Survey after survey shows that Christmas can be an overwhelmingly stressful time for many of us.
Whether the source of your stress is money worries, difficulties in family relationships, feeling overwhelmed by all the things that need doing, or the pressure you’re feeling to create the perfect Christmas for everybody, the result is often the same: feeling out of control and anxious, and thankful for the additional festive excuse to have a drink, which alleviates the stress just for a while.
So how can you manage the next few weeks in a way that will reduce that stress, enabling you to enjoy the Christmas festivities, rather than wishing them away all too quickly?
Decide what is truly important and let the rest go
If you stop and imagine a really great Christmas, what does it look like? What do you see or hear happening? What do you experience?
Maybe more to the point, what don’t you see or hear happening, and what isn’t a part of it?
What will still seem important about Christmas in three months time, and what won’t you (or anyone else) remember?
If you want a happier, less stressful Christmas, you must choose what you will and won’t spend your time and money on.
Prioritise the things that you’ll remember, that will make the really big difference, and let go of (at least some of) the rest. Simplify it.
What will happen if you don’t spend as much money on the kids’ presents or don’t have perfectly matching table decorations?
And what won’t happen if you don’t?
Ditch the glossy magazines and stop following Christmas on Instagram
Because the perfect Christmas doesn’t exist – even if it looks like it in all the beautiful magazine and social media images.
Don’t forget, they have stylists, professional photographers, lighting, time, money....because it’s about business to them.
“Perfect” is an opinion not a fact. Your idea of “perfect” and somebody else’s will be totally different. And while you’re busy trying to create the wow factor of that instagram-worthy Christmas (which your guests may not even notice or care about anyway), what’s perfect about it if all it’s doing is stressing you out?!
Make a List
If it’s good enough for Father Christmas (he makes a list and he checks it twice, remember?), it’s good enough for us.
Stop trying to remember everything, and let your list remember it for you. Write down everything you need to do. Then make it immediately smaller by crossing out anything that is actually someone else’s responsibility (and make sure they know it is their responsibility), and anything that you don’t really really really care about.
If you’re hosting Christmas day and are in charge of lunch, work out and list all your timings (in order) for the day, well in advance – it doesn’t have to wait until Christmas morning. And, when you’ve finished with it, file it away to use again next year – and that’s already one job ticked for next year, 12 months in advance!
Ask For Help
Unless doing it all by yourself is what makes Christmas great for you, it’s time to enlist some help.
Whether it’s doing some of the Christmas shopping, deciding what to get for Grandma, making a list of everything needed for Christmas lunch, arranging some entertainment for Boxing Day, or arranging a family get-together over a bottle of wine to wrap all the presents, spread the load by sharing responsibility.
It may help to remember that research has repeatedly shown that helping others is a key source of happiness. So in asking for help you won’t just be spreading the load, you’ll be spreading some extra Christmas joy.
Have an Escape Plan
If spending time cooped up with family is your idea of Christmas hell, make a plan in advance that will allow you to escape for a while at a moment’s notice, so you can trigger it quickly if you need to.
It could be having a brand new magazine or book under your pillow ready for half an hour’s indulgence on your own, needing to pop out to walk the dog, or having some luxurious bubble bath waiting for some me-time. Anything that will give you some calm and breathing space to yourself, in fact.
Get clear about what you can control and what you can’t.
You aren’t responsible for everyone else’s happiness. But you are responsible for your own.
If you’re worried about something and you can do something to change it, then change it. But if you can’t control it, if there is genuinely nothing you can do to change the situation, then accept it and let it go (and let whoever can control it worry about it). It’s pointless spending time getting stressed over something when you can’t do anything about it.
Buy a real tree
OK, this one’s a bit more fun, but anything’s worth a go, right?! Research from the University of Surrey found that having exposure to the natural environment within your home can help reduce stress. So even if you don’t have space for a real tree, investing in a holly and ivy wreath or mantelpiece garland, or decorating your home with a big sprig of mistletoe, may just help you keep your stress levels in check this Christmas.
If you'd like help to reduce your stress in the run-up to Christmas, or to ensure 2019 is a year of balance, not burn out, you can find out more about stress to success coaching with me here