Purported in song to be ‘The most wonderful time of the year’.
A season marked by love, joy, peace and goodwill to all.
People anticipate Christmas Day as a day of celebrating with family, gift-giving and a festive meal.
Our anticipation is heightened as the latest Christmas Cinema Movie is advertised (this year’s offering is Rise of the Guardian) and re-runs of old Christmas movies dominate the T.V. menu.
Carols by Candlelight features well-known songs whose lyrics talk about the joy, peace and love that Christmas promises to bring.
Sadly, it may be your experience that Christmas has not always delivered everything that the Christmas songs and stories promise. Christmas 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 Christmas Day is anticipated, you are bombarded with Christmas 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 the season without letting your anger hijack it.
1. Let go of your expectations of Christmas
I have to confess that I love watching Christmas movies. The typical formula for a good Christmas movie goes something like this: as Christmas approaches everything goes wrong; relationships break-up, snow storms prevent travel, accidents and family drama occur. In spite of all the challenges that are thrown up to prevent a happy family Christmas get-together, barriers are finally overcome and the movie concludes with the scene of a happy family enjoying Christmas together.
The message of these movies is that no matter what difficulties you face, Christmas is a magical time when challenges are overcome, relationships are healed and families come together in unity and love to celebrate the season.
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.
2. 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.
3. 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 hijack the pleasure you could otherwise experience.
4. 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 on your person that has a calming effect when you hold it (a favourite object that instill good feelings or a stress ball)
Planning ahead can ensure that you have an enjoyable Christmas without the threat of your anger hijacking it.
Is anger robbing you of joy over the holidays? Contact Colleen on 0434 337 245 or Duncan on 0434 331 243 for a FREE 10 minute consultation on how we can best help you or book online now.