Christmas can be a time where the pressure piles on to feel full of seasonal happiness and goodwill whilst in reality becoming a source stress for many. It can be tough to find the perfect gift, to prepare a meal or to face the seasonal cheer when the damp and dark edges in. In our house we have always tried to make it about family time and the real gift of the season – giving – but even keeping up with that in a time intense period can be tricky.
I try to take time out to be mindful and focus on recognising that we are lucky. We have family to celebrate with, a roof over our heads and food on our table. I try to instil in my boys a sense of giving and appreciating at this time of year but without too much pressure. You may have read the Calendar of Goodwill that I published or seen what we’re up to on Instagram stories. There have been occasions where we have planned things on one day then acted upon them over a few – making Christmas cards and handing them out over a period of time or popping them in the post is an example of this. Buying a few extra bits for other people at the same time as our grocery shop is another. I think that the gift of giving works so much better if you don’t feel under pressure to meet unreasonably high expectations.
Planning is key at this time of year. Organising in advance might run the risk of forgetting that you’ve already done something, or make you think that you are sorted when there are small but important details overlooked (such as my panic yesterday that I hadn’t got batteries for the toys we’ve bought). That said, planning can take a big load off. Small things may be forgotten but most things will be covered.
Actively filling up your diary with shopping trips is another must on my list. Spreading them out but giving them time during your day rather than squeezing them in between umpteen school plays or office parties means that not only are they not forgotten but it’s easier to see at a glance how much you actually have on during any individual day.
It can feel overwhelming to put all this into place. My appreciation of stationery especially highlighter pens comes in handy at this time of year, but even I have days where I’m sure I go to bed with more fine lines and grey hairs than I woke up with. So this year, as a reminder to myself as much as anyone else, I have come up with one more list to add to the bundle – how to take care of myself during the holiday period.
Keep hydrated. With the heating on regularly and fizzy pop flowing it’s important to remember to keep topped up with water at all times! I have a pint of it next to me as I am typing this out.
Plan your food. Food seems to be a cornerstone of the Christmas period but don’t let it take over. Sure I enjoy dipping into the biscuit tin as much as anyone else, but if I’m feeling peckish I make sure that I have a good supply of fresh fruit on hand too.
Exercise. Go for a walk, dance to Christmas pop or head to the pool. Whatever ticks the box for you keep moving if you can to keep those endorphins flowing.
Plan in a social day. Go out with your nearest and dearest for a walk or to the cinema. Maybe listen to some music, have a meal. Whatever is relaxing but not pressurised.
Plan in a quiet day. Equally important is having quiet time, time alone, time enjoying some peace. Whether that is in your home or partaking in Shinrin-yoku.
Pick up the telephone. Christmas can feel like a terribly lonely time whilst everyone is seemingly rushing around with too few hours in the day. Knock some of the little tasks down the list to ‘nice to haves if you get round to it’ and pick up the phone for a natter with a relative or friend who you miss.
Give yourself a gift. I’m not suggesting that you rush out and spend £100s on a luxury item, just don’t forget you. Allow yourself that night off to have a bubble bath and relax in bed with a book. Put time aside to pick up a hobby that’s been thrown to the wayside during the course of the year. You don’t necessarily have to do this in the run up to Christmas, but at some stage this season take time for you.
Cut the caffeine. Your morning cuppa is one thing, but caffeine is a stimulant and having it throughout the day can cause you more additional stress than you need right now. Switch it with a hot squash or herbal tea instead for a warming drink without the added adrenaline kick.
Watch the birds. Or walk your dog, chat to your cat or watch a YouTube video of otters holding hands. Research has shown that pets are good for our health and create a buffer for our stress, and some professionals feel that this extends to taking an interest in watching the animal kingdom more generally.
Sing it out. It doesn’t matter whether you sing loudly in the shower, croon away whilst cooking your spuds or head out to a carol concert. Singing is good for the soul and another activity that can release endorphins – so go ahead and unleash your inner Beyoncé or Freddie Mercury.
Mindfulness. It might not suit everyone, but taking a moment to be mindful can have such a calming effect. Very important for this time of year!
So that’s my list of how I’m going to try to keep myself on track for a happy Christmas – what would you add? Do let me know in the comments!
If you enjoyed this post you might like to check out my Christmas on Netflix watch list.