Christmas is just around the corner, and according to the song "It's the most wonderful time of the year", so why is that in the run-up to and during the Christmas and New Year period we can become full of feelings overwhelm and stress? Instead of it being a time for relaxing and spending time with loved ones as it's supposed to be.
It can be a time of clutter, trying to do it all, please everyone around us, live up to expectations, make everything perfect and attempting to maintain every single Christmas tradition. Our calendar is packed full of events and to do's. Christmas shopping, visiting friends and family, writing Christmas cards, parties, pantomimes, putting up decorations, meal planning. It can become a blur of busyness wherever you go.
It's almost as though we make the choice to be hard on ourselves and push ourselves to the limit because that appears to be what everyone else is doing.
If you have been decluttering and simplifying your home, it can also be incredibly stressful to know that is about to become overloaded with yet more stuff - especially if you have children.
Simplify as much as possible and slow down enough to take in what Christmas is really supposed to be about. Although it's counterintuitive to do less at this time of year, doing less leaves more time for family, simple traditions and the true spirit of Christmas.
Here are my top 5 tips for staying calm, happy and healthy over Christmas;
1. Set your own priorities, intentions and limits
When we start setting limits for ourselves, we can find time for the things that are a priority for us at Christmas and make it easier to let go of anything that is not in line with these priorities.
Some questions you can ask yourself to work out your Christmas priorities are; What is Christmas about for you? What do you want to remember about this year? What makes you, and your family happy?
When you stop rushing around trying to do and be everything, you can enjoy the important things more. Keep the important things and let the rest go. You don't have to do everything to make Christmas more 'Christmassy'.
Give yourself permission to slow down, to simplify your celebrations and to do things differently to what others do. If gearing up to celebrate as usual has you hyperventilating already, stop and step back. What feels overwhelming? What aren't you looking forward to? What feels like too much?
Do what works for you. It's OK not to do the things that everyone else is doing, or to do things just because you have always done them.
2. Simplify and let go
Simplify wherever and however you can. Simplifying is always an option in the things that we can control - like our calendar and priorities.
Simplify your calendar and time commitments. It's the season when our social calendars go into overdrive. Being around those that you love is what Christmas is all about. But it is also OK to say no from time to time. Say no to any parties, events or gatherings that don't make you feel happy or excited, or are going to add too much stress to this time of year.
Choose one event per week/weekend, or whatever fits your family best. You aren't missing out if it's too much for you to do it all. Saying no to the things you don't want to do free's up time and energy to spend on the things that are in line with your goals, intentions and priorities, and will allow you to take better care of yourself too. If you would rather turn down work drinks in favour of a night in with your favourite book or hot bath, do it. Do what you need to do. No-one knows what best for you like you.
Let go of feeling guilty about saying no, or the fear of upsetting anyone. Disappointing as few people as possible should not be your ultimate priority for Christmas.
Simplify your 'To Do's and wish lists. Ask yourself, will this create meaningful memories? And more importantly "Will this add to the peace and Joy of Christmas, or take away from it?". Give yourself permission to let go of any traditions, projects or to do's that are no longer in line with your priorities. I love Christmas traditions, those from childhood, those from my husbands and the ones we have created for our family, but that doesn't mean that incorporating every one, every year is a good idea. If you don't want to let go of them altogether, can you simplify them? If you really don't enjoy sending Christmas cards, can you send them to every other year or just send to family and send an email to everyone else on your list? Don't spend the month running around trying to get things done and end up exhausted before you even get to Christmas day.
Let go of perfectionism and comparison.
So often we put pressure on ourselves to have things perfect, and Christmas is no exception. Social media is great for perpetuating ideas that make us want to do it all and feel like filling the Christmas season with activities and Instagram worthy projects will create the perfect Christmas memories that we will remember for a lifetime. Even though we know better we push forward trying to make everything happen. But just how much fun are we to be around when we are trying to micro-manage everything and everybody into having the 'perfect' Christmas? Let go of perfect, and embrace the 'good enough' mentality.
Stop comparing your Christmas to others and trying to impress family and friends. I'm sure we're all a bit guilty of this. The neighbour has better lights, their kids get more expensive presents or your family gatherings and parties aren't like the parties that you see on Facebook.
3. Focus less on what is under the Christmas tree
Christmas is known for gift giving in abundance, with each year seeming to get more and more excessive. perhaps feeling the pressure of the retailer advertising (that's meant to spark our desire to consume), we are conditioned to believe that giving more material items means a happier Christmas. So we spend more than we should and bring more stuff into our lives. More stuff docent mean more happiness. In fact, cutting back on waster and clutter and enjoying a simpler. less stressful Christmas may make you enjoy it more. I'm not saying that you should not buy gifts, but when buying gifts becomes the focal point of Christmas, we lose focus on what really matters.
They are plenty of alternatives to frenzied Christmas shopping; offer a hand made gift, give experiences rather than things. Put the money you would have put into buying stuff, and put it into one big Christmas experience instead. It'll depend on where you are, and how much you want to spend of course, but this could be anything like a free family visit to a museum, or a walk in the country (with a nice pub lunch at the end) to a weekend away. Memories last longer than things.
With young kids in the house, it's hard not to want to completely fill the space around the tree in Christmas morning. But try and allow your kids to truly receive the gifts that they have been given, not just unwrap with curiosity and move onto the next. In that way, they will learn appreciation and gratitude.
Another big stress during the holidays is finances. Giving yourself permission to spend less, and do less. Like skipping the expensive Christmas reducing your gift budget - with leave you with more mental and emotional capacity to really enjoy the time at Christmas season.
Remember, it is not about the number of presents under the Christmas tree or the amount of money that is spent. It is about creating memories together and the things that you can never reclaim - time and love.
4. Get Organised and plan ahead
For me, the biggest thing to help install calm into Christmas is to get started early on my ' To Do' list, No matter how much you scale back on the 'To Do's, some tasks like shopping for family gifts or meal planning are inevitable. Thankfully nothing reduces stress and anxiety like early preparation. Schedule time in your calendar to wrap presents and to deliver gifts. Don't hope that all these extra 'To Do's will just magically fit somewhere in your days, on top of everything else that has to be done on a daily basis. Be realistic about how much time things take and how much time you actually have to do everything. This is where you may find some things that you may have to let go of, or ask for help.
If you are feeling completely overwhelmed or stressed right now by everything that needs to get done, don't be afraid to ask for help. Your family and friends don't want to see you stressed out. Sometimes even just taking super small tasks off our shoulders can feel like a mountain of weight has been lifted off of us.
Schedule downtime in your calendar. Making sure that you set aside time to unwind is so important at anytime of the year, but especially during the Christmas period. All the Christmas events and 'To Do's can be a lot of fun, but they can also be very draining. Try setting aside a morning or afternoon just for you. If you can fit it into your budget, perhaps schedule a massage, or treat yourself to a coffee. Having a few hours to yourself where you don't have anything in particular planned can be rejuvenating. Put that Me Time in your calendar right now.
5. Take care of yourself
The most important thing! Christmas has a tendency to put us on the brink of exhaustion. We worry ourselves into a frenzy trying to be everything to everyone and easily get to the point where we completely forget to take care of ourselves.
How can you keep giving to others if you don't have anything left to give? The simple answer is you can't. Making self care a priority during the busy Christmas period is so important for many reasons.It's OK to put yourself first at Christmas, in fact, it's more than OK, it's essential in order to make sure your family and those around you have a wonderful Christmas too. It not only keeps our sanity in check, but allows you to continually give to others too. We have to fill up our own cup to be able to pour love and support to those around us. And if our cup is empty, we don't have anything left to give.
Look after your body. Make sure that as well as the Christmas treats, you are eating some nutritious food, moving your body (go for some walks in the fresh air), drinking plenty of water and get some sleep so your body can better deal with the excess of busyness, food, Christmas treats and alcohol.