Whilst the media would have us all believe that we all take the preparations for Christmas in our stride and that the periods is full of blissful family festivities, the pressure of organising this key annual event can often be quite stressful. With presents to find, buy and wrap and plans to organise a big dinner, the strain of doing it all on your own can often me met with trepidation and accompanied by anxiety and worry.
We all manage our own stress in different ways but Christmas often presents different challenges as we find ourselves out of our homes, in the company of others and away from our usual routines.
We thought we’d give you some helpful hints and advice that may help tacked the stress this Christmas.
All Things in Moderation
The Christmas period is traditionally a time when we let our hair down and set aside any typical healthy eating habits. It is a time for eating lots of lovely food, drinking and embracing late nights to make the most of spending time with friends and family.
Whilst nobody would deny that this is a key part of the fun to be had, late nights, rich food and excessive alcohol all contribute negatively to our stress and anxiety levels.
Hangovers, indigestion and lack of sleep leave us irritable, tense and feeling low. You can help yourself enormously by trying to moderate your intake and trying not to burn the candle at both ends.
When it comes to drinking, try alternating alcoholic drinks with soft drinks or consider replacing them with low or no alcohol options.
You might not be able to avoid the rich food but be prepared for heartburn by stocking up on some indigestion remedies and be firm about getting your beauty sleep.
Find Some Time For Yourself
The Christmas holiday period means we get to spend time with our families which is a great thing and is often the only time of the year when we see distant relatives and friends. Whilst this can be a real thrill, it can also place a lot of strain on your time. Travelling, entertaining or heading to shows, concerts and pantomimes all mean we are on the go and in the company of others.
You might not be able to find hours to yourself but it can be a good idea, if you are feeling the strain, to go for a walk, run yourself a hot bath or just take a drive.
The key thing to remember is that you shouldn’t feel guilty about needing to do this, it doesn’t make you selfish. If an hour’s walk with the dog refreshes your mood then your family with benefit from this preventative measure. The alternative of a ‘snappy’ parent is far less appealing!
Share the Load
The responsibility of Christmas planning is often shouldered by one person but getting family members to take on some of the duties and tasks is a great idea. It doesn’t matter how young your children are or how busy others may tell you they are; if everyone wants a big Christmas, it’s only fair (and responsible) that each takes on some of the preparation.
Knowing your limits is not a failure and sharing the load can be a lovely way for the whole family to be more involved with Christmas preparations. The stress of taking on too much and feeling as though you are unable to cope can easily be avoided by asking for help and recognising when things are getting on top of us.
If you are hosting the big day with a lot of guests coming for Christmas Dinner, then share the responsibility of preparing the meal between your family members.
If everyone is given a job from setting the table to chopping vegetables then you can reduce the burden.
Remember that much of the work can be done in advance; get your children to peel the potatoes on Christmas Eve for instance and leave them in a cold bowl of water overnight to stop them going dark. This can also help ‘kill time’ as they wait excitedly to go to bed and, with younger children, can even help encourage them to eat their vegetables. If they have helped prepare the meal, they will be far more willing to take pleasure in eating it.
If necessary, make a timetable so everyone knows what they are doing and when and let everyone see a copy before the big day. Agree that the sharing of duties is fair to ensure everyone can enjoy the day and then there can be no arguments over who is doing what.
Last Minute Shopping
With just a week to go, it is likely that there are still a lot of us who haven’t finished our Christmas shopping, and most of us who are still to get the food shop done.
There are still a few days before the last postal dates for Christmas and Amazon Prime Next Day Delivery are taking Christmas orders right up until the weekend.
The main superstores also still have some food delivery slots open or can offer click and collect.
The idea of Christmas Shopping in a festively lit high street with music playing from every store might appeal to many but the reality of crowds, overheated shops and endless queues would fill a lot of us with cold-horror.
Sit down and make a list of all those little gifts you still need to get as well as the food shopping and do as much of this as you can online.
Don’t forget that you can also hit superstores like Tesco, Sainsburys and Asda late at night or early in the morning to beat the crowds. Whatever you do, avoid wasting time in queues if you can help it.
Take Control but Be Prepared to Let it Go
Being prepared and having a plan is a good way to prevent feelings of stress but it is really important to accept that there are some things that you have no control over.
The Christmas period can be a wonderful time of the year but can also bring out the worst in other people and even show up quite bad behaviour in grown-ups as well as children. Whilst it might be tempting to try and change or control this, it can often be far better for all involved, if you let certain irritations go.
The key to this is knowing, in advance, what you simply have no control over. If people are late, your being cross with them will not change the fact they are late. If these guests are likely to be late then maybe a better way to dealing with your inevitable annoyance would be to expect it and, within reason, prepare for it.
You can’t change other people’s behaviour but you do have the power to control your own response. For your own benefit, and for those who are behaving admirably, you could choose to ignore certain situations and address them once the festivities are over.
Lastly, it might be worth heading off a family argument before it happens by planning things like seating arrangements and avoiding ‘triggers’ that could set sparks flying. You might also want to have a distraction on hand such as a game.
Get Some Exercise
There is no denying the document proof that exercise is a powerful way to de-stress and to boost mood-boosting levels of endorphins and serotonin.
A brisk walk, cycle ride or jog can give you some time to yourself (see above) but will also give you the added benefits of your own, naturally occurring, anti-stress chemicals.
Getting the whole family involved might be an easier way to incorporate this into what is a busy day but a traditional after lunch walk should help you clear your head and release some of that stress at Christmas.
Don’t forget that sunlight and fresh are also powerful ways to positively boost your mood.
Tackle Anxiety Head(space) On
Anxiety is one of the most common symptoms of stress that people can feel over Christmas and this unease can manifest itself in a sense of worry, nervousness and agitation. It’s a powerful sensation and can disrupt our sleep, cause low moods and even stop us from doing those things that we normally find manageable.
If you are suffering from anxiety then there are lots of helpful ways to combat this. Our top tip is to download the Headspace or Calm apps for your mobile device and treat yourself to some self-help mediation sessions. There are some that are free but the premium subscriptions also offer a great selection of useful courses for mindfulness and deep breathing.
Available in bite-size chunks, you can easily find five to ten minutes to practice these methods to help you acquire the skills to tackle anxiety.
Find the Inner Happy
Lastly, Christmas can be a magical time of the year but can also be a sad one and the pressure to remain positive can sometimes be one ask too many. There are many reasons why feelings of sadness and depression might be more keenly felt at Christmas; losing a family member, financial strain or a breakdown of a relationship. It’s important that you acknowledge this and be kind to yourself.
Faking being happy is not an easy thing to do but you can find some positivity even when things seem bleak.
Christmas can be a reflective time of the year and are usually lots of things to feel grateful for which might help you find some inner happiness. Writing down a few things that you are thankful for this holiday season might help you find some positivity.
Whatever your reasons for feeling low might be, your family and friends will understand and, if you need to have a cry because you feel the absence of a loved one then you should be able to do so. This might be the perfect opportunity for getting an hour to yourself and going for a brisk walk with some of your favourite tunes….or maybe a session of Calm.
However you are spending Christmas this year, all of us at Property Assistant wish you the very best and hope that the holidays are stress-free and happy.
We very much look forward to working with you in the New Year but, if you’d like a chat over Christmas, we are available for a chat.