I feel 2020 (bushfires, global pandemic, restrictions/ lockdowns, economic recession) has helped us all reevaluate what is important in our lives.
Christmas should be a time of joy and relaxation, but it seems to have evolved into a time that can be stressful in a number of ways. So, I've put together a list of strategies that might help to lower the strain this festive season.
Now that it is November, you may feel you have missed the boat somewhat in terms of planning ahead for Christmas, but there are still a number of ways you can get planning.
Share around the meal preparation and do what you can ahead of time and freeze. Reconsider what a realistic amount of food needed is and don’t way over cater just because ‘it’s what we have always done’.
Write out a timetable for the day that factors in anything that needs to be cooked and how it will fit in together.
Is it possible to enjoy a more relaxing Christmas celebration with one side of the family on a different day, better yet weeks apart?
It can be not only stressful trying to squeeze in too many commitments onto the one day, but the travel can also be dangerous. If you are tired and distracted, the busy Christmas roads are a place you want to avoid at all costs.
Decide on a budget for all the anticipated costs such as gifts, food, any travel and entertainment....Stick to it!! If you feel you will be racking up debt in order to meet these costs, reconsider what is actually an unnecessary expectation and where you can cut back.
At the end of the day your children or other family members will cherish quality time spend together over 'stuff'.
For next year, consider either setting aside a portion of your regular income to build up over the year, or spread out costs by buying gifts starting from January. Opening a seperate Christmas savings bank account with an automatic transfer can be a good way to ensure you have enough set aside.
It may be a little late to drop it on everyone now, but if you have a large extended family or friends group, can you consider swapping to a budget-friendly Secret Santa for all of the adults to limit the overall number of gifts you purchase each year.
Another option, depending on your family's interests and values is to consider creating a tradition of passing along second hand items, rather than buying new. Giving preloved books or board games is a great option, particularly if as a group you are conscious of reducing the impact of consumerism and throw-away culture on the environment.
My advice- lists, lists, lists my friends!!
List who to buy for, gift ideas, shops to visit (in person or online), groceries.... list it all.
Oh and start ASAP (especially for online with those shipping delays).
Consider doing your grocery shopping online and make sure you order any large items (ham, turkey) in advance.
If you can afford to and have the storage, restock wrapping paper, cards etc during the post Christmas sales, when you can make huge savings.
If you have strained family relationships and find it overwhelming to see bucket loads of perfect Insta family pics, try to actively take a break or at least reduce your use of social media if you find it a trigger.
Have realistic expectations about how family members are likely to act together. If they usually bicker throughout the year, chances are Christmas won’t be any different.
Avoid, or swiftly divert, any conversation topics that are likely to trigger arguments (errrm politics).
Make sure you communicate effectively with your spouse, if you have one. They aren't a mind reader and won't necessarily plan or prepare for Christmas in the same way you do.
Take care of your health
Remember to eat and drink in moderation, drink plenty of water, get enough sleep and try to schedule in some exercise. Taking care of your own wellbeing can build up your resilience to deal with the stress that can arise.
If you do notice tension creeping up, use deep breathing or mindfulness techniques. If you don't know where to start, Beyond Blue has some helpful resources.
Last, but not least, look after each other. If you know someone who does it tough at Christmas, or is particularly down this year, do what you can to support them. Even small gestures can make a big difference because it shows you care.
If you have any other tips for how to reduce Christmas stress, drop a comment below to share.