Help with the Christmas Overwhelm 

1. Remember no Christmas is ever 'perfect'

The festive adverts plastered across our TVs tend to feature a groaning table of food surrounded by a happy, harmonious family, the perfect presents, and smiling faces all round. But the fact is, real life tends to be a lot more messy than the scenes you see on TV.

When you make your Christmas plans, try not to put pressure on yourself to get every detail right. This season is all about spending time with your loved ones – especially with the financial constraints that many are experiencing – and no-one will care if you haven’t had time to make a Christmas cake, or didn’t buy them exactly the right gift. It might sound like a cliché, but being together is what really counts. On the same note, if other people’s posts on social media are making you feel lacking, perhaps put them on mute for a month…

2. Try not to worry about things you can’t control

Things you can control: your Christmas budget, what colour wrapping paper you use, and how much brandy to put in the Christmas pud. Things you can’t control: what time your kids wake you up, your mum’s opinion of your gravy-making technique, and how much Auntie Suzie drinks.

When faced with stresses you can’t do anything about, try to move your focus elsewhere. You can’t take on everyone else’s behaviour and emotions as well as your own without risking burnout, so write down what’s in your remit, re-read it when things get heated, and try not to get dragged into dealing with other people’s issues.  

3. Feel free to say ‘no’

It can be hard to turn down invitations over Christmas, but if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the social whirl, it’s OK to say ‘no’. Tell the host you’re thrilled to have been invited, but unfortunately you have other plans (they don’t have to know your ‘plans’ are watching Netflix) and you’re looking forward to getting together in the new year.

This stance can extend to other obligations too – if you really can’t (or don’t want to) cover your colleague’s shift, fulfil someone’s extensive Christmas wish list, or host your other half’s extended family over the holidays, stand firm and politely decline. The things you say ‘yes’ to should fit into your life without causing you undue stress. And once you’ve politely declined those additional duties, skip the guilt trip and enjoy your freedom. It’s OK to do what you want to do.

4. Make a budget – and stick to it…

One of the biggest stresses of the season is the pressure to spend, spend, spend – but you don’t want the start of the new year to be marked by panic about the state of your bank balance. Budget your Christmas right down to the last gift tag, and stick to it. If things are tight, you can plan in advance how to get creative with your food menus and gift-giving (for example, by batch-cooking some festive chutney), and still have plenty of time to warn others that Christmas might be smaller this year. 

5. Don’t throw healthy habits out of the window

Many of us take a break from our healthy eating and exercise regimes over Christmas, which is fine – as long as you don’t decide that ‘Christmas’ starts when the first mince pies hit the shops. Keeping active, eating well, limiting your alcohol intake and getting plenty of sleep can all help you tackle seasonal stress, no matter how tempting that bottle of sherry might look after a day spent wrapping presents.

You can even weave healthy habits into the celebrations without anyone noticing, by piling your meal plates with veggies and encouraging the family out for a few brisk frosty walks, giving you an even better chance of a healthy, anxiety-free Christmas.

6. Diarise your downtime

This might feel a bit excessive, but putting time for yourself on paper can make a world of difference. Amid the whirlwind of unavoidable commitments, festive planning and social events that descends at this time of year, it’s important to make time for yourself. Go through your calendar and schedule some breathing space every week, whether it’s a swimming class, a hot chocolate and a book in your favourite café, or simply an evening under a duvet on the sofa.

Treat these events as equal to any other commitment, because a promise to give yourself a break is as important as all your other commitments. If you put it in your diary, it will also make it easier to say ‘no’ to any extra obligations that arise (we repeat: you don’t have to give a reason), which might otherwise overwhelm you.

7. Share the load

Remember when we said no Christmas will ever be perfect? You might think you’re the only one who’s capable of getting it as close as possible, but that way lies madness, so it’s time to outsource. OK, so your sister’s trifle might leave a lot to be desired, and your other half might be terrible at wrapping presents, but the onus isn’t on you to do every little thing, so make sure you share the load.

Treat yourself to a cleaner if you can, don’t feel guilty for asking your guests to help set the table or look after the sprouts, and let the kids write some of your Christmas cards. If there was ever a time to find ways of working smarter, not harder, it’s now…

8. Stop! Look around you

With all the hustle and bustle of Christmas, don't forget to remember the important things.   Make this Christmas a time that is peppered with moments of quiet.  Where you sit and have a look at those around you.  Where you perhaps enjoy some moments of solitude.  Remember nature has restorative effects.  If you can, get outside.  Look above, below and around you!