The festive season is upon us. As the song goes, it can be a wonderful time of the year but also one of the most stressful. Bombarded with images of holiday perfection, we can feel pressured into striving to achieve unrealistic expectations. No surprise then that the resulting anxiety can turn what should be an enjoyable time into a frantic nightmare. So what can you do to not only survive the season but also enjoy the experience?
Here are eight tips that will help you find some balance during an over-busy time:
1. Plan ahead
Start your planning early. Buy a notebook so that all your holiday preparation is in one place. There’s nothing worse than writing a reminder then forgetting where you put it. Now create two shopping lists. One for gifts which lists all those you intend to buy for, and one for the food, drink and sundries that you need. Getting organised will help reduce stress and give you a sense of control. Then you can enjoy the anticipation of festive fun.
2. Set a budget
It is tempting to get carried away and end up overspending. Try setting a budget per person and stick to it. Decide which shops or online stores you want to use. Check out their early bird offers to make the budget go further. Talk to friends and family about ideas such as exchanging home-made gifts. The personal touch may be more welcome than shop-bought offerings. Others have spending considerations too, so don’t afraid to raise the subject.
3. Delegate tasks
It isn’t fair for any one person to be responsible for all the preparations. People may assume that you’ll want to do it all, especially if you usually do. Don’t be a martyr. Ask for help ahead of time. Think about the tasks that can be shared out. Make a list then talk to family and friends to agree on what they will do. If you are hosting Christmas dinner or other party events, why not ask for contributions such as bringing the starter or snacks. Turn preparations into a fun social experience where everyone’s involvement is welcome.
4. Mindful consumption
Christmas is a time for feasting and quite right too. But unbridled overindulgence isn’t good for your health and can impair judgement. Stressful situations, coupled with too much alcohol, can result in misery. Plan ahead. Try buying a range of non-alcoholic alternatives to beer, wine and spirits. There’s usually an excellent choice in regular supermarkets as well as specialist online shops like Dry Drinker. If you are worried about overindulging, check out Club Soda which promotes mindful drinking. They offer helpful guides, resources and programmes, if you want to cut down or abstain from alcohol.
5. Keep your pets healthy
Pets are part of the family, and we can be tempted to feel they should have a share of the feast. But did you know that Christmas food can be hazardous for your pets? Delicious to us, foods like chocolate, mince pies, Christmas pudding, onion gravy are highly toxic and dangerous to pets. It’s wise to keep to your pets eating their appropriate food. The RSPCA provides excellent advice to ensure your pets stay fit and healthy over the holiday.
6. Get active
Take advantage of the time off to enjoy a brisk walk outside, preferably in a green space. Not only will you feel invigorated by the exercise, but you’ll also feel better for a change of scene. Christmas time is often when far-flung family members gather together. Being in such proximity can cause tensions to arise. Getting outdoors can reduce festive cabin fever and counteract any overindulging that you may have done. All the more reason to plan some countryside walks or strolls in the local park. You might want to try the free NHS app Active 10 which encourages you to move more. Check out the free NHS Change4Life for other fun ideas on staying active.
7. Rest up
Sleep is essential to help your body recover from the rigours of life. The hectic whirl of activities over Christmas and New Year can result in sleep deprivation. Unchecked, this can leave you feeling edgy, sluggish and miserable. Too much alcohol also interferes with sleep. Help yourself and others by having plenty of water available at socials. Try controlling meal times so that you are not eating late into the night. If worry keeps you awake, place a notebook by your bed and jot down your thoughts. Talk out issues and possible solutions with someone you trust. You might also find it helpful to take a look at the free NHS How to get to sleep.
8. Find some ‘me-time’
Caught up in the preparations for the holiday, you can forget to build in some ‘me-time’. Finding fifteen minutes a day to pause and relax is essential to your wellbeing. Relaxation is a choice. Decide now that it is important to you and do something about it. It might be the simplest of things. For example, spend time looking at photos that remind you of good times or read a book just for pleasure. You might wish to explore apps that promote wellbeing like Calm, Headspace or Buddhify. Whatever it is, allow yourself to fully immerse in the joy of doing something just for you. Perhaps this can be the start of a self-care habit to take beyond the holiday period.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year