In a world where Christmas adverts and commercial pressure commence the second the last firework has been set off and more often than not, before that! I've seen them in October, with the sneaky snowman themed chocolates popping up, the extra long Jaffa cake packs, Christmas stocking filler ideas and many more sparkly present pressure items on display; it’s enough to make you sick and tired of Christmas before it’s even begun. Especially when this time of the year is supposed to be about happiness, fun and laughter, with a healthy sprinkle of hope and love in the mix. It can slowly spiral into being the most depressing, stressful and anxiety led holiday known to man or woman with everyone looking forward to starting work in Jan.
That is NOT how this holiday should be, it should be a time of celebration, of family and relaxing and so what if your freezer packs up or you have run out of cranberries or your great Aunt Tilda doesn't remember your name or get you a gift, this is what Christmas is about. All the calamities, the overcrowded family in your house, the one gift too short, it’s what makes Christmas Christmas. It’s the memories you share together, it’s the family you have to treasure, and it’s the decorating the tree with the nearest and dearest. It is not supposed to be perfect. Let me repeat this, Christmas is not supposed to be perfect. Setting that bar so high means you will always be trailing behind feeling like you have failed. No-one should feel that way.
The pressure for perfection, can overcast what the true essence of Christmas is, its the season to be merry after all, not buried under mountains of pressure to deliver the best Christmas. There is no fun in that, and the best way to remove as much anxiety as possible to by being level headed and getting ahead of the game and understanding that no matter what happens, it’s your Christmas, you make it how you want to, and don’t let the pressure of society or peer pressure make it something you don’t feel will work for you. You work to what is available and within your capabilities and no further. Knowing your limitations is a great skill to have and one that will fundamentally help with your stress levels. So to have a Christmas which reduces the anxiety and one you can skate through with ease and enjoyment, take a look at my 5 merry tools to help achieve the happy ever after Christmas we all wish for.
Money Money Money
This is the main culprit to rising stress levels at Christmas. However don’t be disheartened, a simple way to overcome this is to budget, work out what is a realistic number you are prepared to spend on presents, travel, food, etc and stick to it. If you are a great saver then try put aside some money each month so that when December comes around, it’s a breeze! Additionally, speak to your friends, family, loved ones and agree a price range or suggest home-made presents only. Really sit down and work out who you are buying presents for and why. As beautiful and happy as Christmas is and yes it is about giving, that doesn’t mean you have to be bankrupt in order to do so. Scaling back Christmas to be simple is a wonderful way to make use of all your other skills which are hidden as more often than not we default to buying Christmas instead of creating Christmas.
Another addition to this is to have a contingency budget, an amount you have in the back burner for those *just in case moments, this can be any amount that is right for you, but ultimately will ease the burden of pressure to know that it’s there in the background in case something happens that is out of your control.
Preparation is key; That doesn't mean you have to start in May or even October but it’s a good idea to start putting together an outline of what is happening and have this bedded down somewhere so that it’s not a shock later down the line (as much as you can when other people may be involved). Whether you are a note taker or a spreadsheet lover, or a finger in the air type, whatever your preference, making notes is a great way to map out what you need to get done and help ease the burden of stress by having it out there in black and white.
Presents: Write down all the people you would like to buy presents for and whether you have agreed a price range or limit to them. This is a great way to really think about what you are going to do present wise. Decorations: Pull out last year’s box and have a rummage, see what works, what’s broken, what needs replacing and that way you know what you have to work with and that way can devise what theme you want your Christmas to be. Cards: Make sure you have all the cards and addresses of all the people you would like to send to, personally I love a card, and find it such a dying art form, we should bring it back! Location: Decide where your Christmas will be, at yours, at the in laws, with other families, friends, abroad, wherever you are wanting Santa to send your presents, be sure you have it all mapped out and as much as you can, agree how long it will be for. This leads on the final point People: Knowing how many people will be with you at each day over Christmas really helps. Once you know, you can instantly start feeling better as you know how many to cater for or whether to go out. It gives you back a level of control that can so easily unravel at this time of the year.
Plan of Attack
Once you have outlined a few points, the name of the game is to start getting things done ahead of time; it might sound nerdy but getting things done ahead of the time, will fundamentally help you in the long term and give you breathing space when you most need it. Book your turkey so you aren't running around all the shops trying to find the last measly one nobody wants. Spend an evening, with a glass of mulled wine (alcohol not mandatory but festive cheer a must) with cheery film on the back ground and write out all the cards, address on envelopes, lick the stamp and voila, ready for the next day’s post. It’s especially satisfying knowing you have completed a task and sending the gift of cheer and merriness to everyone is one you should do early! If you find a present you think someone might like, buy it! By removing the burden of last minute panic buying, you help with reducing your stress levels as well as keeping you within budget. Find a weekend, and get friends, family whomever you would like and have a Christmas decorating day, pull it all out, make some mince pies and voila, up in an instant and with minimal fuss and you get to enjoy the whole process instead of feeling stressed that it needs to be done.
When all else fails, get creative. There is something very special about making your own gifts. Paint a painting, make candles, if you are a dab hand at knitting, crocheting: make the woolly hat all will be jealous of. The world is literally your oyster, explore your talents and see what you can come up with, make your own cards, recycle your old wrapping paper and card and use them as tags for new presents. Have your own bake off, get some friends together and bake a feast which you can then freeze for when people pop round on a whim, that way you always have a batch of cookies, cupcakes, scones at the ready to pop out and voila… look how amazing you are! Do the same with savoury foods too, so that you have a stew, soups, and vegetarian dishes all at the ready. Use your freezer to the maximum, get it stocked so you will never be left short if anyone turns up unexpectedly.
Believe in the Magic of Christmas
Yes you read correctly, so many people these days, see it as just another day “you do”, it isn’t, it’s a time to celebrate, to come together, to believe in miracles and make miracles for others. It’s when Santa and his team of elves come out and make children’s eyes wide with wonder, giggle with glee and happy as a peacock by seeing him in his smart red suit. It’s when Santa chooses who’s been naughty or nice and when the world becomes a little bit kinder to each other. It’s when people intrinsically want to believe in something bigger than themselves, to hope for more, a chance for wonder, to be overtaken with love and miracles. So let’s make it happen, let’s not quell the spirit, lets embrace all the good, the carol singing, the smell of mince pies, the carrot left for Rudolph, the smiles of families travelling across the world to come together to celebrate this one day. Believe in the magic and let it fill your soul with light and happiness so that you give the best gift of all to yourself and everyone you meet. Love.
Words by Carole Armitage: Personal Trainer, Wellbeing Coach and founder of The “Change Movement”