A while back I asked on the Facebook page what was your biggest Christmas Stress – and the responses came back in their bucket load – thank you to everyone who replied.
It really seems that for a great many of us this can be a really stressful time of year, and I’m not surprised at how many responses I got, as Christmas has to be one of, if not the most, stressful parts of the calendar.
Here are some of the responses I got – do you share any of them (or all….)?:-
- Dealing with the mess when decorating and getting things sorted for the big day
- Thinking of original presents that people will really love
- Writing all the cards
- The cost of posting parcels, and the post office queues
- Finding the time to go shopping
- The shopping queues
- Affording everything – sticking to a budget
- Ensuring the kids don’t change their mind at the last minute about what they want
- Dealing with the new presents / finding space and not letting them add to clutter in the house
- Trying to get the kids to part with old toys they no longer use
- Family rifts – arguments during visits
- Trying to visit everyone and make them happy as well as yourself and your family
- Merging two sets of family traditions – especially when they clash
- Trying to keep everyone happy
- Cooking Christmas dinner
- Forgetting someones present (an unexpected guest)
SO, WHAT’S THE SECRET TO A STRESS FREE CHRISTMAS – AND IS IT EVEN POSSIBLE?
Basically, there’s not just one rule that fits here, I’m afraid to say.
The best answer I have as a starter though is you deal with the stresses of Christmas by owning your Christmas and driving it as you want to.
Leaving things to chance, or having to fit in with other peoples plans because you haven’t finalised yours yet will just lead to a headache.
You know that it’s going to be a stress, and you know that there will be issues – you may well know up front where some of the sticking points will be.
There’s no other time of the year that has such pressure on everyone being happy, social and fun for a few days in a row.
It shouldn’t be difficult – but it can be.
To help you take back control a little, I want to look at the seven most stressful things that came up time and again: –
- Preparations for Christmas
- Decorating the house
- Affording anything
- Shopping and queues
- Keeping everyone happy
- Merging traditions
I want to go through each one in turn, giving you some ideas on how to overcome that stress, and I really hope they help to make your Christmas as enjoyable as you can make it this year!
Let’s get going, shall we!
STRESS #1 – PREPARATIONS FOR CHRISTMAS
The preparation can take it out of you – and why would you want to reach Christmas stressed and exhausted?
Sometimes we expect a lot of ourselves, and we assume that the whole burden is on us to get things ready – but ask yourself whether that really has to be the case…
There are two ways to make things easier, firstly – have a plan and stick to it – and secondly – delegate more.
HAVE A PLAN
Sit down and brainstorm everything you need to do in the run up to Christmas. Then create a timeline of what needs doing and when. Once you know what you have to do, and that you have time to do it, then it alleviates a lot of the stress immediately.
You can see what you have in front of you, and can make decisions on what is priority if time runs out….
(If you want to make life easier – I have created a Christmas Planner that has everything you could possibly need to plan the festivities this year – you can take a look right HERE).
Making this plan means it will be easier to do the following as well….
COULD YOU DELEGATE MORE?
So what if it’s not done exactly how you want to have it done, it will still be done.
If you can spread the load, then everyone will see how much there is to do – and will appreciate it all the more.
Write down everything that needs to be done, and put a family member in charge of each one.
Here are some easy things to delegate: –
- Writing cards
- Addressing cards
- Posting presents and cards (queuing!)
- Shopping for specific things
- Decorating the house
- Preparing and cooking meals
- Sorting out old toys for charity
- Setting the Christmas dinner table
- Wrapping presents
- Delivering cards to neighbours/friends locally
STRESS #2 – DECORATING THE HOUSE
Decorating the house for Christmas can be an amazing time – but there are lots of ways it can become a stress: –
YOU LIKE THINGS ONE WAY, THE REST OF THE FAMILY PREFER ANOTHER
You need to work out what will make it less stressful for you, based on what you and the rest of the family like to do.
For example – if you like decorations that are “just so” – but the family like to get involved and create chaos – why not split the decorating up and have the family area decorated by the family, and other rooms decorated by you.
YOU FIND IT HARD TO MAKE TIME, AND IT SEEMS TO GO ON FOREVER…
If you find it hard to do it all in one go – and decorating becomes long winded – then why not schedule in a day or afternoon and get everyone involved. If you give everyone specific jobs – and make it fun – then you may well have a great time and create a new tradition rather than feeling stressed.
IT CREATES TOO MUCH CLUTTER AND MESS
If you find that the mess of decorating is just too stressful – then it’s time to get organised when you pack up this year.
Write a list of what you need to replace, write on each box exactly what’s in it so you can find things easily next year, and get rid of things that you don’t use at all.
It’s much easier to stay tidy when the decorations come out of the boxes easily and are working and as they should be.
You also have to just accept that while the decorating is taking place, it will be more mess than usual. If you were redecorating a room in your home then it has to get messier before it gets tidy again. The key is to accept this and then make tidying up part of the Christmas decorating jobs – it’s not finished until it’s looking great!
It may just take a hoover and a trip to the tip to make the house feel cosy and magical rather than cluttered and messy again.
STRESS #3 – AFFORDING EVERYTHING
Dealing with childrens wish lists, wanting to host parties, having guests to stay, going out, and creating a fantastic Christmas dinner can all add up – and this can equal the biggest stress of all over Christmas.
It’s one that you may well be paying for for the rest of the year….
Here are my top tips on budgeting (and you can find even more HERE):-
- Set a budget that you can afford – and don’t go over it – however much/little it is
- Make presents to save money (homemade biscuits, cakes, fudge etc… are sure winners!)
- Gift favours – write a voucher in a card that says you will do something for that person next year such as wash their car, babysit for them etc… – something like this can be much more appreciated.
- Set a limit for family presents – my family have a £15 limit per present
- Agree to only buy for the children in the family this year
- Have a secret santa, everyone pulls out one name and they only have to buy a present for that person
- Set expectations – older children can understand budgets a little, and younger children can know that they can ask for one special thing instead of a massive list.
- Don’t feel pressure – very young children will be happy with very little – the excitement of the day is plenty!
- Don’t buy all the food yourself – ask visitors and guests to bring something – a bottle, a dessert, a starter, snacks and nibbles etc…
- If you have to post a lot of presents, then make sure you buy lighter items as this will bring postage costs down a lot. Post cards in with presents as well to save the stamp cost.
- Don’t send loads of cards – send everyone a Happy Christmas email or even a text on the day itself instead.
And lastly – when this Christmas is over, why not start looking at next Christmas right away – create a budget (based on what you spent this year) and then split it up over the next 12 months – much easier!
It’s much better to save for the next Christmas up front, rather than have to pay it off over the following year.
Christmas happens at the same time every year, so try and budget and save a little each month and then you won’t feel as stressed over where to find the money when December rolls around.
I know this can be easier said than done – so take the pressure off yourself and limit your outgoings using all the other tricks as well.
So – we’ve looked at preparing for Christmas, decorating, and budgeting – but there’s much more to come….
What about presents and shopping – and the difficulties of keeping everyone happy/merging family needs?
It all needs to be less stressful – so let’s move on and find out how!
STRESS #4 – PRESENTS
Everyone wants to buy original and thoughtful presents for people, but finding the right thing can lead to stress.
Why not take some of the pain out of this by asking family members to write wish lists.
Wish lists are simply a list of ideas for things that would be really loved if they received them. They can be vague (chocolates, gift vouchers, smellies) or specific (a certain perfume or toy), but they can really help when it comes to choosing a gift for someone if they have this.
We do this in our family – and usually the spouse or parent gives out the list if and when asked for it by anyone.
It also means that you don’t have to answer yourself when people ask what you want – as I don’t know about you, but I find this a truly difficult question to answer as I don’t like to say.
Some people think that wish lists take the fun out of present buying – but I would much rather buy something I know someone really wants, than be worried that they didn’t like it on the day itself.
Also, the person won’t know if they are getting anything from the list until they open their present, so it’s still a massive surprise.
This also can really help with children if they have a tendency to change their minds – after all, once Santas letter with the list in it has been sent, Santa won’t be able to change what the elves are making…….
STRESS #5 – SHOPPING AND QUEUES
Shopping, and dealing with the horrendous queues can be really hard going, even for the most shopaholic amongst us.
There’s nothing worse than standing in queue after queue all day long, or finding out something has sold out….
Here’s a few ideas that may help: –
- Take a day off work while the kids are at school and get everything done in one go – the shops should be quieter mid week as well.
- Order as much as you can online to save loads of time and stress.
- Shop for your food really early or really late in the day during the week(s) up to Christmas – as these will be quieter.
- Have your list with you at all times – then if you find yourself in a shop you can check whether you can buy anything from the lists there and then to save a second trip.
- Share childcare with your spouse or a friend so that you can go shopping without little eyes watching!
- Buy a couple of generic presents such as chocolates or vouchers – and wrap in a small gift bag – for any unexpected guests that may appear – you can always eat or spend them in the new year if they aren’t used ;o)
STRESS #6 – KEEPING EVERYONE HAPPY
Families can be great – but they can also be VERY stressful – especially at this time of year.
When you are wanting to have magical time, with everyone smiling and happy – you’re bound to have some clashes at some point.
Children can get over excited and tired, there may have been debate over where to spend each day and therefore resentment from some, and there may be some existing rifts that need to be watched so that things don’t go too pear shaped!
The trick here?
Not really a trick, more a suggestion to be aware.
Be aware of what’s going on, how people are feeling, and what they may need.
If you’re hosting, then why not invite different people on different days as this may work better, if you are a guest then offer to help the host as much as possible so they they don’t get stressed either.
You have to remember that you are only one person/family – and you can only do what you can do – you may not be able to please everyone every year i.e. when you get married you may see extended families on alternate years, what you do in that case is to talk it through so everyone knows what to expect.
If expectations are managed, you will usually get through it, relatively unscathed!
STRESS #7 – MERGING TRADITIONS
A lot of people struggle when they get a new partner, and nothing tests a relationship more than when traditions on both sides need to be met.
It’s especially bad if those traditions clash (for example – one set always eat Christmas dinner on Christmas eve, but the others go to church for midnight mass without fail).
You have to be aware of what the other person may want from their Christmas – but also have them listen to your expectations as well.
If you can do everything without a problem then that’s fantastic!
If you can do some but not others – then you may want to prioritise so you both have 2 or 3 things that are most important to you.
OR – you may want to take the opportunity to do things your way as a couple or a new family – why not create your own traditions!
Yes, Christmas can be stressful, it can be messy, it can be full of arguments, and can leave a hefty credit card bill behind, BUT it can also be magical, happy and so much fun.
Start to think of Christmas as less of a stress and more of a joy and you may be surprised at how much even this change can help – if you expect the worst then that’s usually what you’ll get.
Deal with things head on, delegate whenever possible, and set expectations from the outset, and I’m sure you will have an amazing time!
But above all else, be true to you. Work out what you want as a family and work from there.
Don’t sweat the small stuff as it won’t be noticed in the fun of the day anyway, and spend only what you can afford.
My very last tip for how to deal with Christmas stress is to make some “Me time” over the holidays – whether it be a half hour walk, a bath late at night, or a coffee and magazine by yourself – you will feel rejuvenated and ready to take on anything.
It’s only a few days after all – and you want to look back at them and smile….