It comes as no surprise to me that most women cite Christmas as their most challenging time of year.
image from 123 RF
Managing presents, decorating, work, home, functions and family can leave even the most organised of us feeling less festive, more frazzled for much of the season
Whilst workers everywhere are winding down in time for the 'holiday' season, the chances are that if you are a mother and/or business woman, you are about to step into your most difficult time of year.
It can be challenging to maintain a balance between work and home for the rest of the year but at Christmas that can become an even tighter rope, with the weight of everyone's expectations resting on your shoulders.
A survey by Toki found that whilst 50 percent of women love this time of year more than any other, as many as 81 percent find it their most stressful time of year.
A similar survey of 3000 people, carried out by MemoriseThis.com ranked Christmas as the 6th most stressful life event and Professional Daniel Freedman, of the University of Oxford, firmly believes that women are up to 40% more likely to experience mental health issues as a result of the higher expectations and resultant stress levels on women.
These stress levels are extremely familiar to me. I've lost track of the number of Christmases lost worrying about work in between cooking for the starving masses, wrapping presents, keeping everyone happy and ensuring everything looked picture-book-perfect for the stream of 'perfect family' essential insta-snap.
By January first, every nerve was shredded. It would be great to find a way to manage all those challenges better but it can be tough finding beneficial articles on how to manage that stress.
You might hear for instance 'try to avoid family arguments over Christmas and make a pact with your family to leave controversial subjects aside' but most of us know that three sherry's and a turkey not cooking quickly enough leave any pact forgotten.
So, what can you do?
1. Automate as much as possible and accept help:
Trying to wrap with one hand and cook with the other is not going to make life easier so take advantage of some of the help extra visitors can allow.
If you must work, put aside an hour a day, get all you need to done then just keep an eye on it.
2. Practise two-minute Mindfulness:
If you are anything like me, even trying to plan in ten minutes for a bath, never mind meditation during Christmas is an unrealistic goal at best.
Set a timer and try one of the great breathing gifs you can find online for two minutes. It really does help.
3. Stay off the stimulants:
45% of women turn to alcohol to cope at Christmas, alongside caffeine and nicotine.
Whilst I am all for a glass (or three) of Prosecco for fun, using it for relaxation or to manage stress is counterproductive.
Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that the more you use it the more you are likely to develop long-term emotional issues alongside its use. Plus no one wants to deal with the mother in law with a monster hangover.
4. Ask for help and forget perfection:
Lots of men get very involved in Christmas but in many homes, the mammoth tasks and responsibility still fall on the shoulders of the wives.
Much of the reason for this is less because of lazy men and more down to what I call 'saint perfection' syndrome. As in, 'If I don't do all of this myself it is bound to go wrong so I may as well just do it myself. Perfectly'.
Would it really kill you to ask the children to set the Christmas table? Or your husband to peel the sprouts and chop some spuds? Probably not.
Yes, the crosses in the bottom may not be perfect but perfection does not equal fun. It equals stress, so let it go and let them get involved.
5. Stop multi-tasking:
We might be great at cooking, hanging festive lights, Skype-ing that important client and ensuring our children have hand-stitched outfits for the Christmas show but that doesn't mean that we a. should do it and b. actually enjoy our lives as a result of it.
Next time you are making biscuits or setting up an activity for the kids, focus entirely on it.
When you finish, move onto the next thing. You will live in the moment and enjoy things more whilst ensuring everything is done.
Fundamentally, it appears that the key issue is our expectations of ourselves. We demand everyone smiles, look great and have a wonderful time, whilst appreciating how amazing we are for managing it all when often we just don't have to.
Try to keep the fact that it is just one day in perspective and more than anything else, schedule some time to have fun yourself. It is, after all, Christmas.