Christmas is, according to whichever survey you read, always somewhere in the top 20 most stressful events of life – it’s often ranked as highly as sixth. Most of the other events are infrequent for most of us (deaths, marriage, divorce, house moves etc), but Christmas comes around with great regularity! According to one survey, 86% of people say they find buying presents hard work and 65% find Christmas shopping stressful. The same survey said that 60% of people felt stressed when finding that a gift they bought for someone proved to be a disappointment. However much fun it is, there is no doubt that Christmas is stressful – even for the kids!
So, here are 12 tips for making your Christmas less stressful:
1) Don’t Take Too Much On
You are not superwoman (or man) – so if you’ve already agreed to host a party and go to a further 2, do you need to accept extra invitations? Think of the stress and not just the potential fun. In this busy period, there has to be some rest as well as fun. Build in plenty of down-time and time to flop. If you are reading this and thinking, “No chance!” then that merely emphasises just how much you do need to build it in. so insist upon it – everyone will benefit if you have more energy at the key moments.
2) Plan Ahead with Presents
Buying presents over a few months takes away the stress of having to find them all at once and also spreads the financial burden. It’s can be atmospheric to shop when the lights are in the shops and it can be fun, to buy a last special present on Christmas Eve – but you don’t have to do all of your present buying in December. It’s also not wise to wait too long for something that’s likely to sell out. This year, tablets and iPads are expected to be in short supply nearer the day. It can be extremely stressful to find that an important present is out of stock everywhere.
3) Buy Some Things Online
Shop checkout queues can be a really stressful, and some people even suffer trolley rage. It is possible to order some food and drink for delivery to your house if you get in quickly enough. The few pounds you have to pay for this is worth it for the loss of stress! Do it early or you’ll worry about whether it will arrive in time or not.
4) Remember that You Can’t Make Everything Perfect
You are not responsible for everyone’s happiness. It might be your job to cook the dinner and pick the presents, but if Aunt Flo is in an awful mood, or Grandma insists on watching 3 hours of continuous soaps and upsets everyone else, it’s not your fault. Although, you can help to set the atmosphere, essentially people will make up their own minds whether they’re going to be in the festive spirit or not. Which brings us nicely onto…
5) Be Responsible with Alcohol/Going to Parties
Alcohol is either a friend or an enemy at Christmas depending how you treat it. Christmas is so stressful that many people (including myself) like to have a small drink just as it’s about to swing into action. This can be relaxing and can help you to feel jolly – helping to create a festive atmosphere. Of course, this does mean just a tipple, as a drunken host or hostess is not a good idea!
If you’re cooking, why not get someone else to be responsible for drinks? They should make sure everyone has what they want but doesn’t overdo it.
Since tensions can be high, it’s not a good idea to get so sozzled that you tell your sister exactly what you really think of her and her children! That will greatly increase your stress for a long time to come! This is less likely if you stick to an amount of alcohol you know you can handle well.
Parties are a great time to let your hair down, but it’s a good idea to drink soft drinks interspersed with the booze during the night and some water before bed. Overdoing it will often ruin what was otherwise a great night, so one way of dealing with that is to say, “I am going to drink only 4 pints tonight” (or whatever you know you can handle and not suffer the consequences). If you plan it that way, then you will find you can stick to a sensible limit more easily.
6) Coping with The In-Laws
Or, as a friend of mine calls them, “the Outlaws.” If you have wonderful ones then this is no problem at all – move on to the next item. If yours are hard work, then, you may just have to steal yourself and accept that it’s going to be a strain. Knowing what has made it easier in the past can help, as can the notion that you can take 10 minutes out from time to time – agree this with your partner beforehand and work together as a team.
7) Observe Simplicity
Sometimes, less is more. Although there are certain things you cannot avoid putting extra effort into at Christmas there may be others that are so stressful that they are not worth the payback. Is it necessary to prepare every meal as a gourmet feast or to put up so many decorations that your house can be seen from space? Even the kids will appreciate doing something more low key for some of the holiday. If they don’t chill out at some point, there will be tantrums.
8) Give What You Feel is Reasonable for You
One way we can feel we have done something really useful as opposed to simply having over-indulged is to give something to a charity at this time of year – whether it is with money or with time. Don’t get stressed about giving. Just give what you feel is reasonable for you. Helping others to enjoy their Christmas can greatly help us to enjoy our own and make us feel connected to the wider world.
9) Be Prepared with Christmas Cards
I have got into the habit of starting mine in the last week of November. I don’t send them out at that point, but I do have them stamped up and ready to go. I find if I do 5 or 6 cards a night for a couple of weeks, it makes life a whole lot easier. You can do this in front of the tv, so it’s really not much effort this way.
It’s also useful to have a Christmas card list (which you can amend every year). Christmas can be a good time to accept that some people go out of your life as well as come into it. I keep a note of who I send to and who sends to me every year. Except for very special reasons, if someone doesn’t send me a card three years in a row, I don’t send them one next time. Why feel obliged to people who aren’t bothered? It may be sad, but it’s a part of everyone’s life, and can be stress reducing to realise that you don’t have to hold on to people you met five years ago on holiday or you lived next door to twenty years ago.
10) Give Time for Relaxation and Time-Out
It is important to have something planned that is stress free around Christmas. Many people book a massage or spa session either just before or just after (or both if you have the time and money). Perhaps a round of golf or playing some other sport can also do this –if it’s not too cold! And of course, there is the Boxing Day football schedule.
Counsellors often have very busy January’s when new clients want to unload the stresses they underwent over the Christmas period. It can be good to unburden this to an empathic ear.
11) Go For a Walk
It can be a relief to go for a walk on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day. It can be a blessed relief from TV, relatives, broken toys and over-indulged stomachs! Getting out in nature, especially if there is festive weather can really help to lower stress levels.
12) Having a Spiritual Moment or Keeping the Faith
If you are a religious person it can be the highlight of Christmas to go a Carol Service. If you’re not it can be lovely just to stop and listen to the Salvation Army play some carols – don’t walk past, however busy you are! Try to enjoy this non-material aspect of the Festive Season and perhaps stop to throw some money in the box whilst enjoying a bit of the more spiritual side of Christmas. It can be a relief to take ten minutes out from the manic pace of shopping and lower your pulse rate.
Christmas is a happy occasion of celebration. Thinking peaceful thoughts towards others helps put the stressful parts into some perspective and keeps our emotions balanced.
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