7 Tips to Have a Stress-Free and Wonderful Christmas
Seasons Greetings Life-Lovers,
It’s Christmas time and everyone has their own way of declaring the festive season open. December will find most people running around chasing Gluten-Free and Vegan advent Calendars, worrying about food and gift shopping and, attending to numerous parties.
For some Christmas is a long awaited holidays and they can’t wait to put up the tree, make the wreath and decorate the house like the cover of The Good Housekeeping magazine. All with a childlike enthusiasm.
For others, Christmas is this time of year filled with rush, stress, and materialism and they can wait for it for it to pass.
I am one of the in-betweeners. I neither loathe nor love Christmas. I just like it :)
Since I work in Retail and in Hospitality & Events, Christmas is the peak season in both businesses which means more work, but also more fun: I had my first mince pie in September. How cool is that?!
This time of the year brings also lot of stress due to the increase in demands and expectations both in my personal and professional life. My first Christmas in Retail was horrible. I lost my face and my mind several times and at the end of the season, I was feeling exhausted, overwhelmed and hating Christmas with everything that comes with it.
This year, it’s going to be different, because I have learned a lot from the past experiences and I am going to share them with you so that you can have a stress-free and lovely Christmas: the kind of Christmas that you see on films with everybody happily watching a Christmas film with logs burning in the fireplace. If that is your thing :)
Now the 7 tips
1- Define your Christmas style & Tradition and stick to it, no matter what others around you say
I was raised by people who cared a lot to follow traditions. As soon we entered the month of December, everything started rolling on.
The Christmas tree was up, the lights hanging, decoration according to specs; cribs looking good; wreath on the door; and the space for the four advent candles properly marked.
Some people were happy about this, but others not so much, which have ensured for some tensions, fights and tantrums in the family.
As I grew up and after many fights about who will detangle the Christmas lights, I started questioning if there couldn’t be a more peaceful way to enjoy the Christmas season.
Over the years, I created my own traditions. For example, I said “goodbye” to traditional Christmas tree and “hello” to alternatives such as mini Christmas tree or lamps in shape of a tree.
If you look around, you might notice so many different types of alternatives to the regular Christmas tree. Last year, my friend Ana mounted a Christmas tree made of one of my favourite things ever: books!
You can make your own Christmas tree using old socks, recycled glass jars, newspapers, magazines. It will look so fun and the planet will thank you.
2- Plan and stick to the plan by doing one thing a time
Be realist and choose what you want to do and not what will look good or impress others.
Instead of trying to do everything in a day, you can create your own calendar with the most relevant activities and do them day by day. Here are some ideas to help you make things go smoothly (Pinterest is full of ideas of Christmas activities calendars):
Assign a area to your Christmas gifts. As you start bringing the gifts into the house, just drop them in that area. If you have youngsters around who want to take a sneak peak, just use a travel trolley and lock everything inside.
Take 30 minutes daily to wrap the gifts. you can play stand up comedy or your favourite songs in the background
Simplify your festive menu by choosing the 3 foods that represents Christmas to you and your family, even if it’s not considered a Christmas delicacies.
I love to cook and in this is the season when I love to travel around the world through food.
My Christmas meal is a mix of different influences that are part of my life. Sometimes, I order the food from the restaurant if the dish is too elaborate and will consume too much of my time and energy. Here are some of my Christmas menu items:
African: fish soup and seafood must it be
Portuguese: cod fish, lots of veggie, pudding and ‘‘proper’’ sparkling wine and port
German: marzipan and gluehwein (mulled wine) are the word, babe. you can buy the spice kit and just add it on to the wine.
British: what would be of me without mince pies and veggie roast with Brussels sprout and parsnip. I have mastered a beautiful and delicious recipe that my friends now ask me to do for them.
Italian: pannetone don’t need introduction. Lidl has an affordable range.
Ps- Remember to include cures for hangover. Pickle House claim to have the “ultimate hangover cure”: cocktails that save your from headache the next day. I have their bloody Mary cocktail mixer in the fridge, just in case one of my guests ends up needing it badly.
3- Focus on quality and not quantity . You might even need to say “no” to some tempting things
Time is scarce, especially during this time of the year when everybody seems to want a piece of you. Instead of spreading yourself thin by taking every invitation, focus on the people and Christmas activities that matters most to you.
I don’t go church, but I like to go watch the Christmas lights and the decoration in the city. I will take the bus and go on the top floor taking pictures like a tourist. I usually invite friends to join in.
When it comes to RSVP, I only take those where I know I will be able to relax and have a good time. If I feel like “I need to go” for whatever reason, that is already a sign that I am better off not going at all. When I say “yes” to an event, I then can be 100% there and enjoy myself.
A word about Christmas gift. In my twenties, I used to be a serial festive gift-giver and stressed myself out trying to source gift even for the cat I have just seen on the street. Of course I would end up overwhelmed and exhausted even before the party started.
Over the years, wisdom has finally made its way into town. I now intentionally don’t give Christmas gifts during the season and have fully adhered to the Spanish tradition of exchanging gifts in January. First of all, it makes my list shorter as I can focus on the people that really matters to me and not those I need to impress. Second, it gives me time to source gifts that are meaningful and not going into the craze of buying gifts lastminute.com.
Another trick is to use old newspapers, old magazines and old t-shirts to wrap gifts. It’s refreshingly creative and the planet will thank you for this gesture.
4- Ask for help
Repeat after me:
“I don’t have to do everything alone in order for things to look good”.
Note that I didn’t say “perfect”. Perfectionism can hit you hard during Christmas times, because after crazy scrolling on social media and seeing the covers of magazines, you feel like your Christmas has to be perfect. However, it brings no good to you and your family if you spend the entire month running around doing everything, juts to end up tired, depleted and snapping at everybody at the Christmas dinner.
Getting this one right, it’s mostly about effective communication. You can make a list of things that are simple to do and that won’t consume much time from others and just state your request as :
“(Person’s name), can you help me with this (task)?”
If you want, you can explain how you want it to be done to avoid disappointment. But please relinquish control and don’t get sad if someone says “no”. Just move to the next person on the list.
Here are some tasks you can ask others to help with. Don’t feel ashamed or guilty for asking, because your guests will also benefit from contributing and have some fun:
Bringing dessert and drinks to the meal - this way, you, the host only need to worry about the mains
Children can also help with table setting . Please let go of this idea that you need to kill yourself setting a long table and then announce: “Dinner is ready” like on Christmas TV adverts.
Someone to organise the entertainment options: film and music playlist, and social games. “Citizen Kane”, “It’s a wonderful life”, “Home Alone” or “Love Actually” are still popular choices. So do “Jenga” and “UNO” and “Scrabble”. One word on social games: avoid the very competitive ones, because they might spoil your evening and end up with some young players crying and couple arguing about how well they support each other. Been there. Seen it. Done it.
Someone to open the door to the guests as their arrive while you are getting the last bits ready - find the most fun and up-beating person in your circle.
Someone to take photos of the reunion to avoid everyone having their phone up and avoid the “now with my camera/phone”.
Someone to keep an eye on the kids and pets while parents are chatting - cats, kids, trees, windows, fairy lights can become a molotov cocktail. You can also assign an area with Christmas toys and for the youngsters to play without getting on your way.
5- Invite others to share
Christmas is about sharing. If you look around, you might notice many people that might benefit from your company and kindness. Many people don’t have their family around or even what to eat.
Make it a “Friendmas” too. You can invite friends going through hardship to join your and your family. Newly divorced, friends going through grief or unemployment might feel more lonely during this time of the year when is all about family and love.
Leave an empty space at the table in remembrance of you loved ones who passed away or are absent for whatever reason. It will make everyone remember that they are still important and matter to the family.
Give Christmas gifts to homeless people – I started this tradition last year as part of an initiative at The Feel Good Club and it’s now something I like to do more and more.
I am aware that it’s impossible to reach all homeless people in London. However, I focus on those I usually come past on my way home or work.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this. Try buying some toiletries from Poundland and something christmassy and distribute in your local area. Don’t underestimate your contribution because every little helps.
Support charity and community organisations - buy and give cultural gift cards. You can also buy gifts that save lives. Refuge.org.uk, NPSCC and many others organisations working with children will be thankful for your help.
Make donations of unwanted gifts that you might have received; or give good leftover food though food sharing scheme such as the app Olio.
6- Incorporate self-care and solo times
This is the number one time when your self care efforts should be duplicated or triplicated. Dealing with stress of preparing the logistics and managing relationships is not easy.
Christmas brings invitation for endless social events and requests. It might feel like you have to do festive catch-ups with co-workers, relatives and all kinds of fraternities obligations that might be thrown your way.
Unfortunately is usually those who like to give most and look after everyone that end up neglecting their own needs. No one will benefit from you constantly stretching yourself thin. You don’t need me to tell you that you will probably resent others and snap when you feel overwhelmed and exhausted by the effort of trying to please everyone and being everywhere.
It’s OK to say: “Thank you for the invite. I won’t be able to make it” or a plain “Thanks but not thanks”.
I am far way from my family and despite having invitations to spend Christmas at different places and with different people, I sometimes prefer to use the holidays season to just take a break and thank energy by having some quiet time and silence.
After my session at the SPA during this year, silence became my new passion. This is unheard of for a person who talks a lot like I do. I have been realising over the years, that in order to have some stillness of mind and balance in my everyday, just being and in silence needed to occupy as much of my day as doing and talking. The clarity and power that comes with it is worth the discomfort of saying “No” to tempting invitations.
I love the delicious food and the love that I can get at get-togethers with friends, but I also learned to love the bliss of being at peace at home.
If you don’t want or can’t get away, here are simple tips to stay sane and mindful throughout the season:
Breathe deeply and do short moment of silence and meditation (even if you need to lock yourself in the bathroom for 5 minutes)
Sleep as much as you can - your body knows how many hours you need!
If you can, pay for someone to clean the house some days before and after the Christmas day, and please do it with no regret or feeling of guilt for not being a perfect domestic goddess
Instead of going around like crazy from supermarket to supermarket, try to order your Christmas food shopping online. I used to have an account with mysupermarket.com which allowed me to see in which supermarket my shopping basket is cheaper.
These are just a starting point. You can think about other ideas that could help you have a hassle free time during this season.
7- Do an after Christmas “wash-up”
Christmas is a season and not only few days. Where I come from, the Christmas celebrations go on for about five weeks long culminating into the Epiphany also known as Three Kings’ day.
During this period families continue to get together and celebrate until the 6th of January. Only after that, it’s time to take down the decoration and pack them away for next year.
If you embrace this tradition, you can use the occasion to have a good time with family and friends. It’s also an opportunity to use gifts and eat food that are meant for sharing. Imagine using the new fondue set that you got for Christmas?!
Last but not the least, it allows me to catch up with family and friends in a more meaningful way as January is usually quieter and most of the people have now time to engage without telling you how busy and stressed they are over Christmas.
Moreover, everyone likes to share their tales of a wonderful Christmas in family with the in-laws, the step-families, etc.
And that’s it for me. I hop the ideas above can help you enjoy this season. This year you can do something different by embracing a “less-is-more” approach: less quantity and more quality.
You can use this opportunity to focus and celebrate what really matters: good moments in the company of your loved ones. That is more valuable than any material gift, because you are creating memories that will last for many generations.
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas. Have a good time with your family and friends.
If you happen not to celebrate Christmas, you can still enjoy good food, good music and the company of your loved ones. I am committed to celebrate any holidays even the religious ones, because it’s an opportunity to get nice food and enjoy the company of interesting and funny people.
See you in a bit – Yes, there will be a post with the year review before we cross over to 2019!
Feel good. Do well. Enjoy life
Lili x (I wanted to put a vulcan Salute here, but my website is not having it!)