For many people Christmas comes second only to financial problems as a source of stress in their lives.
And of course Christmas can be expensive too and we are as likely to be as stressed about that as we are about coping with everything that has to be done on the day.
Everybody feels stressed at times; it’s a natural response when we think or feel that we can’t cope, that things are getting on top of us.
Ways to de-stress and relax at Christmas
First tackle the way you think about Christmas. Do you look at it as a positive fun-filled time or just a lot of hard work? Has it got sad memories? Do you dread the in-laws?
Having a positive mental attitude and a sense of humour is really important for your well-being. Be positive rather than dwelling on the negatives in life.
Don’t focus on the things that can go wrong but on the things you will enjoy. Give yourself some credit for what you do well and remember the nice things that happened last year and see if you can laugh about the things that didn’t go quite to plan.
If you have children imagine their reaction to it and for young children how magic it all seems to them. And don’t try to be perfect in every way – this is a holiday after all.
When you feel you are in control of a situation you will feel less stressed; it’s the feeling of helplessness or not being able to change things that can lead to stress.
Another important factor in being able to resist or cope with stress is to have some kind of social support mechanism – both in practical terms (someone to do things for you) and emotional terms (a non-judgmental shoulder to cry on if necessary but definitely someone to talk to).
And you may not realise it but you are far more resilient than you think so look at how you behave and what you can do in practical terms to have a great time.
Talk to your partner and family about how you feel about Christmas and how they can help you make it even better. Can you simplify the way you usually do things eg fewer decorations, inviting people for a meal rather than giving presents? Are you sending cards this year or donating to a good cause?
- Planning and time management is really important. How far ahead do you buy presents (throughout the year or at the last minute?). Have you decided on the food for the holiday, sorted out the decorations?
- More importantly who does what – make a “to-do” list and stick it up on the fridge for everyone to see. Get the kids involved too. It can be a fun thing for them especially if they get to cross things off or add fun stickers.
- Check presents with moving parts, batteries etc before the shops close – get in some spare batteries (beware those items with the hearing aid type battery, they can be fatal if children swallow them), SD cards, blank DVDs, USB sticks, CD-roms or whatever might be required.
- Don’t overdo the pre-Christmas festivities or the alcohol, or rely on coffee and chocolate to keep you going (only works in the short term and makes you irritable).
- Get in training for the holiday ie plenty of sleep and exercise (you can do that when you’re out shopping or go to a boot camp). Learn to meditate, take a yoga class, do Tai Chi. These traditional exercises really work.
- Last minute guests might be welcome or an unexpected diversion. Learn to be assertive – saying NO is fine, you really don’t have to please all the people all the time (and if that’s too hard for you tell them what you still have to do).
- Eat regularly and don’t just pick at the food as you’re preparing it. Also eat healthily ie less junk food and more fish and vegetables.
- Relax for 20 minutes doing something for you. Lock yourself in the bath room and have a relaxing hot bath with candles and oils, or go for a quiet walk. If you have a pet even better as they are good listeners and help you relax.
- Worried about the children being under your feet? Don’t give them all the presents at once. Make sure that they have a favourite film to watch or some other activity to keep them occupied (remember the plan!)
- Alternatively do you know a friend or neighbour who is great with children but hates cooking? Barter some child-minding time in return for cooking for them (or vice versa of course).
- Slow down – your speech and your gestures, learn to be patient and make an effort to be friendly to everyone – even the dreaded in-laws or old Uncle George. It’s not forever and smiling is good for you!
- When it’s all over spoil yourself and have a massage with aromatherapy oils. Alternatively shiatsu, reflexology and acupuncture have lots to offer.
Updated since first posted December 2011