I’m dreaming of a stress free Christmas!

Christmas is a busy time of year and, despite the fun and festivities, brings many challenges. Looking after ourselves is vital to our survival during this season.

There are so many ways to embrace the festive spirit. Beautiful lights, decorating a tree, carols, cooking and more! But, often in the run up to Christmas we can get a little strung-out and fatigued. Not only do we have all the normal daily responsibilities, but we also have to brave the Christmas shopping crowds, wrap presents, make travel arrangements, organize time to meet with our family, in-laws, relatives, etc.

All this commotion can lead to stress, which can distract from the true gift that Christmas has to offer. This year re-evaluate how you approach the holiday season. The amount of stress that you allow into your life at Christmas is ultimately up to you. Know that it is what you choose to do or not to do that will make it a little bit different this year.

We all feel anxious on occasion, especially when the pressure is on. Those weeks of organisation can create more internal pressure for the day itself to be “perfect”, and a lack of organisation can trigger – the “OMG!.. how am I going to get everything done” stress pattern. Here are some of my tips on the pressures we need to manage?

Avoid family drama

Stress can lead you to act more insensitively or be on edge. Aim to be tolerant and patient – you can’t make everyone happy! Forget any family problems that may have arisen during the year. Drop expectations and approach your family with open arms. Not everyone gets along. Nobody is perfect and people have their issues. You can make an effort to really get along with others. Give the pure gift of kindness and open-mindedness, and focus on healing any broken relations instead of entrenching them deeper.

Consider realistic expectations!!

One of the most common internal stressors we have to deal with is our unrealistic expectations of others and ourselves. From November to December we are bombarded with adverts showing us the perfect family, all sitting round laughing, children behaving like robots, parents looking like models, food looking like Jamie Oliver cooked it…But does this image reflect the real life in any household that you know of? If our expectations are realistic then we avoid putting huge pressure on ourselves and others around us.

Avoid overspending                                                                        It seems there is just way too much emphasis on buying presents at Christmas. One of the more counterproductive things to do is spend over your means. This will only increase stress in the long-run. So why not set a limit on the amount of money you are going to spend. Make a verbal contract with family and friends about how much you are going to spend on gifts. Everyone will know what to expect and be able to appreciate the thought that went into the gift. Don’t feel pressure to overspend – It’s the thought that counts!

Don’t overindulge

It’s easy to go overboard on just about everything at Christmas. There are all sorts of social events, the office party, your friend’s party, and then family occasions, all may leave you feeling sick and unhealthy. If you’re on a diet or strict exercise routine, making efforts to not overindulge can save you some personal guilt and extra time at the gym in the New Year. Self-discipline during the festive period can really save some stress when you get back to your regular routine. Try to remember your health – sleep and rest, drive safely, eat and drink sensibly.

Give yourself some relaxation time, even if it’s just 10 minutes a day. Deep breathing, tension release and gentle stretching or visiting a good massage therapist can work wonders to revive and revitalize your body and mind.

Before Christmas day

Make lists of things to be done, prepared, purchased and when to do them. Wrap presents as soon as you buy them or get them wrapped at department stores. If you plan to bake, start earlier in the month and freeze what you can or purchase prepared food, sauces, puddings – you don’t need to be a hero! Set the table the night before and plan how you would like Christmas day to unfold – but stay flexible! Try cooking the Turkey on Christmas Eve this year. It’s so much easier to calve when cold. It leaves you more space in the oven to cook your roasties on Christmas day and is perfect served with hot gravy, vegetables and all the trimmings!

On Christmas day

Expect things to take longer than you plan, allow extra time and don’t over load your day. Assign tasks to each family member – half the fun of Christmas is having everyone involved. Don’t allow Christmas to pass without really being present and enjoying the moment! Stay in the moment, remind yourself to experience this minute, as it will soon pass! You don’t have to do everything, it is quality not quantity that matters most. Remember to breath and do some things that satisfy and enrich you!

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift, that’s why we call it the present. Make awareness of the present moment your gift to yourself this Christmas!

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