Practical tips to help you get through the festive season
For many people, the Christmas holiday period can be overwhelming with expectations and commitments to spend time with family and relatives, some of whom you would rather not see.
Then there are the number of expectations (or at least perceived expectations) to create a wonderful Christmas with presents, visiting family and perhaps THE most important meal of the year.
Some of you may have specific traditions like making everything from scratch or creating personalised gifts by hand, all of this takes time during a time of year when our time is being stretched too thin already.
Pro tip 1:
Try to prioritise the items on your list, can they be done now and are they essential?
Pro tip 2:
Can you delegate any other this to other family members to reduce what you have to do?
Here are a few tips we have curated together to help to make your pre Christmas and Christmas Day as stress-free as possible.
If this is something you do not do naturally, we highly recommend them! Not only do they help you to remember all of the little things at a time when your mind is full to the brim, but they can help to reduce the number of random, impulse purchases too.
Start creating a list of all the things you need to do for Christmas early: presents, food and general shopping that you need to have done before guests arrive or you have to travel elsewhere. Make your travel and accommodation arrangements ahead of time, especially if you need to book flights or hotels.
If you are hosting the main meal of the day, plan your menu now and delegate either part of the prep or the cooking to other guests where possible to reduce the amount of foot traffic in your kitchen on the day.
Make the list as detailed as possible including key contact phone numbers, email addresses etc so you have it all in one place for easy reference. Mid to late November is a great time to do this so you have sufficient time to plan and execute before that last week or two of year -end panic sets in.
Pro tip 1: Try to prioritise the items on your list, can they be done now and are they essential?
Pro tip 2: Can you delegate any other this to other family members to reduce what you have to do?
Do not overestimate how much you can achieve on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Many recipes can be made ahead of time and frozen thus reducing tasks in the immediate run up to Christmas Day. Get presents wrapped as soon as you buy them, to reduce the workload the night before – or even ask for girt wrapping from the store you buy them from.
Then save this list for next year – and the year after – to save time down the track!
2. Shop Online
If you’re not already doing it, consider buying as many presents, groceries, wine etc online now while the specials are on and pop it aside for the big day. The more you can avoid the crazy queues at the supermarket in the weekends leading up to Christmas, the more sane you will remain.
Consider shopping online from local stores and suppliers, and try to support small and local wherever you can. After a terrible year with lockdowns, your local retailers need your dollar more than ever. Just ensure they can deliver what you need ahead of time and book a delivery slot early.
3. Christmas Cards and Overseas Gifts
Start writing your cards now and get them lodged at the Post Office ahead of the queues as couriers run into delays in the two weeks leading up to Christmas. Do the same with any gifts you are sending overseas, or even try to find a local supplier near where the recipient lives, to avoid international shipping fees and durations.
4. Know when to Stop
Decide when you will stop your Christmas preparations and start to relax and enjoy the holiday period. Work towards and try to stick to this goal, even if it is in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Remember that Christmas is your holiday too.
5. Christmas Day and Beyond
Play some relaxing music, Christmas carols sung by some of your favourite artists, burn scented candles, incense, or aromatherapy oil on the day to create an atmosphere of calm and relaxation.
6. Seating Arrangements
If there is someone coming to dinner that you dislike, avoid sitting opposite them and instead seat them to one side and opposite somebody with whom they get on better. Invite a few more reasonable people along as it will help dilute any stress caused by relatives – or join up with friends if you have only a small family or are missing key members this year to help create a brighter vibe sometimes it is the more, the merrier!
7. Reduce caffeine on the day or drink decaffeinated coffee
When your body is under stress it produces cortisol, which prepares you for ‘fight or flight’ situations. Caffeine does too, so keep it to just one coffee in the morning (if you can!).
8. Practise Breathing
When we are stressed our heart-beat increases and our breathing shallows. It is all part of the fight or flight reaction. Work on reversing this process and take time to breathe deeply.
Breathe in deeply through your nose, hold for 15 or 20 seconds and then breathe slowly out through your mouth, repeat for a few minutes to instantly help reduce stressful feelings. If you practice meditation, make sure you take some time early in the day to do a meditation that will get you through the busiest part of the day.
9. Have a Great Escape Plan!
It is good idea to have some pre-planned excuses to escape from the proceeding if they get too stressful.
Be imaginative and use things such as leaving the room to make a call to a friend or perhaps check on a neighbour. Just by having planned a couple of escape routes you’ll probably feel less stressed anyway but actually leaving the situation even for just 10 minutes, will help clear your mind and relax you. Taking a walk to the shops for some much needed milk or sugar or just to give the dog a quick walk is a great way to get a bit of exercise in as well as to blow off any steam that may have built up over the day.
10. Sleep Well
Lack of sleep can make you feel irritable and more prone to feeling stressed. Christmas often means late nights and early mornings, especially if children are involved, so your normal sleep routine may be reduced or out of synch. Eating rich foods and drinking alcohol can disturb your sleep, not to mention Santa coming down the chimney in the middle of the night! Try to get as much good quality sleep leading up to Christmas Eve so you can cope on Christmas Day with a one off reduced sleep day.
11. Diet and Exercise
Ensuring you get moderate exercise every day leading up to Christmas – it need only be a 20-minute walk to help boost immunity and serotonin. Eating as many good quality fruits and vegetables will help keep your immune system strong. Take a good quality multivitamin every day if you are prone to getting run down as there are a number of colds and flus still circulating as we head into Summer.
On the day, drink as much water as you do alcohol, more if it’s a hot day. Alcohol is dehydrating and can make your liver work overtime so ensure you keep a selection on non-alcoholic drinks on hand to keep the liquid refreshments hydrating. People needed even know you are on the waters – simply pour a large glass of soda into a wine glass and add a dash of lime cordial and it will look like a glass of bubbles!
12. Have fun!
Remember, after all it’s your Christmas too, so try to relax and have fun, laugh and be merry. Make the most of time spent with family you do not get to spend time with - they will not be around forever. If you find others around you being difficult then try to rise above the situation or take a break, go and have a lie down for 20 minutes or find a quiet space to sit away from the volume.
If things do not go to plan - especially in the kitchen – then try not to worry too much. Laugh about them and make them into fun memories to talk about during Christmases to come. “Remember that time Mum set fire to the broccoli!”