2 Young Female Friends in Sparkly Party DressesPinIsn’t Christmas great?

Snowflakes gently falling outside as simmering pans of mulled wine sit on the stove, the aromatic haze of cinnamon and cloves drifting through the air. There’s gingerbread fresh out of the oven and beautifully wrapped presents tumbling out from beneath a glittering fir Christmas tree. Children play together at the hearth of a roaring open fire, as carol singers approach from outside…

Yeah right.

More like a frenzy of last-minute present buying that always takes you over-budget. Endless list-writing (SO many things to get done!) and a plethora of concerts/nativities/fayres to attend, while still trying to get the routine stuff done, not to mention the avalanche of pine-needles spreading further over the living-room carpet…

By this point, I’m usually ready to call the whole thing off. As the pressure towards the big day mounts, the holiday season can feel a lot like one of those old black and white movies, with you as the damsel in distress, tied to a railroad track, a steam train hurtling towards you and no way of escape. Let’s not pretend, Christmas can be a really stressful time for a lot of people. If you’re not careful, the holidays become less magic, more manic as the pressure mounts and the whole holiday season becomes a mountain of stress.

But you know what? It doesn’t have to be this way. By making a few conscious changes, like getting your priorities in order, and adopting a tip or two to gently manage the inevitable stress, Christmas CAN become a little more like the holiday of fairy stories. (Ok, it’s never going to be the white Christmas of Charles Dickens, but you’ll be a lot less stressed about it).

Here are 5 (really easy, practical and do-able) ways to de-stress and stay on track over the holidays.

1. Don’t Neglect Your Self Care

At the one time of year that we need it most, it’s amazing how many people neglect (or completely abandon) their own self-care. Christmas time is busy. With so many parties and get-togethers, plus the added stress of buying the perfect Christmas gifts, wondering whether you’ve forgotten to send a Christmas card to your partners’ brothers Uncle, cooking the perfect meal for a tableful of people, and (in the Northern Hemisphere) all of this happening in the darkest month of the year, self-care needs to be positively amped up over the festive period!

Self-care means different things to different people. For you, it could mean simply ensuring you get 8 hours sleep a night, with no excuses. Or maybe it’s setting aside half an hour every day to dive into a novel. It could be that you need to schedule in regular exercise – a yoga video at home, or going to the gym with a friend, or perhaps waking up extra early a few times a week to go and watch the sunrise?

Take a look at this article for more insight.

2. Beware of Overindulging

It’s very easy to consume unconsciously at Christmas.

A mince pie here, a glass of mulled cider there, a gift box of chocolates handed round the office…. Very quickly, the healthy habits you’ve done pretty well at keeping up until now go clean out the window. And the worst part is, you don’t even realize you’re doing it. And when you start feeling like utter crap, you wonder why!

Set yourself personal boundaries – maybe a specific number of treats, drinks or late nights per week so that you’re still consciously managing your sleep and activity and staying as healthy as you can, whilst still allowing yourself a little luxury? Then if you know you have parties scheduled in, you’ll be able to plan accordingly.

But it’s not just shopping, food and drink – don’t forget the mental and emotional overindulgence that goes on at Christmas. With SO many advertisements vying for your attention, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the media, thinking you need to look, feel and behave a certain way… cue anxiety going through the roof when reality doesn’t match up!

Unplug and avoid the noise as much as you possibly can. Reduce the time you spend soaking up social media. And if your inner activist needs a way to get expressive over the holiday,  click here for more ways to smash the patriarchy (It’ll do wonders for your holiday stress!)

3. Take Christmas Moment-by-Moment

Slowing right down and savoring Christmas mindfully is one of the best ways to reduce rising holiday stress levels. All too often, our minds are racing ahead towards the next thing on the agenda, or dwelling in a memory of how some past event could or should have gone. But you know what? That quintessential wonderful time, that Instagram-worthy snapshot of life as you’d love it to be is actually happening right now!  So quit diverting your attention away from the present and be. Here. Now.

Not only will the gift of being present enable you to gather more stress-free Christmas moments, but you’ll find you actually have more time. When you’re totally mindful, time expands into an eternity. Seriously – try it!

4. Release Perfectionism

One of the biggest causes of holiday stress is that old beast: Perfectionism.

With more exposure than ever before, to everybody else’s carefully curated worlds, it’s all too easy to end up feeling like your efforts are inadequate. The manic pressure to try even harder to get it right continues, and your capacity to actually enjoy the festivities goes down…

But here’s a secret. That calm, stress-free feeling you’re seeking, the one that sits just on the other side of everything being just perfect? Well, it’s not over there. It’s right here where you’re standing. You just need to let perfectionism go, and it’ll show right up.

5. Get Emotionally Aware

Unless you’re superhuman, there will be times over the holiday season when emotions flare and your stress levels rise. So when this happens, try not to skip through it but instead get critically emotionally aware.

Do this by following this simple 3-step emotionally stress-free checklist:

  1. If you can, stop what you’re doing for just a moment and fully feel. See if you can pinpoint where the stress is within your body as this will help with step 2.
  2. Name your emotion. Give the stress a label – are you feeling angry, hurt, disappointed, overwhelmed, powerless?
  3. Lastly, speak and act in loving kindness to yourself, according to what the emotion dictates. So if you’re feeling fearful, tell yourself that you’re safe, you’re brave and you’re strong. If you’re feeling disappointed, reassure yourself that you’re loved and taken care of.

When you sit with tough emotions like holiday stress, they do generally pass within about 90 seconds, so try to recognize the transient nature of the stress. If it keeps rising, though, you should probably try to dig a little deeper and unearth the root cause (as it’s unlikely to be directly related to the holidays!)

And remember… it’s one day! The greatest gift you can give your loved ones is your time and attention, the other stuff is extra!

What are your top tips for enjoying a stress-free holiday season? Share them with the community in the comments below!