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Whilst the festive season brings together family, friends, gifts, celebrations and can be a time of joy and wonder it can also be a time of incredible stress and tension for many of us. It is such a frenzied time with so much to do that we often run ourselves ragged so that by Christmas Day we are left feeling exhausted and drained with not much energy left to enjoy the day. It doesn’t have to be like that. Here are our tips to help you make the festive season a joyful one and not a stressful one
- Don’t over schedule – It’s really easy to get carried away with all the festivities, accepting too many invitations to events and activities, rushing around visiting family and friends, hosting events, shopping, baking, cooking, wrapping and cleaning. Firstly make a schedule of all the events and activities that are scheduled and take a good look at them. Prioritise those that you absolutely have to do and want to do and then cross out those that add too much stress. Learn to say no to events and activities that really hold no meaning for you or that stress or drain you. If possible try and schedule in no more than one event per day. Remember that kids need downtime (and so do you) so if you want to avoid that tantrum, make sure that you also schedule in some breaks and free time for relaxing so that you have time to reenergise and recharge.
- Get Organised – Leaving things to the last minute just adds to that frenzied feeling and stops you from being able to really enjoy the festivities. Instead of that last minute rush which causes unnecessary stress; get organised. Think back to last year and review what went well and what didn’t. Try and plan ahead as much as you can and use our checklists and Christmas Countdown to help you with your planning. Keep lists of all the presents you need to buy and cross them off as you buy them, create your Christmas menu early and delegate or outsource what you can. Buy extra presents just in case someone pops in or in case you have forgotten someone. With household tasks try and do as much in advance as possible and schedule them in to your calendar/planner allowing sufficient time. I know that wrapping always takes me longer than I think it will so this year I am putting it in my calendar earlier than I have in previous years.
- Avoid Crowds – I know that this is one of my stress triggers – I HATE that last minute Christmas shopping rush where the shops are so full you can barely move and supermarket shelves are nearly empty and have run out of those last ingredients you need. The best way to deal with this is with a bit of planning. Shop as much as you can in advance, start buying presents and food items as early as possible. My favourite way to avoid the crowds is to do as much of my shopping online as I can for both presents and food items. I also try and buy presents throughout the year so that by December I don’t have that many more gifts to buy. And if you do have to face the crowds if at all possible DON’T TAKE YOUR KIDS J. If your partner can’t look after them then maybe you can trade babysitting favours with a friend and take turns to do your Christmas shopping.
- Stick to a budget – The financial pressures of Christmas can really add a LOT of stress. Having a budget can help you to feel a bit more in control. Make a list of what you intend to do over the festive season including entertaining, going out, holidays as well as who you need to buy presents for, and any other items such as wrapping, food, decorations, clothes etc.. Set limits for each category, create your budget and stick to it. You can use the More for Mums Christmas budget planner to help you get started.
- Review your expectations – It is very easy to be swept away with the idea of creating the perfect Christmas, where our Christmas decor look like it is straight out of a magazine, our cooking and baking is worthy of MasterChef entry , our children are well behaved all our family gets on without any conflict in sight. For some that may be case but for many of us striving for perfection gets in the way of us experiencing, love, joy and happiness. It is important for us to let go of perfection and hold realistic expectations of ourselves and other people. Think about what is really important to you? Making the perfect roast or having a happy day? It doesn’t matter if things don’t turn out exactly as you planned what is important is that you have realistic expectation, allowing yourself to let go of perfection so that you can focus on what really matters most and what’s really important to you such as love, connecting and creating happy memories for you and your children. So make sure you keep it real.
- Look after Your self – By looking after yourself you will have the energy and strength you need so that you can enjoy the festivities and minimise your stress. During this time increase your self-nurturing activities by eating well, trying to get sufficient sleep, including some relaxing activities in your day such as a deep breathing, a hot shower/bath, a massage, going for a walk or coffee with friends. If you can try and get in some exercise as well.
- Do Something fun or New – Doing something fun or new can be a great way to reduce stress and invigorate you. Set some time aside for to do the things you really enjoy, do something new or start a new tradition. You could watch a favourite Christmas movie, Have a family karaoke carols night, watch a tree lighting, drive around the neighbourhood to see the lights, wear Christmas t-shirts or pyjamas together, make handmade Christmas presents together to give to relatives or watch a special Christmas movie snuggled up on the sofa with popcorn and choc tops.
- Have a Holiday Mantra – Dr Laura Markham in her eBook Happier Holidays recommends repeating a calming mantra to help you get through stressful moments. Dr Markham recommends that each time you become aware that you are experiencing stress throughout The holiday season, that you stop for a moment, do some slow breathing until you start to feel calmer and repeat a calming mantra such as:
- They’re acting like kids because they are kid
- I’ll deal with this next year!
- My kids need my love, especially when they’re at their worst.
- I won’t even remember this by next week.
- I breathe in love. I breathe out love.
- Some other calming Mantras that you might like to try
- This too shall pass
- Don’t sweat the small stuff
- Accept the things I cannot change
- It will all work out in the end
- It’s all good
- Everything has a solution
- Reframe the negative – Reframing is a way of changing the way you view something and, thus, changing your experience of it. With all that stress around us it can be hard to not focus on the negative but reframing helps us to see what’s happening with a more realistic and balanced view of the situation. For example you’ve burnt the potatoes, your initial thoughts may be “What a disaster, everything is ruined now! I’m a failure.” By reframing we can look at that experience in a more balanced way. “Oh well, the potatoes are burnt but we still have lovely food and company to enjoy. It’s not that important really’. Ask yourself “Are there any bright lights or silver linings in the situation” and then reframe it.
- Manage family Conflict – Family conflict can really be a source of stress and tension during the festive season. Whilst it gives us opportunities to bond with family it can also highlight dysfunctional relationships, family tension and unresolved conflicts. Just the thought of having to navigate through this can make family celebrations difficult to handle. Know your triggers and review what topics push your buttons and practice a way to respond politely to these or avoid the topics as much as possible. If certain relatives are your triggers then try and sit as far away as possible to them or use this as an opportunity to practice patience and forgiveness. Be aware of tension and if you feel that things are getting too much for you do some deep breathing and take a time out for yourself. Go somewhere quiet for a few minutes whilst you recharge and distress. Communicate positively and lovingly, avoiding sarcasm, criticism, insults and blame. Accept that we cannot change or control anyone else’s behaviour. Accept that they are the way they are and most likely won’t change just because it’s Christmas. Remember that we do however have control over ourselves – we can choose to be kind, to communicate lovingly, to accept others the way they are, to let things go and not let them fester, to compromise when necessary and to be respectful.
So let go of that stress and allow yourself to really enjoy the festive season.
I will leave you with one of our favourite Christmas quotes:
“It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!”… Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas… perhaps… means a little bit more!” ~Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!