Reducing your stress at Christmas

It’s that time of year again, when the Christmas tree goes up and the pressures of making the holiday season a happy occasion for all are upon you again. Christmas can be a stressful time of year if you are not prepared.

With a few simple, practical strategies you can turn high expectations and stressors into an enjoyable moment with family and friends.

Budgeting for your Christmas financial health

A planned budget is your starting point to avoid the stressors of financial worry. Work out how much you have at your disposal after regular expenses.

  • Make a budget of what you intend to spend on food, gifts, entertainment and other Christmas expenses. If you know how much you have available, it will save you dipping into your savings or pulling out the credit card.
  • Consider setting up a Christmas account at the start of the year and saving a regular amount each week, fortnight or month. This can make it less stressful knowing that you have a specific amount saved for Christmas each year
  • Re-think how you buy Christmas presents

    Gift giving can be expensive if you have lots of family and friends to buy for. While it can feel good to give and receive at Christmas, but if not planned well it can significantly increase your stress levels.

    To reduce your stress, think strategically about how your buy presents and come up with a few alternatives.

    • Do you need to buy presents for everyone?
    • Buy presents for immediate family only.
    • Set a limit on how much everyone will spend on gifts.
    • Do you need to buy presents at all?

    Christmas does not need to be about material items. It is also about spending time with family and friends whose company you enjoy and can relax with. The gift of time and conversation can be priceless.

    Plan your Christmas shopping

    The stores are guaranteed to be crowded and the more people bustling around will mean the higher your stress levels will be.

    • Plan ahead and start your shopping as early as possible.
    • Write a shopping list and stick to it. Overspending is one of the main reasons for increased stressed at Christmas.
    • Know which stores you will need to visit and how long you will spend in each one.
    • If shopping online, be aware of delivery times and reduce your stress of parcels not arriving in time for Christmas.
    • Don’t forget to plan your grocery shopping and ensure that you have everything you need for the day.

    Making Christmas lunch (or dinner) less stressful

    Generally, there is one person in the family who may be expected to do all the cooking. This can increase stress and expectations on that person to make everything perfect. Preparing and eating at Christmas should be an enjoyable and relaxing time for everyone.

    • If you are having lunch or dinner at home, be sure to delegate the tasks between all family members so that you are not doing everything yourself.
    • Keep it simple and plan in advance what type of meal you will serve (e.g., formal sit down, a buffet, or will everyone bring a shared platter).
    • Write a shopping list of all the items you will need and shop in advance as supermarket shelves can sell out quickly if you leave it to the last minute.
    • If you need to pre-order any dishes such as platters or the turkey, be sure to order it in advance to ensure it arrives on time.
    • Have a strategy written out for Christmas day such as when items need to be thawed out, prepared, cooked, served so that you are not rushing and increasing your stress levels.
    • Online shopping is an alternative option if you want to avoid the crowds and if done in advance the supermarket can deliver it for you. Note: this is generally more expensive than visiting the store.
    • If you plan on eating Christmas lunch or dinner out, be sure to make your table booking well in advance as some restaurants book out months in advance.

    Managing relationships at Christmas

    When you feel under pressure at Christmas, it can have a negative impact on the way you interact with your family and friends. This can lead to anxiety and depression which are all to common over the holiday season.

    • Set up realistic expectations of what you, family and friends expect of each other at Christmas.
    • Understand which subjects (such as politics or other topics which cause tenseness) to avoid during conversations and reduce the triggers for stress.
    • Continue to practise mindfulness and mediation to minimise stress and anxiety by focusing on the power of your breath.

    Maintain your health and wellbeing

    • Keep moving and get in your regular exercise whether it be walking, riding or jogging.
    • Get enough sleep so that you are well rested for Christmas activities and events.
    • Be mindful not to overdo it with food and enjoy drinking in moderation.
    Most importantly, relax and enjoy the day and have a great Christmas.

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