Are you like a kid at Christmas, or more like a whirling dervish!? Tis the season to be joyful, but do you find yourself experiencing more stress, anxiety and exhaustion at this most wonderful time of the year?

Each year, we say it will be different, that everything will be ticked off our never ending to-do list. Cards and presents will be bought, written, wrapped and posted by 1st Dec! Food will be prepped and in the freezer ready for impromptu guests. Money will be saved and not splurged. And conflicts will be resolved for peaceful and civilised gatherings at the end of the year. And yet by the time December rolls around we find ourselves caught up in the same scramble, on an all too familiar last minute dash, combined with ensuing guilt, overwhelm and the feeling of slowly sinking under all the pressure and wrapping paper!

For some, Christmas can be a difficult time of year, a perfect storm of worry, anxiety, family tensions and financial burdens, all rising to the surface amidst the twinkling lights and picture perfect greetings cards. And so, it is good to remember that there are far more important things to focus on than a pristine house, perfectly wrapped presents that co-ordinate with the tree or making sure the 47 different varieties of
vegetables a lá Jamie Oliver are cooked to perfection for Christmas dinner. So how can we be more calm and collected at Christmas? Where can we make changes to shift our focus from prefect presents to being intentionally present? And, if we do get caught up in the mad dash, how can we step back and take a moment to savour the season?

Her are a few top tips to herald in the calm, cheer and contentment at Christmas.
Making plans.

Get out your calendar for December and plan in the absolute essential activities.

Making a plan for the month will give you a bird’s eye view of what is happening and may avoid over-commitments. Being prepared will help you feel more in control rather than racing from one day to the next as if the month were a huge seasonal marathon!

Choose to do less.
Reduce the amount of items on your to-do lists and shopping lists, including the activities on your calendar. Instead of planning to attend every party, choose the ones you really want to go to and send a card to say thank you to the ones you don’t. By giving yourself less choice, you reduce the stress and overwhelm that comes with the decision making process.

Delegation is key.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Where do you need an extra pair of hands? Can you
involve family and friends in your activities to take the pressure off doing it all? Or do
you need support financially or emotionally at this time of year? If so, seek support and advice – there are many charities willing and able to help. And remember, it takes real strength to reach out and lean on others.

It’s only one day.
Take the pressure off by enjoying the festive season throughout December, rather than focussing all the attention on the 25th. Recognise and allow yourself to enjoy the build-up to the big day and spread out your plans and traditions to avoid overwhelm on Christmas weekend.

Little by little.
Buy a few non-perishables from your Christmas food and drink shopping list each week. This will not only spread the cost, but you’ll feel more at ease knowing you have made a start. Also, add in one or two items to the food donation at your local supermarket to help build their resources.

Sharing is caring.
Consider ways to share what you already have through donations and volunteering. By giving back at this time of year, you are bringing joy to others and this will lift your spirits too. Think of creative ways to do this – a pot luck dinner for friends, an outdoor cinema night to raise money for charity, card making with young children – the possibilities to give are endless.

Time out.
Take the time you need during this hectic period. Whilst the hustle and bustle may be fun, having moments to yourself will reduce your stress and help prevent burnout. Enjoy quiet and time out, whether that’s watching your favourite film, going for a walk or sitting alone with your thoughts; gift yourself what you need to rest and recharge.

The most important things in life aren’t things.
Whether alone or together, people are the most important things in life. Consider this and look for ways you can reach out and show love this Christmas. It may be a phone call, a letter or card to someone you know is alone. Let others know you care and are thinking of them, it just might make their Christmas.

by Sarah Alex Carter, Wellbeing Coach and Consultant

Author WCS

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