Christmas is meant to be ‘The most wonderful time of the year’. A season marked by love, joy, peace and goodwill to all.
But sadly, Christmas does not always deliver everything that the carols and stories promise. In fact, it can be the most difficult time of the year when your memories of past Christmas’ has been impacted by a family crisis, family rifts, disappointment, violence or grief.
As you anticipate December 25, you are bombarded with reminders, triggering feelings of emotional vulnerability, irritability and anger. You feel like a ticking time-boom, just waiting for the trigger that will release all the pent up anger within you.
For many people, anger is nurtured by their high expectations and the inevitable disappointment when reality does not live up to the expectation. Can you identify with that experience?
When you are able to identify your unrealistic expectations of Christmas, you will be able to enjoy festivities without letting your anger destroy the season. Here are four ways you can manage your anger this Christmas.
Let go of your expectations of Christmas
What expectations do you hold for Christmas? You set yourself up for disappointment and an outburst of anger when the expectations you hold for Christmas are not realised. Is it realistic to expect that the day will go smoothly without drama? Is it realistic to expect that family members will ‘get along’ with each other? If problems exist within your family, then those problems will inevitably emerge when the family gets together because emotions are heightened and easily triggered.
Approach Christmas Day with the knowledge that whilst it is a day that celebrates love, joy, peace and the bond of family, your family relationships and interactions may not live up to the ‘ideal family Christmas’. Determine to enjoy the day for what it is, and let go of what you expect Christmas ‘should’ look like. Focus on appreciating the day in its ‘ordinariness’ – look out for the simple things that make the day pleasurable.
By approaching the Christmas season with this attitude you will feel less irritable and more appreciative of the small pleasures that Christmas brings.
Let go of your personal expectations
Personal expectations are notorious for beginning with the words ‘I should..’
I should feel happy
I should have a gift for everyone
I should be excited about being with family
I should create the perfect Christmas dinner
When you hear yourself beginning a thought with ‘I should’, ask yourself ‘why’? The expectations you hold for yourself create stress and put you under unnecessary pressure. Let go of personal expectations that increase anxiety and stress and you will be able to approach the day feeling much calmer and more in control of your anger.
Let go of the expectations you have for other people
What do you expect from the people you will spend Christmas with? What do you believe they ‘should’ do or ‘should not’ do? (Notice the ‘shoulds’ again?)
They should know what I want for Christmas
They should ‘get on’ with each other without those ‘snide remarks’ and inappropriate behaviours
They should do Christmas according to our family traditions
They should be delighted when they open my gift
The children should play nicely together without any dramas!
When you hold expectations for the way other people behave, you will be disappointed every time and your anger will overcome the pleasure you could otherwise experience.
Take personal responsibility for your enjoyment of the day
By determining to ‘let go’ of your unrealistic expectations of Christmas Day and having a few strategies to help you remain calm and settled, you take responsibility for your own enjoyment of the day. Here are some suggestions:
- Be mindful of how much alcohol you drink. Drink it slowly and have a glass of water between each drink of alcohol.
- Withdraw from situations that you anticipate will be a trigger for anger. Go for a walk, or choose to sit quietly in another room.
- Have an object with you that has a calming effect when you hold it (a favourite object that instills good feelings or a stress ball)
WatersedgeCounselling is booked up over the Christmas season. You can book now for an appointment in 2021. Just contact us on 0434 337 245 for a FREE 10-minute phone consultation on how we can best help you or press here (Select later date if your appointment options appear blank).