INSIDE: Practical ideas to help you to stop stressing about Christmas and enjoy the festive season.
I love Christmas, or at least I love the idea of it. Every year I imagine relaxed, cosy evenings snuggled up by the fire with my family as we sip hot chocolate and watch Christmas movies. The reality is usually quite different! I can’t remember the last time I actually had time to sit and watch a Christmas film. But I often put them on for the kids while I rush around doing other things.
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Maybe you’re like me and find your stress levels go up a notch as December approaches. There always seems to be so much to do. There are festive preparations to organise, and Elf on the Shelf tricks to stage (if you have these naughty visitors!). We stress over making the budget stretch and what to buy those relatives who already have everything. So, is it any wonder that Christmas is the most stressful time of the year for many of us? In fact, a survey conducted by Healthline.com found that over 62% of people find the holiday season stressful, with most being concerned about their finances.
But wouldn’t it be great if this year could be different? What can we do to lighten the load and stop stressing about Christmas?
Table of Contents
- Start with some self care
- Practical festive stress-busting solutions
- Keep your cool
- Final thoughts
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Start with some self-care
It can be all too easy to charge full steam ahead into the holiday season with our sole focus on trying to give everyone else the perfect Christmas and meet their expectations. But it’s important to slow down a little and take some time to look after yourself too. Particularly this year, with all that Covid-19 has brought, it’s crucial to acknowledge what you have been through and take some steps to protect your own wellbeing this holiday season.
So here are some ideas to help ensure that you don’t put yourself at the bottom of your list of priorities:
Picture your ideal Christmas
Due to Covid restrictions, we may all face a very different Christmas this time around. So why not use it as an opportunity to reset? Instead of aiming to meet everyone else’s expectations, decide on what kind of Christmas you want and would enjoy the most. Imagine what it would look like. Who would be there? What would you be eating and doing? Does it involve a full-on traditional Christmas lunch with your extended family, or would you prefer a quieter day in your pyjamas watching Christmas movies with those closest to you?
Whatever you choose, keep this image at the front of your mind and work towards achieving it. Make sure you check in with those you love to see what they would like and do all you can to incorporate their wishes too.
In reality, our choices may be limited during this pandemic Christmas. But we can certainly take steps to achieve our goals, even if that requires us to be a bit creative.
If a busy family Christmas is at the top of your wish list, then you may have to rely on a bit of technology to connect with those you can’t be with in person. Zoom and FaceTime have certainly been invaluable in recent months in keeping us all connected. For more ideas on how to enjoy a socially distanced Christmas this year, check out this post.
No matter what your ideal Christmas, if anything comes along which threatens to ruin it, give yourself permission to say no. I understand that this may be difficult, but with a little lateral thinking and compromise, you can normally work things out. If you fancy a quiet Christmas at home, make plans to see your extended family on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. Where there’s a will, there is generally a way.
Deal with disappointment
We’ve had to deal with so much disappointment this year. Thanks to coronavirus, many of us have faced a drop in income, cancelled holidays, birthday parties and other gatherings with family and friends. The chances are that Christmas will also be affected and we have to be prepared for that.
Rather than getting stressed about Christmas being different this year, try to accept the situation for what it is. We’re living in unprecedented times, and we’re all in the same boat. Accept that we have to do what we can to stop the spread of the virus, but be optimistic that next year, we will most likely be able to be with our friends and family once more.
Allow yourself to feel sad and disappointed about the situation. That’s only a natural response but it’s important not to wallow in it. Instead, be proactive about creating a Christmas that you can look forward to within the remit of the Covid rules.
Maintain your daily routine
Avoid going to bed at 2 am in the run-up to Christmas just because you have a mountain of presents to wrap. Easier said than done, I know, but try to stick to your daily routine as best you can. Doing this will help you manage your stress levels and focus on the tasks you have to fulfil.
It’s so easy at this time of year to snack on all those festive treats. How often do we sneak a chocolate off the Christmas tree or have just one more gingerbread cookie? (Or is that just me?) But all that sugar can play havoc with your natural hormonal responses, your blood sugar and insulin levels. If you’re also sleep deprived, this will only add to your levels of stress and anxiety.
Instead, try to eat as much healthy food as possible and limit the amount of sugar you consume. Your body will thank you for it.
It can be all too easy to burn the candle at both ends over the Christmas season. With so much to do, it can be tempting to stay up late to plough through that to-do list. Or the lure of all those Christmas movies may be too much to resist. But getting enough sleep is one of the most powerful tools you have to reduce anxiety and keep your immune system healthy.
So do all you can to get enough rest. Discipline yourself to turn the TV off and get to bed early. Limit your caffeine after midday too to enhance your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.
By being well rested, you are more likely to stay positive and reduce your stress levels over the holiday season.
Get some fresh air
Getting away from the bustle of Christmas for a walk can help to reduce your stress levels and clear your head. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, try and get out for some fresh air. Take the opportunity to breathe slowly and deeply to restore a sense of calm.
Have a tipple, but not too many!
When we’re feeling stressed, many of us resort to alcohol to calm us down. But it’s important to remember that this doesn’t help. If fact, drinking alcohol could lead to increased anxiety. So, try and moderate how much you drink, and be sure to keep yourself well hydrated with water throughout the festive season.
Limit your time on social media
One thing’s for sure: we are in a flood of information overload, and most of it is either negative doom-and-gloom, or picture-perfect Instagram feeds of other people’s supposedly extraordinary lives. We all know that these don’t show reality, yet we tend to compare ourselves to them. This can leave us feeling inadequate and insecure. If you’re already struggling with stress, such images can make things worse.
This Christmas choose human connection over online scrolling. Spend time looking at the faces of those you love rather than staring at a screen. Instead of focusing on endless feeds about everyone else’s seemingly perfect Christmas, enjoy your own in real life. Chat, laugh, play games. Turn your devices off and engage with your reality instead. It will do wonders for reducing your stress levels, and you’ll have a much happier Christmas.
Practical festive stress-busting solutions
And now for the practicalities. Is it really possible to cut down on the festive frenzy and enjoy a stress-free Christmas? What about everything that you have to get done? Here are some practical steps you can take to reduce the stress and protect your sanity this holiday season:
Set a budget and stick to it
Affording Christmas is one of the most stressful aspects of the festive season for many of us. So instead of dipping into your savings or running into debt, set a Christmas budget and stick to it.
Write a list of people you need to buy gifts for and set a limit for each of them. Be sure to stick to that limit and tick them off your list when you’re done. Avoid the temptation to buy people little extras as you get closer to Christmas. I’m terrible for doing this, but all those little bits soon add up!
In the current Covid climate, when so many of us have had our incomes affected don’t be afraid to dramatically reduce your budget if necessary. Your family and friends will understand. Remember that small, thoughtful gifts, even if they’re homemade are often the most well received and appreciated. They don’t have to cost the earth to be special.
Stocking fillers can quickly add up if you’re not careful. How often do we end up buying junk to fill stockings that get used once on Christmas day and then cast aside? Just how many reindeer antler headbands does a kid really need? I’ve been guilty of walking around a toy shop and filling my basket with cheap novelty stocking fillers just to bulk them out only to find half of them in the bin before the end of February.
Instead, set a stocking filler budget and spend it on useful gifts. Try games, books, toiletries, stationery, sweets and of course an orange!
Before you go out buying Christmas cards and wrapping paper, have a hunt to see what you have left over from last year. I always find leftovers hiding in the loft which I’d forgotten about!
Write a to-do list
Like me, you may have a million things swirling around your head. What mischief are your elves going to get up to this year? Will that subscription company ship aboard? What’s your nephew’s favourite shop? Do yourself a favour and get it all down on paper. Write down anything you may need to remember. Include shopping and postal deadlines, Christmas events that you can’t miss as well as days set aside for cleaning, decorating, wrapping gifts and cooking. The idea is to help you see the bigger picture and schedule time to fit it all in.
Once your list is complete, step back and take a look at it. If it seems too busy, then cut out what you can and replan so you can have the kind of Christmas you and your family actually want.
Share the load
All too often as mums, we automatically think that the entire burden of getting Christmas done lies at our feet. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Why not give your partner a list of gifts to purchase or put them in charge of organising and wrapping the stocking fillers this year?
Get your kids to help with decorating, present wrapping or writing Christmas cards from the family. In the run-up to Christmas day, get everyone involved in cleaning, preparing the food and setting the table. It really doesn’t have to be a one-mum job and doing it together can be lots of fun, especially if you have your favourite Christmas tunes playing at the same time!
Don’t over commit yourself
If it looks like you are going to be run ragged throughout December with umpteen party invitations (even if they are via Zoom this year), remember you don’t have to take part in them all. Only do what you want to do and prioritise spending time with those whose company you actually enjoy.
When things seem overwhelming, it’s easy to put them off. But this only leads to you having a mountain of tasks to deal with in a short amount of time. So avoid the stress and get organised ahead of time. Get on with what needs doing. I love ticking completed tasks off my to-do list. It gives me a real sense of satisfaction and helps me to feel like I’m on top of things.
Stop stressing about Christmas decs: just keep them simple
We love decorating for Christmas in our house, and this is always a festive tradition for the 1st weekend of December for us.
We keep things relatively stress free by using a good quality artificial Christmas tree. Ok, I admit that it doesn’t have that lovely pine smell to it and unravelling the branches is a little tedious. But it’s certainly cheaper than buying a real tree every year, and it looks very realistic, especially once it’s decorated. I also don’t have to deal with pine needles everywhere, and it’s easy to pack away once the festive season is over.
To keep things simple, we use the same decorations every year. I really can’t be bothered with stressing over a new colour scheme each Christmas. I do however like to indulge in a new Christmas ornament once a year to add to my collection.
I also love making Christmas decorations with the kids every year. These paper snowflakes and orange pomanders are usually on our favoured list of festive activities and always add a real Christmassy feel.
So, decorating your home doesn’t have to be stressful, and by using these tips, you can keep things relatively cheap too.
Get writing those cards early
Now I have to admit that these are a pet hate of mine! I never manage to get my Christmas cards written on time and then get stressed when cards from others start landing on my mat! But this year is going to be different. I’m determined to get them in the post early to free myself from my Christmas card angst. Maybe you can do the same. Or perhaps you can get away with sending e-cards instead which would be even better!
Be proactive in wrapping and posting gifts
Don’t put off wrapping and posting your gifts until the last minute. I’ve been guilty of this too often in the past. It makes far more sense to stop stressing about the Christmas post and to get things sent off in good time. Here’s a list of the postal deadlines in the UK and USA to help keep you on track.
Another top tip is to make sure you have a couple of decent pairs of scissors in the house and some tape dispensers. This makes life much easier when multiple people in the house are trying to wrap presents at the same time. And there is absolutely nothing more frustrating than trying to find the end of a roll of Sellotape! A tape disperser can really save you a lot of time when faced with a mountain of gifts to wrap.
Keep your cool
We all know how our stress levels can rise on Christmas day. With so much to do, it can be easy to get short tempered.
If lockdown measures are relaxed, you may find spending time with extended family members a little taxing. But try to roll with the flow and remember that it’s just for a day or two. Remind yourself that everyone does Christmas differently. We all have our own traditions, views and opinions. Although theirs may differ from yours, be tolerant and step back if you find situations difficult.
If you are hosting Christmas, be sure to ask your guests what their family Christmas traditions are and be mindful that they may be feeling sad about not being with their people this year. A little empathy and kindness can go a long way to smoothing out family conflicts and reducing everyone’s stress levels over the holiday season.
Remember that the central theme of Christmas is peace. I hope these tips help you to get a little bit of that in your life, especially given the year we have all had. Try to prioritise what is most important to you. For most of us, that’s quality time with family and friends. The rest of it really can take a back seat.
Do you have any ideas about how to stop stressing about Christmas? If so, I’d love you to share them in the comments below.
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Thanks for reading and I wish you a very happy, relaxed and stress-free Christmas.