It's that time of year! With so many images of wonderful Christmases all around it's no wonder that stress levels are rising. We are regaled with evidence that love is all around, perfect families are happily bonding, and everyone's enjoying themselves; no wonder we all feel under pressure to have the perfect festive period.
But most people's festive experiences require some planning and compromise. Some people will be alone, perhaps for the first time or are having to share custody of their children or tend to ailing relatives. Some people may have issues around finances and concerns at over-spending; it's reported that for some it can take up to three years to pay back the debt incurred over Christmas. Work and business worries may cause anxiety, with the prospect of no work during the holidays or the anticipation of lean times during January. There may be apprehension at spending extended time with in-laws or even with one's other half.
Let's consider ways to minimise festive stress and conflict.
- Plan ahead and keep people occupied by organising activities and events for them to attend. A little planning can make all the difference when a houseful of people need entertaining. Check out what's happening in your area. Concerts, fairs, and pantomines can add variety to your schedule and some may be free to attend. Remember that events may need to be booked in advance.
- If you're on your own plan ways to use the time well. Make your home cosy with lovely colours, textures and fragrances. Simple things like a bunch of flowers, bright prints, scatter cushions or fragranced candles can be enough to add a luxurious feel to your home. Make the most of the time and enjoy a relaxing soak in the bath, read your favourite books, listen to music and plan your viewing. Be happy to accept invitations or be proactive and invite friends or neigbours round for a coffee.
- Avoid too much rich food as it can cause sluggishness and irritability. Stews, casseroles and soups often provide a healthier, welcome change to festive fare and may be able to be prepared ahead of time, then frozen until required. Add crusty bread and you've a hearty meal.
- Use outdoors. Being hot-housed for days on end, watching television and grazing on chocolate, can cause tensions to rise and conflict to erupt. Organise a walk in the countryside or a treasure hunt outside. Introducing some fresh air can breathe a sigh of relief into proceedings. If you're alone, go and people-watch at the mall over a coffee or enjoy walking in the park, joining other people for a while.
- Get guests involved with the preparations. Give them jobs and responsibilities. Even children can have tasks, like folding napkins, and will take a pride in their contribution. Ask someone to cook the dish they're 'famous' for, or encourage them to run a quiz or game of charades.
- Activity helps. All that pent-up energy from days of inertia and over-indulgence can cause tensions to erupt. Organise a sports competition, a game of football or rounders to burn off energy and restore some healthy competition.
- If you're going to be really busy, be sure to include yourself in your timetable. Find 30 minutes for a relaxing bath or to read a book, or at least ensure you record your favourite shows to be viewed later, at your leisure.
- Don't get caught up in a spending frenzy, buying more food and drink 'just in case' or panic-buying in the sales because 'something's a bargain'. It's only a bargain if you really want it!
Some of these hints and tips can minimise festive stress and help towards a happier, more positive Christmas and New Year. Enjoy!