For many of us Christmas can lead to feelings of overwhelm. Our already groaning to do lists are suddenly doubled with preparations for the big day. Financial and time pressure can mount up leaving us anxious. A time for peace on earth and goodwill to all men can leave us feeling wrangled and irritated. Don't even think about taking my parking space when I've driven around the retail park 10 times and pass me another glass of wine.... NOW.
- Say no. Be aware of what is on your plate and say no to anything that you really don't have time for. Preserve your peace of mind and manage your own essentials. Say no to unrealistic demands on your time. Even those things you usually like helping out with can wait until after New Year. Don't feel guilty you deserve to keep your sanity intact. The people that matter will understand.
- Keep it simple. It's tempting to go all out at Christmas. Convoluted accompaniments to Christmas lunch. Handmade wreaths and Ideal home decorations a la Kirstie Alsop. Before you decide to scale Nigella's insurmountable, perfection laden heights of domestic goddess, stop and think about what really matters. A frozen chocolate parfait is hardly going to alter the course of Christmas but spending hours in the kitchen might just tip you over the edge and limit your together time. Keep things simple and easy. Cut corners and be proud of creating more time to enjoy with friends and family. Don't over complicate things.
- Remember what's important. This can be tricky when your 10-year-old has requested the £10 toy of Christmas and the only one left in the Country is selling on EBay for £90. We can get swept away in the expectations of others and struggle to fight the tide of consumerism at Christmas. It's not about giving things but creating memories. Your 10-year-old will never remember a missing piece of £10 plastic but they will remember the games, dressing the tree, making biscuits or walks in the wood. Remind everybody about the important things.
- Do something creative. Christmas is a great time to make something. Remember point 2 above and do not attempt anything high pressured! Simple making and crafts brings people together and helps to alleviate stress. Working with your hands creatively, even something as simple as paper chains is clinically proven to reduce stress. It doesn't matter what the end result looks like this is all about the process.
- Alleviate present buying pressure. If financial pressures are causing you worry think about alternative present ideas. Ask a friend to make something for each other (added benefit of point 4 above). If you buy for friends and they have a family agree to have a Christmas drink together rather than buy presents, only buy at birthdays or only buy for the children. Don't be afraid to alleviate the pressure where you can. You will often find that others are happy you made the suggestion.
- Delegate. Have a house full at Christmas? Make a list for others to bring a contribution or allocate jobs for preparation and clearing away on the day. Don't shoulder the burden of every chore and make it a team effort.
- Walk. Getting active is essential for a little stress relief over the holidays. Activity often goes by the wayside during the festivities, coupled with excessive food and drink that can put a strain on the nervous system. Walking is a great way to get the blood pumping, burn off any stress hormones and fill the lungs with fresh air. It can also prevent cabin fever and stressful family fall outs. Plan a beach walk, visit the park or local woods. Take the dog, burn off some calories you will feel relaxed for the effort.
- Schedule in your time. When you are making that to do list add your name to one of the lines. Then add something that you would like to do over the Christmas period. Give yourself a gift and have something to look forward too. Slow down and relax into some 'me time' It's not all about making everyone else happy.
- Christmas presence. Staying with the present moment can work wonders for stress levels. We can prophesize impending doom and worry about disasters that never happen. We can imagine others disappointment that we haven't got things quite right or worry that we can't cope as we get swept up in the drama. Staying with the present helps us see things clearly. Ask yourself the question ˜what's happening right now', 'what have I got to be grateful for right now'. Being mindful helps us identify where our thoughts are contributing to our anxiety and how much of what we think isn't helpful or true! Volunteer in a shelter or spend some time with the elderly it's the only Christmas presence that truly matters.