I know this year will be different to other years, but with December well and truly upon us, here are my tips for a stress-free – or at least a lower stress – Christmas:
Make a Plan
I am not only talking about who you will spend Christmas with, because I know that this can be a headache any year, and of course 2020 is even more complicated to normal. Many of us will be spending more time alone or not with everyone we would normally be with, which can be tough. However, I would recommend having a plan in place, not only for Christmas preparations, but also for when you will talk to those people who you care about whether this is online, on the phone or in a Covid-compliant way. We need to be more creative than ever this year.
Having a plan in place will help relieve some of the pressure you may feel under and can free up time for doing rather than worrying about what needs to happen. Some of you may have an aversion making plans, but I guarantee you that if you do make one, you will feel liberated rather than restricted – with one proviso. If your plan is unrealistic it will make you feel more stressed; so, use this exercise as an opportunity for a reality check about what do you want from Christmas, and what you are able to make happen in the time available. Amend your plan accordingly.
Prepare Yourself for Tricky Family Dynamics
Ideally, Christmas is a time of peace and joy to all; but in reality, most people I know have to deal with some ‘challenging’ family behaviours. Let’s face it, it’s hardly surprising: you’re suddenly thrown together in limited space for extended periods; and, no matter how much you really care for them, it can still be really testing as it brings everyone’s quirks to the fore. This year there is also the added concern of looking out for vulnerable or lonely family members you cannot be with and the pressure of who will be in your bubble. It’s like an impossible game of sudoku.
So, what can you do? Find yourself an ally or two in the house or remotely who you can let off steam too if things become too much. Prioritise what is non-negotiable from your point of view, but do be prepared to compromise. Think about what you can do to minimise any issues in advance. Also, be realistic about what to expect of people. Then, take a deep breath and enjoy!
Reduce the Pressure of Perfectionism
Christmas is a special time, and we want it to be amazing – particularly after the year we have had; but some people set themselves such high expectations they are impossible to satisfy. Take the pressure off, by asking yourself and your family what is essential for you to enjoy festive season.
You may well find that your priorities are less about the mountain of gifts under the tree, and more about how you can make Christmas feel special both for the people you are with and those who you are unable to spend time with. Ask yourself, does really matter if you let some things slide, or even take them off your list all together?
Ask for Help
You do not have to do everything on your own. Ask for help to get everything ready for the big day. Most people love feeling that they can be a part of preparations, so divide the tasks accordingly and allow everyone to take pride in how they have contributed. This year you can exercise your creativity by thinking about how you can make Christmas special even if you are all apart.
My family will be creating a family nativity which is giving everyone something to do: script-writing, composing songs, creating costumes, props and backdrops in each of our homes, not to mention filming and then editing it all together into a final ‘masterpiece’. This project is involving family members all over the world and something we have never even considered before. The pandemic, in this instance, has been good for our creativity.
Fortify yourself – and no, I don’t mean with drink
Do what you need to do to look after yourself to keep you calm and ensure you get through the festive season in one piece: go for a walk, have a cup of tea or a long bath, talk to a friend or make time to watch that programme you love.
Us introverts need time alone to recharge so do make sure that the people you will be with realise that this is something you will need to do and is nothing personal. You are no good to anyone, including yourself, if you are overwhelmed or exhausted.
And finally, whatever happens, I hope you enjoy Christmas even if things don’t quite go to plan. I grew up in a house where every year all the food would be ready except the potatoes, as the Aga became colder and colder throughout the day. In spite of every possible variation of cooking time, the potatoes were never quite roasted – and certainly not crispy. This has now become part of our family tradition just as much as stockings or Turkey; and I can’t imagine Christmas being any better, even with crispy potatoes!
Mince pie anyone?!