Christmas season is a time of reunion. Sons and daughters come home to celebrate, some with their own children in town.
Images of a storybook Christmas mix with a hectic holiday schedule and complex emotions can make the holidays particularly stressful. Sad memories, guilt, resentment and unresolved conflict often surface when we come together. We want to enjoy our precious time together, but a variety of emotions can get in the way: pressure to conform to family expectations or to give more than we can afford, the ache for absent loved one, etc. So, how can we de-stress the holiday family reunion?
Dr. Heyam Loutfi, Rafik Hariri University Associate Professor of Education and Psychology and a counselor and therapist, offers three magical steps.
Take Care of Yourself
“During the holidays, we have too many expectations, often media-induced. We may also have negative associations with a holiday, sometimes by mere coincidence, which resurface during the season,” says Loufti.
“Breathe. Relax. Let everything go. Be kind to yourself.”
A hot bath, a massage, a quiet moment with a cup of tea and scented candles - a little self-pampering does wonders to change your mood.
Try spending time in Lebanon’s beautiful nature, taking a whiff of crisp winter air and enjoy the country’s spectacular views.
Put on some beautiful music. It has a peaceful, calming effect.
During those quiet moments, consider what you really want to do. Loufti also advises us to “welcome positive change.” We don’t have to replicate the same celebration year after year; we can free ourselves to do the things we really want to do, whether traditional or not. Maybe that means having Christmas dinner in a café or going to the cinema together instead of entertaining at home.
Take Care of Each Other
Turn off the mobiles and engage with each other.
Agree on a time to focus on each other. Talk, play charades or board games or whatever you like to do.
During that time, ask everyone to turn off their phones and put them in a basket.
Be open to each other’s needs and wishes. Everyone has been living independently throughout the year, so flowing into a harmonious lifestyle while together won’t be easy. Listen and be flexible.
Set boundaries with “toxic” family members the uncle who sometimes drinks too much or the cousin who criticizes everything from food to gifts. Be positive, yet firm. Let them know you are happy they’re with you, but tell them when they cross the line.
Take Care of the Future
A long-term view helps us keep things in perspective.
Sometimes we feel pressured to spend more on gifts or entertaining than we should. Or we invest time and energy in trying to do it all, rather than savoring the moment, and end up run-down and sick. Or we eat too much and regret it later.
Think about what will matter later, after the presents are unwrapped and the tree is packed away – the most important things should be your relationships and your family’s well-being. A thoughtful, inexpensive gift and a quiet moment with a dear relative will warm our hearts throughout the year to come.