Avoiding Resentment at Christmas
As we move closer to the festive season, a lot of people find themselves starting to feel stressed, anxious and even nervous. Christmas is weeks away and that means family get-togethers, work parties, kids pantomimes, present purchasing and a whole lot more. It's unavoidable to miss the Christmas Hype, it starts in freakin October! There is a sneaky section next to the Halloween stuff? Really WHY??
The pressure often comes crumbling down ending in at least one argument, bitterness and total resentment.
Isn't Christmas suppose to be about happiness, joy, fun, love, and merriness? Or is that simply what we all think we all "should" be doing?
There is this expectation that one must comply at this time of year because that is what's done. Well, from one rule breaker to you. Don't let this Christmas be ruined by resentment instead lets walk through how to make your Christmas what you really want - ditch the fantasy and let's get honest for a moment.
Resentment at Christmas
Firstly, when I speak of resentment know that it is a complex multilayered emotion. Rooted at it's core is the perception of unfairness or unfair situations. Thus feelings of disappointment, anger, frustration, disgust and fear rise from within.
Resentment is usually caused when we witness or experience an event that crosses our internal/emotional boundaries. Where we see it as an unjust act, yet do nothing about it. We conform!! So deep within, we start bashing ourselves up to live up to these expectations that we need to comply with how things need to be at Christmas. This can look like, showing up religiously to Christmas dinners with the family each year but you have a deep yearning to start something with your own family. So you drag your family to where the action is, you sit politely at the table, doing all the things one should do at Christmas, which was set by someone along the line and is now somewhat mandatory. You hate it, but you did it all the same. This is resentment at it's core. You have a desire for something different but are not doing anything about it, you simply take it for what it is worth.
We can also feel resentful about the people we surround ourselves with. Especially if it all feels forced. Bringing people together to have a Christmas meal where there is tension and awkwardness. Everyone pushes aside their feelings for a few hours, to play the role of Christmas joy. But in truth, you hate the fact you are spending it with people that don't even make you feel good.
Perhaps you resent when someone might speak out of turn, or does not deliver on their end of the Christmas cheer, so you might resent them for their actions. Maybe you resent the person who goes to all the trouble of setting the itinerary for the festive period, you play along with them because it's easier than fighting for your cause. Over the coming days it wears you down, and you start bickering behind their back - they only wanted to bring people together, right! Yet you may have had other plans.
Honestly, Christmas really does bring out the best and worst in all of us.
And then there are the fucking presents. The obnoxious drum, xylophone or battery-operated plastic firetruck gives you a heart attack each time the button is pressed. Ahhhh. How's the resentment on that one? Isn't the gift meant to bring the child joy, it really does but it drives you mental. Why do they have to do that, go out of their way to find the cheapest, noisest, plastic shit to give to your kids (yes I'm a little bit of a hippy on presents) but it's real. Christmas resentment lurks everywhere.
Probably by now, you might be thinking I'm a total scrooge. Ha ha, Well, I'm totally not. I freaking LOVE Christmas. But I also do it my way without any stress because I don't have time for stupid shit anymore. I don't have anyone's expectations to consider but my own and what I want for my family.
Tips for conquering Christmas Resentment
1. Paint an honest picture of what Christmas is to you.
Firstly, what does Christmas mean to you? Is it gathering your family to sit down for a big beautiful meal, with endless table chatter catching up on everyone's lives. Perhaps it's a barbie by the beach with a few of your family friends followed by an afternoon of cricket (yes, it's a thing, and yes I'm an Aussie), what if Christmas was indulging in a week-long getaway skiing mountains, sitting by a fire, toasting marshmallows. What if Christmas was lunch with your whole fam-bam in a hall because there are that many of you that it turns into a party that goes into the night?
What do you want your Christmas to look like? Who do you want to be spending time with? What do you want to be doing?
I'm giving you permission to not buy into the hype, the marketing, the rules. I want you to be honest about what it is you really want. Let go of the 'Shoulds'
Pick three words that symbolise Christmas. It's time to rewrite the rules.
2. Set some realistic expectations for Christmas
Yes, I'm sure some of you have already made plans. And that's totally fine. But it's making the most out of them. Don't come in like a grumpy grouch, flinging your expectations around - explore how you can enjoy your time with whomever it is you are spending it with. Shift your expectations to what is important for you. What does Christmas mean (again above, I know) but this will help you see where you can elevate some of your expectations. Make some realistic ones to deal with what is coming your way.
If your Christmas works like clockwork each year, instead of fighting it - ask yourself how you can contribute in a way that feels good for you (instead of forcing)
Juggling all the responsibility of what needs to happen? Come on.... Does Christmas really need to be that snazzy, you can keep it simple, it's okay - its about driving home what is important. Set the expectations with grace, this year we will eat duck and I'm going to get it from the Chinese shop around the corner the day before. Hey, I bet you didn't know that in Japan the national Christmas dinner is actually KFC?? Say what? I know. See we can all do it how we want.
Christmas is not about perfection.
Look at where you are placing far too much weight on things that really don't matter. Choose what is important.
Is it lunch or dinner? Who's coming, family, friends or both? Are we eating in or going out? Who's cooking? How many presents? When do we open the presents? What kind of presents? Are you home this year or going away?
3. Set some boundaries
Once you are clear on your expectations, know your limits and what you are willing to tolerate - its time to set some boundaries! Yes, you need to speak up and communicate what you are and aren't wiling to do. Yes, it might get weird, but is it better to live by what you have been told to do - or live your best life doing what you want to do? There are no obligations that you need to adhere to. We all have a choice. We can keep things the same or we can set boundaries to support us during this hectic time of year.
Christmas Boundaries might look like
- Only staying at your in-laws for two-hours for lunch only
- Saying No to cooking the traditional Christmas feast
- Not talking politics with Uncle Grant because he just spirals into frustration and you get stuck there forever
- Setting your availability of when best works for you to spend time with extended family
- Adhering to a budget for Christmas gifts (and outlining No Plastic)
If you want to read more on setting boundaries - read Six Steps to Set & Maintain Boundaries
4. When you feel resentment, ask why?
Don't just push it aside. It's the worst thing you can do, especially if it is going to bubble away for another four plus weeks. You will erupt! It might not be in public but those emotions will need an outlet. The thing with resentment, its from our own internal expectations remember, what we deem as unfair. So if you feel a rise of emotion, instead of taking it out on the other person or blaming them. Sorry to tell you, it's your own fault that you are feeling this way. This brings up the big old question WHY?? Explore the reason that you feel so passionate about this wrongful unfairness. What is the story that sits there? Go one further, where did you learn it, who from and how?
Finally, you need to ask yourself, is this my truth?
5. Practice gratitude
This is actually probably the best practice for anyone who finds resentment creeping in. Look at the situation and the people for what it is and find love, compassion, grace and empathy. Remind yourself what you are indeed grateful for. And this can go back to help you decide on what makes Christmas special for you. Its those moments of joy. Sometimes while we hold resentment we can still be grateful to have had the opportunity to catch up with our sisters, eat the most scrumptious trifle or that your husband got you those expensive cotton sheets you have been eyeing off. Witnessing the good in situations is just as impactful as holding on to resentment. We can either be grateful for the experience and see the positives that do live there or we can let our resentment cloud what is actually happenings. Remember it all comes back to our expectations, so choose them wisely, let some of them go, so you can be OPEN to see the love and light of Christmas.
6. Make better choices
At the end of the day, it comes down to choice. We can either choose to allow our resentment to fill us and keep things the same as always. OR we can make a choice to prioritise our happiness, set some boundaries, invest in the feel-good moments and focus on what this time of year signifies to us. Our resentment is formed from past patterns, thus we have expectations that we now hold as our own. When we break free from the 'Should' we relieve the stress, anxiety and pressure we have placed on our own shoulders. It's a gift to yourself, right?
Compromise can definitely be on the table too, especially if you are breaking traditions, this is not about cutting and running for the hills. It's about addressing what is important for you during this time of year and how to make it happen in a way that feels good for you.
Christmas is a time to celebrate, as to how you do that, it's entirely down to you. Remember to come back to your truth, let go of unnecessary high expectations and keep it real focusing on what matters to you the most. Plus sprinkle a bit of gratitude around, it's nice to be present in the moment and celebrate.