Day 5 – A Sensitive Cynic’s Christmas Survival Guide.
If I could hazard a guess, I’d say the #1 thing most people would like to eliminate completely at Christmas is stress.
Wouldn’t it be lovely to be chilled out throughout December, calmly crossing off the items on the to-do list, having enough time to rest and enjoy ourselves, seeing everyone in our household happy, healthy and contented? Wouldn’t it just give you a wonderful warm fuzzy feeling?
There are plenty of “how to’s” when it comes to making a stress free Christmas. Blogs, magazines and books galore. But is it actually realistic or even desirable, really?
Most things that are worth doing well involve an element of pressure and stress. Take, for example, planning a wedding, or a charity event, or a child’s birthday party. You have a vision of how you want the day to be, and it requires planning and work to make it a reality. Depending on how much time you have, and how ambitious your vision is, you may endure a string of late nights, challenges to overcome, unforeseen circumstances to navigate, long to-do lists, difficult people to deal with and tight deadlines. You have to factor in things taking longer than you thought they would, people and companies letting you down, and unforeseen dramas or illness. Your head is full, your mind and body exhausted. And then when the day arrives and goes mostly how you visualised it would, you declare “it was worth all the stress and sleepless nights!”. (If it doesn’t go to plan, well, that’s another story…)
I reckon Christmas definitely falls into the “event planning” category for many of us. The problem is, it’s not a quiet time in other areas of our lives. There’s inevitably going to be increased activity with family commitments, work, school, social events, church and charity work etc. For many people, the diary fills up before they know it, and then they have very little time to actually prepare for the Big Day.
And so at this “magical” time of year, when we usually like to spend time with loved ones, and maybe practise hospitality and generosity; many of us are running around like headless chickens trying to plan the event of Christmas with hardly any spare time, energy reserves or patience to draw from. It’s a big ask really.
I’ve done my fair share of event planning of many kinds, and despite my struggles and sensitivities, it’s something I enjoy doing. I actually get quite a buzz from the whole process to be honest, as long as I get to be in the driving seat and have a completely free reign, of course. That said, I love working in partnership with people who I work well with, like my husband or my community music partner. But don’t ask me to organise an event to someone else’s vision, I just can’t do it. I’m too much of a
control freak free spirit.
So in a way, I find the process of planning an event quite addictive. I just can’t resist it. And frustratingly, the creative side of my brain often only lights up when there’s a deadline looming. Because of this, there is always a price to pay. If I dream too big and get too ambitious on too tight a deadline, my family life gets turned upside down. My general well-being suffers. I don’t make the effort to eat well, I burn the candle at both ends, and then usually end up irritable, with a cold, spots and low energy by the time it’s all over, if not before.
I’ve concluded that, for someone like me, there will always need to be a certain amount of stress when preparing for any event; it keeps me on my toes and helps me to focus. A certain amount of pressure and realistic deadlines really work well for a procrastinator like me, as long as I’ve got some fuel in my energy tank. But there is a tipping point. When I’m at the point where the kids are hunting for socks because I’ve completely forgotten about the existence of dirty laundry all week, I need to reign in the perfectionism. When I realise I forgot to eat lunch and failed to go to bed before midnight three days in a row, I need to drop my standards a little. When I get a bit tetchy in my interactions with others, well, it’s time to drop a few items off the to do list. I once heard a wise saying “If you do this, you can’t do that”. You can’t do everything at 100%. There are only 24 hours in the day. There will always be some things we just have to let go, in order to make time for what we value the most.
In the next few days, I want to get back in front of that mirror again, and just look at some of the mindsets which actually add unnecessary stress to my Christmas, and to my event planning in general.
I believe that the weight of perfectionism, pride, unrealistic expectations, guilt and insecurity all end up tipping the scales towards breaking point. Over the last few years, I’ve begun a spiritual journey of throwing off the mindsets that hinder me and distract me. I’m going to be writing a little about that over the next few days, so stay tuned….
(There is no thought or task for today, because I am just introducing the themes for the next few posts. A day to catch up if I haven’t done the previous tasks).