasons why this is not a great time for people. There are six listed below. How many stresses on the following list can you identify with? What else not on the list i cuasing you stress.
1. Finalising the hosting arrangements. Where to be, who is hosting it? Delegation of tasks. Who is bringing the pudding? Who is attending? In some families this is fairly stable, in other families it swaps and changes every year.
2. Working out the logistics of travel. Are you at one place for the day, or does your Christmas Day involve driving? Do you have enough time to digest before going from one Christmas meal to the next?
3. Loss. How can you honour someone who is no longer with you? How do you deal with grief, your own and others around you?
Do you feel part of a group of friends?
If you answer no, you are not alone..
Nearly 30% of Australians over 18 years of age reported that they rarely or never felt part of a group of friends.
Loneliness is not just caused by not having enough friends.
Hence the saying that you can feel lonely in a crowd.
Feelings of loneliness are to a large extent caused by our perception of our social connectedness. It is related to how connected we feel.
The good news is by working on your thinking about social situations you can change how lonely you feel.
It's one thing to know that changing our thinking can help reduce our feelings of loneliness.
But how do you change your thinking?
Announce that this year there are no gifts
PLUS A BONUS TIP
KEEP THE RECEIPT
You don’t want to be the parent when the gift doesn’t work, and have to line up in JB-HiFi to replace it on Boxing Day, only to be told that they are out of stock.
What is a Kris Kringle?
*A Kris Kringle is when each person buys a gift for just one person in a group, hence reducing excess and cost. There are many variations.
If it is pot luck , here are three variations of how to distribute the gifts.
Christmas Day is not really the day to lecture people about resilience.
What is your number one tip to reduce Christmas gift stress? Have you tried the 'no gifts this Christmas' one?
If you would like to continue this conversation you are welcome join the discussion at the Facebook group Creating Christmas Calm.
Early intervention can make an enormous difference in children's lives. Anxiety and depression impact on functioning. They reduce cognitive flexibility, impair decision making, reduce attention and concentration, impact negatively on friendships, create loneliness.
Early intervention helps your child learn about the mind body connection; how thoughts and feelings are connected; and positive strategies for managing their anxiety and depressive symptoms. It can give them tools for life.
Your child or adolescent may seem fine on the outside, but if they are asking for help, trust that they need it.
Therapy at a young age is playful, engaging, and practical. And depending on the situation, it can be very short term, a couple of sessions can make a difference.
Don't wait to see if they 'grow out' of it.
Contact Kim at Positive Young Minds on 0408533515 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to book an appointment to discuss your child's needs.
Carrying around the ‘shoulds’ and ‘have to’ of Christmas is exhausting, stressful and can cause anxiety. There are ways to manage this, particularly using mindful awareness and self-compassion and create some Christmas calm.
It’s not called the ‘weight’ of expectations for nothing!
So what are expectations?
Expectations are guidelines, written and unwritten rules about behaviour. They create boundaries and provide guidance. For example you are expected to walk before the age of 12-15 months and be talking before starting kindergarten. .
You are expected to do your homework, obey the teacher, eat your dinner etc…. You are expected to obey the law, be a good neighbour, a good friend.
Is there a purpose to expectations?
Expectations are one way society and families encourage behaviour and growth for the good of your development as a child and teenager, and that of the community. The broad aim is for you to become a functional human being who makes a positive contribution to society.
Then there are individual family differences based on culture, religion, family structure, birth order, personality etc. For example in some cultures girls are expected to be married young, and not pursue further education.
As you entered adolescence you probably rebelled at many/some of these expectations, but you probably also carried many of them into adulthood.
In adulthood, on top of family of origin and society expectations you now have expectations from your work place and expectations from your partner, and maybe your children.
And then there's consumer expectations.
And, if that’s not enough you also have the thick layer of consumer ‘expectations’. In a world where economic growth is still valued above all else we seem to have really internalised the ‘greed is good’ doctrine in our society. You are encouraged to buy, to have more, to be good consumers. It is an insidious expectation. It is difficult, but not impossible, to take a mindful approach ad actually see expectations for what they are.
How can we manage all these expectations?
First, step back. What happens when you simple observe and notice all the expectations and it feels to have them? Look at them again. Where have they come from? Are they necessary, important, do they add to your life?
You can see the ‘shoulds’ and ‘have tos’ for what they really are; they aren’t rules by which you have to live by, they aren’t absolute truths, they are just thoughts your mind is holding on to. By seeing this you can you can choose to let go of expectations that have no meaning or satisfaction for you. And knowing this you can choose.
Making your own choices
You can choose to participate in activities leading up to Christmas that you value. That bring joy to your heart and that of your family. You can choose activities that focus on kindness, gratitude, togetherness. You don’t need to be religious to tap into the good will that exists at this time of the year, where most people are actually actively trying to make other people happy.
There is a lot of freedom that comes with being an adult and having so many choices to make. We might feel the heavy weight of expectations, but when we lose that weight it is not just freeing, it also exposes us and makes it vulnerable. I think that is one reason why treading your own path at Christmas, in line with your values and not others expectations, is so difficult, but for you, it might be the path to your Christmas calm..
Step One. Work out what is your most important family tradition.
The expectations around Christmas are very real. The great thing is that as an adult you are free to make your own choices about which expectations you will take on, and which you will choose to ignore. To increase your Christmas Calm decide what is the most important tradition for you family.
Find out what activities your family love doing in the lead up to Christmas and do it!
Do you know the number one thing each member in your family loves about Christmas?
What do you love most about Christmas?
Making and following traditions and sharing experiences are two of the glues that keep families together; and Christmas is tradition central!
In fact it can be tradition overwhelm. But when you know what each person in your family loves and wants to do, you reduce the overwhelm and create Christmas Calm.
...following traditions and sharing experiences are two of the glues that keep families together,
Being positive, choosing to cultivate happiness can attract some bad press. "You're not living in the real world", is one such comment. Thankfully many of our schools acknowledge how important positive mental health is and make space in their (very crowded) curriculum to teach positive psychology strategies such as growth mindset and gratitude.
Personally, I have always struggled with being positive and optimistic. Many days I am making the conscious choice to be positive, to choose the best way of living I know. Some days where energy levels are low and my mind turns to the thought that I can't wait for the day to be over, those are the days I need to make a choice, to use some of the practical, positive evidence based strategies that will dial up the happiness and energy.
So turning up each day and choosing to be positive, particularly on those days is a strength of character. It is learning these strategies that can make a very real difference in our mental health.
Positivity is not at odds with realism. To live fully in reality, it is essential to cultivate, and yes work on, positivity, optimism and happiness.
Being positive encompasses knowing your strengths as well as your weaknesses; practicing gratitude towards the people, experiences and resources in your life; having a growth mindset whereby you continue to learn and be open to all that is happening in your life; working on your cognitive flexibility whereby you can see there is more than one way of interpreting the world, more than one way of living your truth, always more than one way of thinking about everything.
Raising positive young people can be a horrendously difficult task in this world which often appears to be crumbling down around us. It takes strong, courageous parents and educators to guide our young people to live positively. There is nothing superficial about this at all.
Positive Young Minds is unashameably proud to work with parents, educators and young people to draw out their strengths, foster their courage and determination, and help them connect with the good, the greatness and the wonder of the world around them.
As parents or educators young people look to you to teach them and show them how to do this.
If you would like to learn more about how to increase levels of optimism in young people you look after simply send an email to email@example.com.
I did it! I switched off all internet for 5 days, and did not comment or post for another 3.
So how was it?
It was so incredibly easy. I know, I was surprised too. I had all this quiet. Here are the top 9 things I discovered.
With divorce and separation common in our society it can be easy to take it for granted and fail to recognise the stress it provides for children caught in the middle.
The impact this event has on the children involved depends on many factors. These factors can include, the age of the children, how the adults speak to each other, what the adults tell the children, whether the parental split results in a less stressed home environment, the shared care arrangements, and the personality and temperament of the children. There are so many things going on at this time and often children are left to cope in their own emotional turmoil whilst the adults are battling it out.
...imagine how your child may be feeling. ... They don’t know what is going to change, what will stay the same. Where is Christmas going to be? Who is going to come to the school concert? Can they go to a birthday party that is on when it is the other parent’s turn to have them?
When you read or hear the word mindfulness what reaction do you have?
Many people who come and see me state that mindfulness doesn’t work for them, they don’t want to do that ‘mindfulness stuff’, or that they’re sick of being told to breath. Their reaction is quite strong.
Practicing mindfulness underpins most of the work I do in therapy, and how I try and live my life, yet when I hear or read the word ‘mindfulness’ my reaction is not always positive.
I think it is because it has become such a populist word and tends to be tossed around like fairy floss, that the word itself is becoming diluted.
There is a part of my brain that still wants to automatically associate ‘mindfulness’ with a tall, young, skinny female with long hair sitting cross legged on a cushion. I don’t judge people who can do this – part of me would love to be that person, that person who seems to have their act together and exudes calm.
However, my mindfulness is not neat, and I am not that person. The process of practicing non-judgement of self and others, of focusing on my breath, of noticing my thoughts, feelings and actions; of seeing things for how they are, of deliberately focusing on the beauty and wonder around me, of practicing gratitude, and of taking committed action; these processes can be tough and demanding. Particularly when my brain is resistant and wants to hold on to incorrect beliefs, past failures and echoes of bullying. When my stress response is triggered and wants to run and hide, not sit on a cushion….
So why do it?
It tends to bring me peace, increase my feelings of happiness and allow me to respond to situations and people rather than react. It increases my feelings of gratitude and makes me feel calm.
So pay attention to your reaction to the word ‘mindfulness’. There is no right or wrong reaction. And by paying attention to your reaction you are practicing mindfulness (and isn’t that interesting).
* My aim is for these posts is meant to useful, interesting and/or inspiring. They are not designed to be used for therapy..
Kim Dunn is a Child Psychologist and Founder of Positive Young Minds.