Your Christmas Coaching Survival Guide…

By Karen Amos

So here it is – my coaching guide to surviving Christmas!

When I say ‘Christmas’, I’m talking about the general Christmas celebrations we have in the UK, not the religious festival.  I do feel these are two markedly different things.

So how did it all get so out of control?

There are reports of Christmas being commercialised since the late 1800’s and perhaps even before, so it’s not necessarily a ‘new’ thing.  Santa had been illustrated as dressed in red in the mid 1800’s, but Coca Cola famously linked Santa to its brand colours.  The reason?  It was difficult to sell fizzy drinks in winter!  We’re now in the situation where parents take their children to see the Coca Cola truck and ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the spectacle.  Well that clearly worked didn’t it?

The 1947 film Miracle on 34th St is basically about the over-commecialisation of Christmas in a store.  Did you know that even Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer was invented in 1939 by another department store to sell merchandise?

So, this retail extravaganza really isn’t that new – along with the stress that we associate with the build up.

The evergreen Christmas stress is tough enough without all the financial concerns people are now having.  So, if the thought of Christmas is causing you more stress than pleasure, this is the perfect opportunity to do something different and have the Christmas you really want.

I say this as someone who took charge of their Christmas years ago.  I got tired of the retail-obsessed, drink-and-eat-all-you-can-fest, so started my own tradition of going to the Cairngorms for Christmas.  My husband and I have one low-key ‘Christmas do’ with our family before departing to the Highlands in our campervan.  We walk in the snow on Cairngorm summit on Christmas morning, before having an expensive bottle of wine and tapas and other nibbles for Christmas ‘dinner’.

Lots of people say they are jealous of us being able to do this, but they could just as easily do this themselves if they chose.   It’s completely in anyone’s gift to change.

But it’s not that easy?

My advice is to think about your absolute ‘must have’s’ for Christmas – what’s really important?  It’s unlikely to be a cuddly toy vegetable from a discount supermarket, or a huge credit card bill and a 7-day hangover!

Here’s a great coaching question to take a step out of your usual mindset:

‘If I could do anything I wanted at Christmas – what would I be doing?’

Your ‘dream’ Christmas may not be possible, but often it’s nearer than you think.

Once you’ve answered this question, pick out the elements that make Christmas special for you, what’s given you joy in the past – and also which bits would you gladly bin!

Then work out all the ways, including seemingly impossible ones, to make this happen.

It often helps to do this with someone else, so they can help you find the solutions and work-arounds.

A big fear is that family and friends will be upset or offended if you’re not doing what they want, so remember:

#1 – You can’t control other people – just yourselves.

#2 – There may be ways you can spend time with family and friends, but in a way that still meets your needs.

#3 – Even if some people are disappointed, they’ll get over it!  Let’s face it, by new year, Christmas is already a distant memory for most people.

#4 – Stick to your guns if you’re doing something radically different.  Once you’ve made the change, it’s much easier in future to continue with this.

This was definitely the case on our first year going to the Cairngorms, but now everyone expects us to do this and it’s no big deal.

If you’re worried about what other people will think, or have some ‘shoulds’ or ‘oughts’, ask yourself ‘who says?’

And what will actually happen if you don’t do it everyone else’s way?  The answer is usually ‘not much’.

Another idea for changing things is to give your Christmas a theme – for example, you could hold an ‘eco Christmas’ where you waste as little as possible, or a ‘sharing Christmas’ where everyone pitches in, or even a ‘charity donation Christmas’.

Think about ways you can make this transition:

  • Buffees instead of huge meals
  • Everyone brings something
  • Everyone brings their own glasses
  • A Secret Santa where you just buy one present for each member of the family
  • Going out for a walk instead of a huge drinking session
  • ‘Buying’ a grand day out to be used later in the year, instead of shop-bought gifts – we found our elderly parents would much prefer a special day out, than yet more ‘stuff’ they don’t need!

Just remember – the constant messages we see and hear are designed for one thing – to help businesses part you from your cash.

I have a business too – I get it – and there’s nothing wrong with buying a nice gift for someone.  Let’s just do it in a way that makes everyone happy.

What are your top tips for a stress-free Christmas?

Check out our Positive and Productive Wellbeing programme for schools.  We offer many more coaching tips and approaches to help you manage your time and stress and build a positive mindset.  CLICK HERE to check out our web page for more info, or to book.

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Karen Amos is an executive coach and founder of BrightBird Coaching & Training. She supports leaders and managers to get the best out of themselves and their teams. She brings a down-to-earth, practical approach to improving working lives through better leadership, communication and working relationships. 

Your Christmas Coaching Survival Guide...