It’s the most wonderful time of the year….or so they say! Is it a magical time for you, or do you dread the stress of it all?
I’ve always loved the idea of Christmas, but for many years I was unable to create the idyllic festive season I remembered from my childhood.
Instead, it was tiring and bank account-draining.
With so much to do and buy and not enough time or money, it’s no wonder loads of us end up feeling stressed.
We already have hectic schedules, then Christmas comes along and we have presents to buy, cards to send, menus to plan, crafts and baking to complete, entertaining to do…and all the rest!
A few years ago I decided enough was enough. Since then – one step at a time – I’ve discovered ways to make Christmas fun, enjoyable, and (more-or-less) affordable.
Of course, unexpected stressful things happen from time-to-time – especially this year, with Covid-19 restrictions likely to affect how we celebrate.
We might have no control over these outside factors, but we can control how we respond.
I find the better prepared I am generally, the more successfully I can deal with the unexpected things that go wrong.
Here are my top tips to help you enjoy Christmas this year:
Pick your priorities
Like it or not, Christmas 2020 is going to be different.
If you think about it, this fact makes it the perfect year to make changes to your usual routine.
As early as you can, decide what’s important to you and your family.
Covid restrictions allowing, where do you want to spend Christmas and how long would you like to stay? Who are you happy to invite into your home?
Set your boundaries, and cut out anything that isn’t essential or doesn’t make you happy.
Also make sure your plans are realistic and flexible – pandemic restrictions could change between now and the big day.
Set a budget
It’s so easy to spend money you don’t have on presents, food, Christmas activities, and impulse purchases – and end up with a Christmas debt hangover in January and beyond.
I used to do it and it was stressful and ultimately not enjoyable – which is really not the point of Christmas!
I recommend you look at how much you can honestly afford to spend.
You need to be detailed – work out how much you can spend on each gift, on each activity, and on food.
Then make sure that’s all you spend.
It’s not bah humbug – your family and friends would not want you to get into debt because you felt you had to buy them an expensive present.
Do it now and stick to it.
Plan, plan, plan
I recommend you plan and start completing your Christmas tasks as early as possible.
And when I say early, I mean October at the latest…it might be a little late for that this year, but doing some planning now is better than no planning at all.
Remember, it doesn’t have to be you that does everything – it’s definitely okay to delegate and share the workload.
Check out my blog on how to plan your way to a stress-free Christmas for more tips.
Remember to breathe
Family tensions can bubble up at Christmas, especially when people have had a tough time.
If someone says something or something happens that causes your stress levels to rise, try a mindful breathing practice to help you stay calm.
Take a deep breath in through your nose, hold it for a few seconds, then slowly breathe out through your mouth.
Making the effort to do this will help you keep your cool and help you avoid saying or doing something rash in the heat of the moment.
I’m often tempted to try to attend every social event (online or in-person) and complete every Christmas-related activity – but no one can be everywhere at once.
Prioritise both your and your family’s time, and only commit to what you actually want to do – and also what you have the headspace to do.
It’s all about quality, not quantity.
If you have children, or if there are children in the family, make sure there’s time for creating some Christmas magic for them – even if it’s just an afternoon playing games by the Christmas tree, or making a gingerbread house.
You’ll all treasure the memories forever.
Protect your downtime
It’s really important to have some time to yourself over the festive period, otherwise, it can easily get too much.
Try not to let your daily yoga practice or jog in the park get pushed off the to-do list – keep up with whatever it is that provides ‘you time’ and makes you feel happy.
It’s okay to want to be alone sometimes!
After the year we’ve all had, relationships and connections with family and friends have become even more important.
Lockdown has forced us to slow down and reconnect with ourselves, with nature, and the people who are important to us (even if we could only see them via Zoom).
I think it’s important we learn from our experiences during this pandemic. Let’s continue to make people and the environment our top priority.
Try not to get so caught up in the Christmas rush that you forget to enjoy the people you’re doing everything for, and make mindful connections with those you love – including yourself.