I haven’t spent Christmas with our extended family in years because most of them live over 4,000 miles away. For a while I allowed myself to become obsessed with this thought and in time found that I dreaded Christmas day. I would feel unhappy even when surrounded by my husband, children, and friends.
Over time I figured my stress over Christmas was caused by my unrealistic expectations and not my situation.
Don’t let expectations press your stress Buttons
Over the last month, I must have been asked a million times whether I have finished doing my Christmas shopping and what the kids want from Santa. Growing up I had very different expectations of Christmas; there was no Santa coming down the chimney, no presents under the tree and no overindulgence in Chocolate either. Aww! How sad! You may be thinking.
Well, despite what you may think I have wonderful memories of Christmas; going to midnight carol service on Christmas Eve, feeling on top of the world as I stepped into my new floral dress and shiny shoes on Christmas Morning, the joy of spending time with my extended family at our grandparents and tearing into the glorious charcoal roasted meat.
It’s sad to read that for some people Christmas is one of the most stressful times. Mental health charities report that it’s not just the elderly that are lonely around Christmas time but increasingly many young people are too. It’s hard to imagine that for some people Christmas brings about panic attacks, anxiety and depression.
Perhaps you too are struggling to keep up with other peoples or your own expectations of Christmas and life. Allow me to share with you some truths that will save you a lot of stress and unhappiness.
1. Life is not perfect
I watched our younger daughter play a piece on the piano and all was going well until she missed a note. She stopped and turned to me with a disappointed look. A look I have become familiar with. She is a little perfectionist who loves to do everything well, very well I must say. She receives nearly perfect reports from school and in her own words, she is never in trouble because she is one of the sensible kids in her class.
Life experience teaches me that although this is admirable I do really want to help our girl learn that it’s Okay not to be perfect. I worry about a time in the future when she will fail to meet her high expectations and become very disappointed. I would like us to equip her with the ability to handle imperfect situations and make the most of them. I love the African saying – ‘A beautiful thing is never perfect’. If we are to find beauty in our lives we must learn to embrace it with its imperfections
2. Adopt a Healthy Mindset
A healthy mindset is developed by living in the moment and not in what could have been. Accept that it’s perfectly okay for your experience to be completely different from other people. In life there are those things we can change, others take time while some have to be embraced as they are. Having a healthy mindset helps us to sort out which things fall into which category. It helps us to learn that disappointments don’t spell the end of something in most cases they are valuable life experiences.
3. Keep Hope Alive
France Road trip – Not so Romantic
This past summer I had my own romantic ideas. We had planned to go on our first holiday to France by road. So in my romantic dreamy world, I imagined it would be like what you see in the movies. The children would sing happily in the back, I would catch up on my Kindle reading while enjoying the view of the beautiful English and French countryside. What was I thinking?
Well as you may have guessed my romantic bubble bust even before we set off. A few days before the journey illness struck. One of our girls and I went down with a chest infection. Next, the car developed some troubles a day after it had been serviced and to dampen things further it rained heavily on that morning we were due to travel.
My heart sunk and I immediately regretted planning the whole thing. My thoughts turned from excitement to dread. I didn’t want to imagine how the rest of the week would be like.
I had failed to deliver a perfect holiday. Just then a reassuring thought crossed my mind – ‘It will be alright’. And just like that my heart lifted. I felt hopeful not because anything had changed but because my mind began to focus on a positive outcome –no matter how things looked. In the end, the holiday was more than I could have asked for.
Maybe you feel like that right now about your life, you have regrets about some of your life decision. Remember life is not perfect, adopt a healthy mindset and keep hope alive – it will be alright.
What’s your experience of Christmas? I’d love to hear from you.
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