We all know that Christmas is supposed to be a time of fun and relaxation, but for many it is a limitless source of stress and anxiety. From family ‘issues’ to exorbitant gift requests, the pressure to enjoy the ‘perfect’ Christmas may be so great that we feel disappointed and inadequate because our holiday somehow does not measure up to the ideal.
Here are my top 5 suggestions that have enabled me to enter into the Christmas spirit with minimal stress.
- Be prepared! It’s not just the Scouts who benefit from this motto – give yourself plenty of time to decide how you want to communicate with your family and friends. Rather than send traditional cards by post, this year I chose to paint and then photograph a card that I then emailed out.
I also contacted family abroad well in advance asking for their present suggestions as I knew I would not be able to carry bulky items on the plane with me. We also agreed a gift budget, which I have found to be great in preventing spiraling costs and resentment from whoever spent more money.
- Ask friends for their Christmas survival tips. Useful ones I picked up included avoiding Oxford St in the evening or at weekends (or if you have no choice, going first thing on a Saturday to avoid the crowds), taking an afternoon off from work to focus solely on Christmas (be it tree decorating or pudding preparation) and buying presents throughout the year so there’s not a mad dash come 23rd December. Although the last tip isn’t massively helpful if you haven’t started your shopping yet, but worth remembering for next year!
- Change your perspective. You can either seethe with resentment at ‘having’ to visit your great Aunty Ethel and ‘waste’ your precious annual leave or see it as an opportunity to remember where you’ve come from, appreciate the people you have in your life, and do something with those cold, short days you’d only be spending inside anyway. I tell myself that the summer holiday is mine to spend as I choose, but Christmas is not all about me. Alter your expectations and your mood may change accordingly.
- If you’re hosting Christmas lunch, just remember that’s all you need to do – ‘conduct the choir’. It’s perfectly reasonable to ask guests to bring a dish or a course, and online food shopping is essential if you want to avoid fighting over the last turkey. Just remember to book your delivery slot in plenty of time, they disappear fast!
It can also be helpful to have a few after lunch ‘activities’ to hand to ward off potential booze-fuelled arguments.
- It might not be what you want to hear, but we all know that overindulging can make you feel worse, and if you have an existing health condition such as diabetes, big culinary blowouts can be a real no-no. Even those of us with relatively robust constitutions can overtax our kidneys and livers, so make sure you also fit in some exercise, plenty of sleep, and alternate the indulgent days with some lighter food and drink. When you feel fit and healthy your body and mind are more able to cope with the inevitable ups and downs of a family Christmas.
It’s easy to forget that some people would give anything to be surrounded by family, arguments and all. Being alone at Christmas can be a bleak and depressing experience, especially if the individual is recently bereaved. If it feels appropriate, do invite people you know will be alone to join you. It’s just one day out of the whole year and might make a real difference to them. If they’d rather be alone, they’ll let you know.
If it’s you who’ll be spending it alone, decide how you want to play it. If you want to ignore it, why not! Or you could always look into volunteering as a way of being surrounded by people without feeling like you’re ‘imposing’.
It would, of course, be remiss of me not to include a juicy plug for my own business – why not give the gift of relaxation by downloading a gift voucher from my website! And please do get in touch with some of your Christmas de-stressing tips. It’s great to know what works for others. And have a wonderful break, whatever you do.