From last-minute shopping trips to visits from the in-laws, guest blogger Chloe Brotheridge shares how to avoid the strains of Christmas, for the most enjoyable festive season ever.
It’s the most magical time of the year, right? Well, not always.
As many of us know, it can also be the most stressful, with its added social events, shopping trips and extended-family to host. Getting people together can be really special but it can also create additional pressure and a to-do list that seems endless.
So, whether it’s your turn to cook this year, you’re having a last-minute dash around the shops, or your in-laws are pushing you to the brink of a Yuletide meltdown, try these tips for having the most relaxing and enjoyable Christmas ever.
1. Forget about perfect
We’re all guilty of it. We’d love to be serenely prepping the potatoes while the children quietly amuse themselves in a perfectly tidy house, as a light dusting of snow falls outside. But the reality is often very different. That’s because – as much as we might like things to be perfect – unfortunately, nothing in life is. If you’re pushing for perfection you’re trying to manage things that are outside of your control – like other people, the weather, and that temperamental oven. It’s never a good thing for your stress levels. Aim to accept the things that you can’t control and trust that your best is all you can do and will always be enough.
2. The power of scent
Evidence has suggested that essentials oils, such as lavender, can have a positive effect on our nervous systems, helping with things like sleep and anxiety. Try lighting a scented candle at home, or adding a few drops of essential oil to your bath or your pillow to help you unwind.
3. Embrace Hygge
Pronounced ‘hoo-gah’ – this Danish concept describes the cosiness, comfort, and pleasure that we all seek at this time of year. To banish stress levels the Scandinavian way, pull on some cashmere socks and a luxury robe, and snuggle up with a hot chocolate. Indulging your senses can be incredibly calming, and cocoa powder contains magnesium, which is known as a relaxation mineral.
When your Christmas to-do list feels like your own personal Everest, don’t despair. When we’re faced with lots to do, it’s easy to want to do the small, easy things first and then build up to the more challenging stuff. However, as productivity expert Brian Tracy says in his book Eat That Frog, prioritising the hardest or most important things first will lead to a boost of motivation that will make everything else a breeze.
5. Make time for that walk
Increasingly, ‘ecotherapy’ (or getting out in nature, to you and me) is recognised as an effective way to combat stress and anxiety. Something about the fresh air, trees and natural sunlight helps us to feel more at ease. Although it might be tempting to stay in watching TV and eating chocolates, make a point of getting out each day during the Christmas season and stretching your legs.
6. And breathe
When we’re busy and tense, many of us have a tendency to take shallow breaths, holding on to tension in our stomachs and shoulders. Try to check in with yourself at various points during the day; consciously relax your stomach muscles and let your shoulders drop down, away from your ears. Take a few deep breaths, expanding your tummy as you breathe in and letting your tummy go in again as you exhale.
7. Blessed, not stressed
When we’re feeling stressed, it’s easy to zone in on all that’s going wrong (or what has the potential to). Instead, take a few moments to practise some gratitude. Make a note of 5 specific things that you’re grateful for – either mentally, or down on paper. Perhaps you’re grateful to have a week off work, or for your partner’s fabulous cooking, or for that delicious glass of wine you’re about to enjoy. It might sound airy-fairy, but doing this creates a sense of wellbeing and could lower stress levels and even boost your immune system.
8. Take care of you
If you’re rushing from place to place, trying to get everything sorted for the big day, sometimes taking care of yourself can be put on the back burner. But the truth is, self-care is far from selfish. The more you take care of yourself, the more you’ll have to give to other people. Schedule in time to take a break; have that bath, read that book and ask others for help, rather than trying to do it all yourself. Self-care is important.