We know the song tells us ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and of course Christmas is a time filled with joy and festive fun. All the shopping, cooking, meeting up with family and friends. Then there’s the cost, the pressure of fitting it all in, the preparations and the list goes on. No matter how relaxed we may think we are, the season comes with more stress than we all appreciate.
We haven’t even touched on the obvious issues. Lack of finances, no family or support network, work commitments, the kids, grieving over a lost loved one, and the list goes on.
Christmas may well be known as “the season to be jolly,” but for most of us, it can be a significant source of stress, pressure, and conflict. Some people can feel completely overwhelmed by it all.
A lack of time and money, credit card debt, and the pressure of giving, can often make it anything but a happy holiday.
I think most of us are well aware of the adverse effects that stress can have. It can touch on pretty much impact all our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Believe it or not, left unchecked it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
In fact, research has shown that there is an increase in heart attacks and heart-related deaths during the festive season, which may be due to stress, heavy drinking, an unhealthy diet, or a combination of all three. Which is why our team have put together these 25 tips to help with a stress free Christmas.
Don’t for one minute think we are the proverbial Scrooge, in fact we are anything but. Here at SOUTH WALES LIFE we love Christmas, we are however, painfully aware of the hidden and not so hidden stresses at this time of the year.
25 TIPS FOR 25 DAYS
Thanks to Spark, we’ve put together the SOUTH WALES LIFE 25 tips for 25 days, to help get through Christmas.
Day 1: SET A BUDGET AND STICK TO IT
We are encouraged by retailers to spend our way to happiness at Christmas, often leading to debt and relationship problems as a result.
Agree a budget with your partner/family for gifts and entertaining and stick to it.
Day 2: PLAN AHEAD
No matter how much we might wish to put it off, Christmas is coming. In the midst of busy modern life it might feel like too much to think about.
However planning out what you want to do, who you (really) want to buy gifts for and sort who is hosting who on Christmas Day will make things a lot less stressful.
So grab that Christmas tress by the branches and get planning!
Day 3: DO A BIT AT A TIME
Instead of having to blitz your Christmas gift shopping in one weekend, do a little bit at a time.
Similarly, if you are hosting family and friends during the festive season start stocking up gradually with what you need to avoid that nightmare supermarket mega-shop on 23rd December.
Day 4: THE CHRISTMAS TO DO LIST
To do lists can be very helpful, especially at Christmas. They can also be a cause of stress if we aren’t realistic about those lists.
Before you start one think for a moment about what you will realistically be able to achieve in the time you have available. Separate out the ‘must dos’ and the ‘would be nice to dos’. You’ll quickly see that your real to do list is much shorter, meaning you have time and more enthusiasm for the nice to dos.
Day 5: PERFECT CHRISTMAS OR GOOD ENOUGH?
The odds on a ‘perfect Christmas’ for any individual, couple or family is probably as good as snow on Christmas Day in Dubai. So embrace the imperfection of the season and stop looking for ‘perfection’ in every meal, gift and decoration.
For couples with children the same applies to parenting – look for good enough, not perfection from yourself and your kids.
Day 6: DEAR SANTA…
Help with the Christmas stress of gift giving by dropping some hints or pointing out the things you like.
Encourage friends and family to do the same for you. And for grown-ups, why not write your own letter to Santa? It might sound cheesy but it’s really helpful (and fun!).
Day 7: REMEMBER WHAT CHRISTMAS IS ALL ABOUT
Christmas is a time for family, for friendship and spending time together.
When the Christmas stress levels start to rise thinking about what present to get Aunty Mary, remember what it’s all about.
Day 8: IGNORE THE CHRISTMAS TV ADVERTS
Whether it is the advert made to get us crying or this is the ‘perfect’ Christmas presented by every shop in the country, TV adverts can be a source of Christmas stress.
Make a cup of tea during the ad break or mute the sound and free yourself from the ads that often leave us feeling like our Christmas will never be good enough.
Day 9: ENJOY SIMPLE THINGS
December will be a busy month for pretty much everyone.
Give yourself a break and enjoy something simple like a hot cup of cocoa or tea, listen to some of your favourite music and chill out for 15 minutes.
Feeling recharged you’ll be more effective at ticking off that to-do list.
Day 10: GET SOME CHRISTMAS HELPERS
Encourage the whole family to get involved in preparations.
Decorating, coming up with gift ideas, tidying the house for Christmas visitors.
Not only will it ease the burden for the person who usually does it all, it will help make everyone feel included and part of the Christmas build-up.
Day 11: ENJOY THE BUILD-UP TO CHRISTMAS
We focus so much on Christmas Day itself that the rest of the festive season passes in a blur.
Instead, enjoy the moments before Christmas Day: a walk in the crisp winter air; the pleasure of getting a gift for someone you love; the Christmas lights.
Day 12: THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST
For a lot of people Christmas is a difficult time because of past experiences, bereavement or major life events. There is pressure to be happy at Christmas which can make you feel a lot worse.
Consider talking about these issues with a professional counsellor or a loved one about how to manage those difficult emotions.
Day 13: TAKE A LONG WINTER WALK
Walking is a great way to de-stress.
Get out and enjoy some time away from the TV, present wrapping, Christmas card writing and games consoles. Consider leaving mobile phones on silent and enjoy the natural world around you.
With a rosy glow in your cheeks, head home and indulge in number 9 of the earlier tips.
Day 14: INDOOR HOBBIES
The weather during December (and January, February and probably March) is not always great. Dark mornings and nights cut down on opportunities for outdoor time.
So consider trying something indoor instead: creative paper crafts (helpful for DIY Christmas cards); knitting (bizarrely still very cool); reading a good book or picking up that musical instrument that is gathering dust in the corner.
Day 15: SPEND TIME WITH PEOPLE
If you live on your own the festive season can bring about feelings of isolation and loneliness. Add into that the terrible year we’ve had, filled with so much isolation.
Try to take an active approach to avoiding this. Accept invitations to parties and get togethers. Why not organise something for other people you know who are in the same boat. Ultimately just try and be sociable.
Day 16: CHRISTMAS CANDLES
As the nights draw in candles can be a nice way to brighten up your home and provide a relaxing atmosphere at home.
Remember however to always extinguish candles and never leave them unattended.
Day 17: CONSIDER HELPING OTHERS
It’s easy to get caught up in the ‘I want’ mind-set of Christmas. After all, it’s what shops want us to do! But it takes away from the themes of love, peace and goodwill at Christmas.
Get a little perspective by helping out a charity at Christmas. You’ll be helping people who need it most and will get a more grounded perspective on the whole festive season.
Day 18: PLAY MORE GAMES
Charades is a Christmas party staple but think outside of the box this year. There are literally hundreds of (free) games from around the world that are great to play at Christmas.
From the delightfully bonkers Danish game Pakkeleg (Google it!) to The Drunken Artist (a twist on Pictionary) there is plenty of fun to be had!
Day 19: FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS MEMORIES
Think about the things that have made Christmas special in the past for you individually, as a couple or family.
Chances are when you really think about it you’ll rediscover things you haven’t done for years which will make for a great festive season.
Day 20: SAY PLEASE AND THANK YOU
For a time of year that is supposed to be about goodwill to all, Christmas stress seems to up people’s rudeness levels.
In the ‘busyness’ of the season we often forget our manners and, without intending it, are rude to family, friends and strangers.
So this festive season commit to always saying please and thank you.
Day 21: IT’S OK NOT TO BE OK
We often feel like we have to be happy at Christmas. That is not always possible and it is absolutely and totally ok not to be ok at Christmas time.
Speak to a close, trusted friend about what you are experiencing or better still, look in to counselling.
Day 22: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SPEND THE WHOLE TIME WITH FAMILY
The festive season is definitely an opportunity to spend time with family. But that does not mean we have to spend all of our time with them.
Carve out some time for you or you and your partner. For families it is important to have mum, dad and the kids only time too.
Day 23: FUN WITH THE FAMILY DOESN’T HAVE TO COST MONEY
Ice skating, festive films at the cinema, shopping trips, panto – the list of festive season activities which are not cheap is almost endless. But having quality time together does not have to cost. And let’s be honest, most of our regular festive activities are cancelled this year, so time together is even more important.
Try a good old fashioned board game that has been gathering dust in the cupboard. For parents remember what you enjoyed most about Christmas during your childhood. Surprisingly, children wired in to the digital world tend to really enjoy simple things that offer actual and not virtual interaction.
Day 24: GET SOME SLEEP
This probably sounds silly but with the usual ‘running around like a headless turkey’ pre-Christmas followed by late nights and early starts (especially if you have kids) sleep often gets forgotten about.
Missing out on a proper night’s sleep is bad for us physically and mentally so make sure you are getting your zzzz’s.
Day 25: JUST ENJOY CHRISTMAS DAY
On Christmas Day forget about the ‘perfect’ day and enjoy the special moments.
Savour the smiles of loved ones receiving gifts and forget about whether the turkey will be moist or not. Laugh as the kids try to teach Grandpa how to play Call of Duty instead of worrying about whether you got everyone a ‘perfect’ present.
If things really are too much over the festive season then please share your concerns. There are organisations who will help, support and guide you when times are difficult to cope with.