Yippee, Christmas is here! It’s the time of year when you plaster a big smile on your face and work your novelty socks off to make sure everything is perfect for the festive period. And your stress levels shoot up through the (snow-covered) roof! Does this sound familiar?
Stressful Christmas – Why Does it Happen?
It’s no coincidence that searches for anxiety and depression on a UK counselling website double in January (we’re all too busy to notice or deal with the emotional fallout in December). As well as growing awareness of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a condition related to lack of sunlight in the winter months, much of this surge can no doubt be attributed to the stress and pressure that comes with the high expectations we have of ourselves in the festive period.
Christmas time comes with a constant stream of stressful questions and worries: Have I bought Aunt Joyce the perfect gift this year? How will I cope with seeing my brother on Christmas day without throttling him with the new scarf he bought me? Are my children going to love their presents? Should I roast the potatoes in goose fat? Are my lights twinkly enough?
Here are 5 simple tips and ideas to help you on the path to a calm and stress free Christmas this year.
1. Make a plan
Write out a list of the essential things you need to do and schedule them. If you plan well before the festive season really gets underway, you’ll be able to think more clearly and have a realistic to do list. Do you really need those new curtains before Christmas? I mean, who’s going to notice them with all the wrapping paper and tinsel strewn around?
2. Lower your expectations
If you’re finding it hard to prioritise and whittle down your list, think about what small changes you can make to each commitment or expectation. Is a full cooked breakfast and a 3-course dinner on Christmas day really necessary? Does the gravy need to be homemade? If you have a partner, discuss together how you can manage this. Social events shouldn’t be causing too much stress either. Remember that you don’t need to go to everything you’re invited to – pick and choose so you get some down time.
3. Get outside
In the summer months, 30 minutes of sunlight is enough to supply us with the vitamin D we need, but in the British winter this quadruples to 2 hours. So, it’s really important that you make some time to put on your wooly hat and mittens and venture outside to get some daylight and exercise. Inevitably, you will have a lot of errands to run, so try to incorporate it into your day – a brisk walk to the shops to pick up some crackers, perhaps?
4. Think about you
The holidays are a time to be generous and think about your loved ones, but this shouldn’t be at your own expense. If it’s possible, schedule one day completely free of commitments and use it to do whatever you want to do. Keeping in touch with friends is especially important at stressful times like Christmas, so try to meet or call your friends and chat. Socialising is a proven antidote to depression, so it will help them as much as it helps you!
5. Stick to a budget
Money worries might be a big reason why you’re feeling stressed at this time of year. The pressure from friends, family and all those Christmas adverts on TV to buy expensive gifts can become overwhelming. Again, it’s all about the planning, decide on a present budget and stick to it. Especially true if you have children, your presence will be more remembered than any presents.
A bonus tip, for being so good!
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a final piece of advice to help you focus on reducing Christmas stress, something that we’ll all be able to relate to (and might even be guilty of ourselves!) Ignore social media posts portraying the ‘perfect’ Christmas holidays. I’m sure if you dig beneath the surface, you’ll find that everyone is feeling the strain of the festive period.
I hope that with a little planning your Christmas holidays will be merry and bright. Worthing Counselling offers confidential services if you think counselling might help you through a difficult time like the holiday period, get in touch here.
Please share this post on social media and spread the word about making this Christmas stress free.