The winter holiday season is full of opportunities for family feuds, disappointing dinners and other stresses.
Don't bother denying the inevitable, says Vancouver psychologist Randy Paterson, you probably won't have a picture perfect Christmas. Embrace that and move on.
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"Let's not even think about how to avoid the stress of the holidays, we're no good at that," Paterson said. "Why don't we go the opposite direction and say how to have a completely miserable holiday."
Paterson is an expert on the path to gloomy wretchedness. He's worked as a psychologist for the past three decades and recently wrote a book called How to Be Miserable: 40 Strategies You Already Use.
Here are some of those strategies, tailored especially for the holidays.
1. Fuel relationship fantasies
"Aim to have a really deep and personal connection with everybody in your family, despite the fact that they live hundred of miles apart," he said. "You are just not going to be able to have the fantasy relationship that you'd really like to have with every single person and to do that flawlessly."
2. Cast a Christmas special
"Cast your family without them knowing it in a kind of Christmas play," he said. "Inevitably, we are going to fail because everybody's holiday is going to have some parts that are not so great and it's not going to look like a Christmas special."
3. Drink too much, often
"One common coping mechanism that a lot of people use with family is that they use alcohol as a way of overcoming some of the friction," Paterson said. "Although tempting, that is not all that helpful because it also loosens the tongue and people get into more trouble than it benefits."
4. Have the expectations of a five-year-old
"There is just huge expectation," he said. "You will not feel like a five-year-old enamoured by Christmas the entire time because you are not five."
5. Overcommit to everything
"People will have expectations for you, just the way they do the entire rest of the year, but if you make it the agenda of your entire life to live up to the expectations of other people, you are going to have an unhappy life. And if you do it at Christmas, you are probably going to have an unhappy Christmas too," Paterson said.
With files from Ash Kelly