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Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year – or the most stressful! There is so much to remember, plan and do that it can quickly become overwhelming. If you also work, it can seem like you have no time to get things in place for the ‘big day,’ let alone do it right! Here are 25 ways to reduce stress at Christmas that might just save the day for you…
The three most common causes of stress at Christmas are money, time and family disagreements. But it’s supposed to be a day for being together, laughing, enjoying each others company and feeling good. So how can we make sure that happens? Read on to find out…
25 ways to reduce stress at Christmas
- Make a to-do list for the Christmas period. Create a list of all the things that need to get done (note I don’t say that YOU have to do it!) From writing your gift and card lists to preparing Christmas lunch, include everything. Now go through that list and decide which of those items absolutely HAS to be done by you. Things like buying presents for your other half. For everything else think of someone who could possible do it instead. You will likely find that it halves your tasks at least!
- Make a budget – and stick to it. Make a list of all the expenses you will have over the Christmas period. Break it down into essentials like bills; priorities like gifts, food and drink; and would be nice items like alcohol and a new outfit (if you like to dress up!) Now work out how much you will have to spend on each of these items. Your bills and paying off any debts must be your priority. Getting yourself into worse debt over Christmas is just going to add to your stress. Then, when you know how much you have to play around with, work out how much you want to spend on gifts, food, decor etc. If you have any money left over after that, bonus!
- Keep gifts and cards to a minimum. You don’t have to buy gifts and give cards to the whole neighbourhood! I quite often get Christmas cards from my neighbours. Call me stingy, I don’t return the favour. I have never given cards to people I don’t know, and I don’t know my neighbours any better than to say a polite hello when I see them. Gifts should also be given only to those you are close to.
- Better yet – handmake cards and gifts! The last few years, I have taken to making my own Christmas cards. It’s more personal, I love to craft and I always receive compliments on them. Last year, I also decided to handmake all my gifts too. Again, it allows you to add a personal touch. I find shopping alongside stressed people all the more stressful myself. It can be impossible to find just the right present among the generic smellies sets and alcohol gifts, and I run out of money very quickly! I made embroidered handkerchiefs, embroidered tote bags, bookmarks and cookies in jars for my gift list and they were all well received. The only exception to this was my son, who I always give money to (he’s a student and can do with all the financial help possible, so it makes sense!) and my nieces and nephews who are too young to understand the concept of handmade value! For these, I gave vouchers for experiences such as a cinema trip and books.
- If you must shop, buy online. I am a big believer in supporting small businesses. I work for an independent retailer myself and if everyone went online and to the big commercial stores we would be out of business. But you can find independent retailers and small business on places such as Etsy, Not On The High Street and Folksy, who handmake gifts and sell them. If you are not into crafts or don’t have the time to make gifts, these are great places to find hand made gifts at affordable prices.
- Get rid of your clutter before Christmas. For many years, I left the cleanup and sort out process until after Christmas was over. The problem with this is that it looms over you throughout the festive period. In the back of your mind, you know the dreaded de-clutter is coming. As if there isn’t enough stress at Christmas! Now I get it done at the beginning of December before I put the decorations up. The house looks Christmassy and cosy and I don’t have to worry about the clutter.
- Try not to procrastinate. When you work full time and you’re trying to organise your life as well as the big day, it’s easy to find yourself putting things off ‘until tomorrow,’ but sometimes tomorrow never comes. You just keep putting things off until suddenly you’re in a mad rush to get things done yesterday! Check your to-do list, stick to it and do things promptly. You will thank yourself for it later!
- Keep decor to a minimum. While it’s lovely to have all the trimmings, festive ornaments, tinsel all over the house, and a massive Christmas tree, it’s only up for a month at most and leaves you with so much to deconstruct afterwards. Not to mention the cost of replacing things when they break or outlive their purpose. A tree may be a must for you and that’s fine, but maybe cut back on the ornaments. It’s easier to clean with less stuff to move and too much can lead to a feeling of restlessness.
- Avoid social media. Seeing what everyone else is up to, and how they are holding it all together perfectly can add to your stress. It may make you feel inadequate, less fortunate and like you are failing. Remember that what people post is generally a snapshot and you don’t see the things that went wrong. Not only that, but you are also different people and have different circumstances. Save yourself the stress and avoid it!
- And avoid adverts! Companies pay huge amounts of money to experts in marketing to make you feel like you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, etc; so that you will buy their products. It’s the main reason I don’t use advertising on my blog as a monetising strategy. I don’t want people to come here and feel bad about themselves! Just don’t look at them!
- Ask for help when you need it. People around you will be willing to help you if you ask for it. Even if it’s just to supply the dessert on Christmas day. Don’t suffer in silence if you need some help.
- Look after your physical health. Eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise is a must during stressful times. You need to keep your energy levels up so try not to binge on junk food and instead opt for healthy snacks and filling meals.
- Make time for you. It’s important amid all the chaos to find some downtime for you. Have a relaxing bubble bath, meditate, listen to music or read a book. Make sure you take regular time outs to recharge your batteries.
- Get quality sleep. Avoid the temptation to stay up late into the night to get more done. Quality rest is when your body heals itself and your mind recharges and makes sense of what you have been doing. Sleep deprivation can have devastating effects so make sure to get a good nights sleep whenever you can.
- Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go to plan. Even the best laid out plan can run into problems because life happens! It’s not the end of the world if something throws your plan out the window. Simply sit down with your list and rework it.
- Avoid family conflict. There is always likely to be conflicts in families at stressful times. If you’re hosting Christmas dinner, someone may be jealous, or maybe they don’t want Auntie Mable to be there! Don’t let yourself get dragged into it. Just politely say that you don’t want to get involved and that you have a lot to be getting on with.
- Don’t make too many commitments. It’s common for us to agree to chauffeur family members around, pull an extra shift at work, pick up some extra groceries etc, and before we know it, we have run out of time to do the things we need to do. Make sure you stick to your plan and only agree to do extra for others if it won’t interfere with your plans, including the ‘me time’ you need.
- Remember what Christmas is really about. This will be different for everyone. If you are religious then Christmas likely symbolises something to do with your faith. Take the time to appreciate that. If like me, you are not religious, then Christmas is going to more about spending time with loved ones, being together and feeling loved. Whatever it means for you, this is the time to appreciate it.
- Not everything has to be perfect. The most memorable times in our lives tend to be when something went wrong! But it doesn’t have to be negative. Laugh about it, it’s not the end of the world if the potatoes come out a bit crispier, the wine flows a bit too freely or the cat decided to throw up in the middle of the Queen’s speech!
- Don’t assume you have to be happy. Although Christmas should be a happy, festive time of year, there are many reasons why some find it difficult. Maybe it’s your first Christmas without a loved one, maybe you’re alone this year, or maybe you are exhausted from working so much. You don’t have to be the life and soul of the party. Let go of stress at Christmas and just be present.
- Let yourself acknowledge loved ones who aren’t there. Whether they have passed away, moved to another place, no longer in your life or any other reason, it’s important to acknowledge your feelings about someone who is not present. Allow yourself time to think about them, maybe even set them a plate at the table or put a little gift under the tree for them. It’s your feelings that need to be taken into account, no one else’s. They can deal with it how they feel is right for them.
- Make changes to family traditions you don’t want or put your own spin on them. When I was growing up, my parents would allow myself and my brothers and sister to choose one big present, that we would always receive. But then they would pretend they couldn’t get it for whatever reason. It would appear later and later every year, to keep us guessing whether we would actually be getting it! While it seemed like a harmless tradition, I hated it (I’ve never told them!) Each year, a little bit of disappointment would start creeping in that maybe we wouldn’t get the present this year, and then I would feel guilty for being ungrateful at all the presents I had received. I kept the tradition of allowing my son to choose a big present every year, but I would place it in the middle of all his other presents so he could see he had it. The point is you don’t have to follow traditions exactly if they don’t suit you, change them up and make them yours!
- Don’t overdo the food. So much food gets wasted over the Christmas period. People buy sweets, lots of different meats, extra veggies, preserves, jams and more. My mum would go through her cupboards before Christmas and find stuff from the previous year still untouched! It’s one day, you only need to stock up on what you will need for that day. People still shop like the stores will be closed for a week, but they are open again on boxing day!
- Enjoy some outside time. There’s nothing quite like a stroll on a quiet street in the crisp afternoon air. Find time to get outside and breathe.
- Don’t arrange anything you don’t need to for Christmas day. This is particularly important if you work. Let Christmas day be the day you spend at home with your family, relaxing and having fun. Arrangements to visit others can be made for boxing day, new year or in between. You don’t have to see everyone on Christmas day!
It is possible to reduce stress at Christmas. You just need to remember what’s important to you and your family and let everything else go.
How do you avoid stress at Christmas? Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments!