Many international families use to travel from one family to the other, visit extended family and friends in very short time, trying to “do it right” – or they choose to stay and have family visiting. Especially during this time of the year, cultures tend to collide: everyone wants to celebrate the way he or she was used to, which can lead to discussions among partners already. If you then add extended family to the plate, it becomes a very stressful and not really peaceful time of the year.
Every year, my husband and I discuss about how to celebrate all the festivities, and although we adapted some traditions, skipped some others, there are some basic aspects we don’t want to miss. This is supposed to be a contemplative time of the year, where we count our blessings.
Here are some tips on how to reduce stress during these days and to keep everything simple(r):
1 Divide the tasks
If you have guests at Christmas you probably tend to feel responsible that everything is perfect and end up doing it all by yourself?
If you don’t want to end up exhausted after a few days, plan the busiest days in advance by dividing the tasks. Involve your family and guests, by assigning tasks you know they are able to do. Keep them busy. One can help in the kitchen, the next one can load/unload the dishwasher, set the table, others can play with the kids or go for a walk…
And if you are the guest: offer your help to the host by asking to do tasks you like and are able to do – and don’t take “no” for an answer…
2 Don’t bother about what others (could) expect from you
This is in addition to point one. If you have the impression that others expect more from you, take one step back and let them explain what they mean before getting anxious.
It’s often a matter of perception and expectation. When others expect more and different than we want or can do, it is their problem, not ours.
If you still hear the “perfectionist-voice” humming in your head, ask yourself if this is your voice or maybe the one of your mother, friend etc. talking… If it happens to be your voice, then ask yourself if it is really more important than spending time with your children, partner, extended family. If not: drop it. If it is more important: ask for help.
And if is still not exactly how you imagined it to be: nobody will notice but you… And what you did surely is enough.
There is nothing more annoying than a host running around all the time, tidying up and not being able to sit down and relax. If you are the host, plan quiet moments where you enjoy your family and friends. And if you are visiting, give the host the opportunity to rest, sit down and have a chat. Ask open questions to engage in conversations (i.e. all questions that can not be answered by a simple “yes” or “no”). – By helping with the tasks, like mentioned in 1, you can contribute to a more relaxed and festive atmosphere.
4 Get some me-time
Every family has her own routines and habits. If a few families gather together, after a few days – sometimes even after a few hours – there can be some tensions… It is very important to take one step back every now and then and get some me-time. Twenty minutes can be enough, maybe you need an hour. Long walks or other kind of outings for small groups of like-minded persons in the group can be very beneficial. Even taking a longer shower in the morning can help to feel like a little personal spa.
5 Keep it simple
You don’t have to be better than last year, the year before or someone else in the family. It’s not a competition and perfection is an illusion. You don’t have to prove to anybody that you’re a good cook, mother/father, wife/husband, daughter, friend etc. If you’re the host, you’re entitled to set the rules. Lower down your very own expectations and instead of getting stressed beforehand, organize some help, keep the menus simple(r) – or delegate part of them! – and don’t feel responsible for everything. And if you are the guest: try to be proactive and help the host. – In the end, what we all want is to spend a peaceful and relaxing holiday season.