International self-help author Anne Jones, celebrates her birthday on Christmas Eve and she can recall several past birthdays when after baking Yule log, mince pies and fruit cake, buying and wrapping presents, sending out hundreds of cards, making crackers, putting up decorations, settling family disputes over who was going where, prepping the veggies and stuffing the turkey for the big day – she was too tired to get off the sofa let alone go out and celebrate her big day.
So, over the years, she has learnt to create a better balance between planning, activity and downtime. Here is her tried and tested advice:
Setting the bar too high
Do you try to make every meal from scratch, do you worry endlessly about the gifts you will buy, do you angst about every small detail? If you do, then you may well be a perfectionist.
I see this as an affliction like OCD, a condition to heal and a problem to resolve. You are setting yourself up to failure, disappointment and anxiety. You will never be satisfied with your efforts and you will cause distress not only to yourself but everyone around you.
Have your high standards, but you will be more comfortable and find more enjoyment, let alone being far easier to live with, if you use the maxim for life “I do the best I can”, then relax. Just don’t push yourself too hard; ask yourself who you are trying to impress; will the family have a better time if you have baked the mince pies or bought them? What short cuts can you take and still feel that you have magically created a beautiful festive scene? Be kind to yourself and take off the pressure where you can.
So many of us have split families that the choices of where we spend the holidays can be a headache. One of the ways my friends with large families in Asia manage this problem is to have an Open Day when they ask all the family and even friends to drop by and join in when it suits them and they put on a buffet so there is food available for visitors all day long. Each day of their festivities a different home is open so there is flexibility for everyone to come and go or stay as long as they wish.
Like most families we have family squabbles going on but I decided a long time ago that I couldn’t allow myself to get involved and I ask everyone and just hope that they will all get along fine on the day and they usually do.
Never enough time
Do you get to the point that you have lists of your lists? Of course, planning is the key to success and these lists are essential. However, we often don’t allow enough time for the tasks. Double the time you normally allow for all journeys, take everything of the list that is non-essential and can be rescheduled, allow some free evenings without any social activity and ask for help – share shopping lists with friends, get family involved and remember to keep breathing!
Energetically, all the things on your to-do list and all the people you want to please are sitting on your shoulders. Take a five-minute break to calm down and perform this short ritual to release the pressure.
• Put your feet firmly on the floor.
• Close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly four times.
• Your energy is scattered so spread your arms out and imagine you are gathering in all that vitality and dispersed energy and bringing it back to your core – your solar plexus. Do this three times.
• Use your hands to sweep the burdens from your shoulders and neck and flick away this heavy energy. Do this three times.
• Take another four deep slow breathes.
Now you are fit to go! Good luck and enjoy.