For as much as I absolutely adore Christmas, I don’t adore the stress that comes with it. All the preparing, all the planning, all the money that seems to be flying out of my bank account and trying – desperately – to get everything wrapped up the last week before the big event so I can take a week off work at the end of the year.
I blame myself for most of it. I feel this need for everything to be perfect and to look perfect and to go without a hitch and it’s probably years of watching Christmas films that have made me think that somehow it has to be ‘TV-perfect’ for it to be a success. But honestly, it’s just one day of the year. I’m not a religious person but I love the idea of family and friends coming together and sharing in a time of year when, well, we are meant to just be kind to one another, to look after each other, to express our love and appreciation for one another, to show kindness to those who are vulnerable. It really shouldn’t be that stressful.
So I thought I’d just share a few tips for how to manage all that stress around Christmas time – from Christmas traditions to ditch, to simplifying your decor and more.
Choose the Traditions You Want to Keep
We used to have a tradition of creating an extravagant Christmas breakfast in the morning. It was lovely, don’t get me wrong, but we quickly realised with Christmas dinner on the cards and entertaining family during the day in our home, it was something neither of us actually enjoyed preparing. So we ditched it. We also like to take the dog on a long walk after dinner – it was a great way to enjoy the cold, work off some of the calories and get us out of the house for a bit. We kept that one.
So think about the traditions that you do every year and decide what IS important to you and what isn’t. If you love attending Midnight Mass but hate preparing a turkey, order in a pre-prepared one ahead of time. If you love decorating the tree with your children but hate having to pick needles out of your car and carpet the rest of the year, get an artificial one. If you love making your own Christmas wreath for your door each year but hate putting lights up outside, then don’t do the lights, just do the wreath. If you love choosing presents but hate fighting the crowds, shop online.
Make a list of the traditions that you do each year and cut out the ones that simply add stress. You’ll end up creating your own perfect version of a Christmas that works for you and your family rather than trying to stick with a regimented view of what Christmas is ‘meant’ to look like.
Keep the Decor Simple
I love decorating for the holidays and my loft space will attest to the fact that I’ve collected quite an array over the years. While I will go all out decorating my living room and my dining room, the Christmas decor stops there. You actually don’t have to decorate every single room of the house if you don’t want to or if you find it stressful or if you feel like you need to spend a lot of money to do so.
Stick with garlands laced with a string of fairy lights, a few candles in hurricane lanterns and add in some natural textures like fallen pinecones or holly branches for a warm and festive look that works with just about any style. For your Christmas table, a few simple votives with tea lights down the centre of the table and some greenery will allow your food to be the focus.
Hell, you don’t even need a tree if you have a small space or find it all a hassle. We only decorated our dining room last year because we were in the midst of packing and ya know what? Christmas was still lovely even sans tree. Choose a tabletop tree if you want or create a wall-hanging tree which takes up less space, especially if you’re stressed about making room for a traditional one in a smaller space.
Essentially, don’t think you have to go all out and turn your house into Santa’s Grotto. Do what is best for you – and for your stress levels.
Cut Down on Present Buying
If you find yourself feeling pressured to buy presents for the 12 cousins on your mum’s side of the family, your BFF from 10 years ago that you’ve drifted apart from, the postman, the lady down the road that watches your cats when you are away and every child that you happen to have a tenuous link to, just STOP. Talk to your friends and family before the festive season begins and let them know you love them, you appreciate them, but you’re making a donation to a local charity instead of buying 47 gifts this year. Yes, it may be awkward but relieving yourself of having to pick out something that Aunt Clara always hates anyway will be life-changing and honestly? Your second cousin’s 4 year old that you’ve never even met won’t miss it.
Decide who you want to buy gifts for (immediate family and those you really are close to are probably the only ones that really need to be on your list) and agree with everyone else that you won’t be buying gifts this year – how much do you want to bet they’ll be relieved they don’t have to buy you one either? And then, yes, make that single donation you promised.
Keep Wrapping Simple
It’s so easy to buy 10 different kinds of colour-coordinated wrapping paper along with 14 different bows and ribbon – the shops are full of them, teasing you as you walk towards the till enticing you to spend just a little bit more. Resist the urge and keep it simple with a large roll of craft paper and some simple twine. Tuck sprigs of greenery into the paper along with a paper gift tag for a simple style that actually looks pretty fantastic too.
Make Time for You
And finally, in the name of all that is good and great about the holidays, do schedule into your calendar a bit of time for yourself. Whether it’s a trip to the park to breathe in a bit of nature, an evening where you’ll soak for an hour with a fancy facemask on or booking yourself to have lunch at that new place down the road, make sure you give yourself a chance to relax. And then take that list of things to do and delegate the hell out of it with the rest of your family or your partner to lessen the load. And pour yourself a glass of mulled wine (just buy it in the shops, don’t bother making your own if you don’t fancy doing it). You deserve it.
What do you do to reduce stress around Christmas time? I’d love to hear what tips you might have too! The comment box below awaits…