Help Me, Helen

How to enjoy Christmas and avoid burn out

How to enjoy Christmas and avoid burn out
Photo: Manfred Werner/Wikimedia
With most of the Christkindlmarkts already open in Vienna, it's time to start thinking about Christmas, if you haven't already. Marriage and Family Therapist Helen Rudinsky has advice on how to survive the festive season.

Even though not everyone celebrates Christmas, the coming weeks here in Austria will be dominated by it. So if you live here, it's good to remember that you can make choices that reflect your values and desires so this holiday season is a very special time for you.

Especially as expats, being away from our home country, family and friends, we need to be proactive to make the holiday season meaningful for us.

Christmas can be a wonderful time, but sadly for many it is a time of stress and disappointment. Here are some pointers to help you live your life during the holiday season with a sense of calmness and joy.

If you follow these guidelines you will be better able to avoid the clutter, excess and burn out common during the holiday season.

Most people want and need Christmas to be simpler, easier and less expensive.  Usually Christmas is more satisfying if each event, gift and person can be enjoyed and appreciated in a meaningful way.

Why not spend a few minutes thinking about what is important to you? What are your feelings, desires and values and how do you want to plan this holiday season? Talk with family members, friends and others close to you about what you and they want from this holiday season.

No matter how busy things get, you can make a commitment to become aware of what fills you with joy and what saps your energy.

Your goal should be to make Christmas meaningful, fun and enjoyable, and eliminate activities that you, your family and friends don't like. If you spend a few minutes with your loved ones discussing your priorities, there should be no room for things you find too commercialized, irritating or empty.

Here are some questions to ask each other:

  • What are the things you like about Christmas?
  • Are you comfortable with the amount of money you usually spend?
  • Are you happy with the place of the gifts in your celebration?
  • Are you happy with the amount of socializing that takes place?
  • How do you want to celebrate the religious meaning of Christmas?
  • What things add meaning and depth?
  • What things are superfluous and irritating?
  • What has worked well for you, your partner, friends, and family members?
  • What has been a source of conflict between you, your partner, friends, and family members?
  • If you could pick three favourite activities – excluding opening presents and eating – what would they be?
  • What are activities you have done in the past that you don't want to do any more?
  • What are activities your friends or other families do that you want to start doing?
  • Do you like the way all the various Christmas activities are paced?

What you learn can help make this season more fun and satisfying for everyone close to you. Planning ahead can help you create a more relaxed and joyous season.

You may have to stand against the tide and say no to certain activities and people, but this year you can have a Christmas that is calm, joyous and meaningful.

Helen Rudinsky is a Marriage and Family Therapist serving couples, individuals and children in Vienna's expat community.