A family Christmas – how to keep tensions at bay

Specialist Mental Health Nurse Adviser at Bupa UK
16 December 2016

Christmas is a great opportunity to get together with your family to enjoy the festivities. Yet while it’s all fun and joy for some, for others it can be quite an intense time. Here are my tips for how to manage with any tensions and work towards having a harmonious Christmas with your family.

Christmas dinner table

What’s not to love?

While some people have that perfect family who always get on, that’s as unrealistic as Santa Claus falling down their chimney for others. The fact is, many of us now live far away from family so that means uprooting to stay over for the festive period. And this can be quite hard work! After all, it's not like you can just pop by for lunch and then escape when you’ve run out of steam. You’re there for the duration, 24/7.

How to keep things festive

If tensions arise over the Christmas period, you need to try to keep in control of your emotions. Here are some ideas for how.

  • Learn from the past. Family can press your buttons better than anyone else. Rather than fall for your siblings winding you up, prepare yourself and don’t rise to the bait. The world is a better place for the variety of opinions in it. Even if your world view is dramatically different to that of your family, respect their right to have one.
  • Give yourself a break. It can be quite intense to be in the company of others all day and night if you’re not used to it. Take regular breathers to get some ‘me time’. Walk the dog or volunteer to get the shopping. Be inventive to escape!
  • Stop, think and share. If it’s all getting a bit too much for you, pause and think about why. Try to reflect to change your thoughts and manage your behaviours to reduce any problems first. But if it’s really bothering you, talk to your family before you blow up. A calm respectful request for understanding beats a heated argument.
  • Get some exercise. Just because you’re out of your routine, it’s no excuse to skip it. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins (the hormones that make you feel good), which you might need more than ever. Physical activity can also help to relieve stress and tension. Go for a run or take a walk to get some fresh air – both exercise and daylight are good for your mental and physical health.
  • Accept everybody is different. And everybody responds to pressure and reacts to stressful events in different ways. While you might think it’s fine to take a call during Christmas lunch, this might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for your mother!
  • Be mindful. If you're feeling a bit stifled at home, mindfulness can be a great skill to have to hand. This is a mind-body based training that uses meditation, breathing and yoga techniques to help you focus on your thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness helps you manage your thoughts and feelings better, instead of being overwhelmed by them. We have a range of blogs on mindfulness where you can learn the techniques and how it can help you.
  • Enjoy it. Follow these tips to get the most out of every second you get to spend together with your family.

Glenys Jackson
Specialist Mental Health Nurse Adviser at Bupa UK

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