Like me, I’m sure you remember a point where Christmas was a truly magical time. It meant nothing more than writing letters to Santa, building snowmen, and eating way too much chocolate! These days, things are a little different. While everyone loves the prospect of seeing their extended family again and getting a few days off of work, being the one in charge of it all can be an extremely stressful experience. You know you’ve grown up when you see that Christmas is coming up and want to groan rather than cheer! We’ve got a while to go yet, but thinking about Christmas early will really help to mitigate the stress that comes with it. Here’s my guide to planning for a stress-free Christmas.
Image: Public Domain Pictures
First of all, start buying gifts as soon as possible. If I had been doing this over previous years, I’m sure I would’ve had a much better experience of Christmas overall. Typically, I’ve left my Christmas shopping to the last moment, scrambled to find gifts that are vaguely suited to the people I was buying for, and ended up with a pretty naff haul. This piles on the stress for a couple of big reasons. First of all, the moment I finish wrapping a certain gift, I immediately start to think of all the other, better options I could have chosen for this or that person. Secondly, because I haven’t been planning ahead, my budget ends up horribly stretched, which makes things a little hectic for obvious reasons. If you start budgeting for your gifts and buying them as soon as possible, you’ll be in a better position to get your loved ones thoughtful, unique gifts rather than last-minute choices, and have a little more money to throw around as you get closer to the big day.
If you have a traditional round of Christmas photos, and it’s usually a chaotic, stressful affair, then this is probably one of the thing you’d want to turn around this year. After you’ve finally got everyone in one place, every shot you take seems to have some big, glaring flaw. By the time you get one you’re happy with, the smiles are strained and everyone’s rapidly losing the holiday spirit. To make your Christmas photos a little simpler, I thought I’d give you a few handy pointers. First of all, when you have a lit tree in the background, disable your flash. A lot of smartphone cameras have a high sensitivity to light, which can really throw the contrast off when the family’s already surrounded by fairy lights. Take the flash off and rely on the warm, ambient glow from the tree instead. Perhaps we’ll get a white Christmas this year, and you’ll want to seize the opportunity to get a nice, idyllic shot of everyone standing in all that fresh snow. To make sure this comes out looking great, try increasing the shutter speed on your camera. This will help to reduce the glare you’d get on the lens otherwise. When it’s Christmas morning, you’ve had an hour of sleep because you were busy being Santa, and your kids have insisted you come downstairs before you’ve been able to put any makeup on, appearing in any photo probably isn’t the most appealing idea in the world. A quick fix for this is dabbing a little concealer over your eyes, and sitting somewhere where the light is streaming in your direction, but isn’t right over your head.
As if getting everything organised for having your local family over wasn’t stressful enough, you might have people inviting you to various gatherings and dinners. When it starts getting close to Christmas, it’s pretty common for our social media profiles to suddenly explode with messages from old friends we haven’t heard from all year, all inviting you to some description of get-together. Of course, when our closest friends go their separate ways, and the various strains of our day-to-day lives make it hard to see each other, it’s more important than ever to find time for each other, and create memories while we still can. However, if you’re feeling inclined to go to all of these gatherings more out of politeness than anything else, you need to learn how to say “no”. Sure, you might not get the same invitations next year, and some people will think that you’re coming off as rude. However, you’ll be able to enjoy Christmas a lot more if you learn how to say “no” every now and then, and stick to the things that are closer to your heart. Don’t feel too guilty about this. One less person means less stress for those people who are inviting you!
Next, try to simplify the big day in any ways you can. The Christmas traditions that different families have are wonderful in some ways, and I’m sure yours have been at the core of some wonderful memories. However, there’s no real reason that you can’t create new traditions which are a better fit for your situation. No one who knows what it’s like to organise Christmas is going to call you lazy for not wanting to cook every last dish on the table. Instead, consider simply roasting the turkey, and asking everyone who’s coming to bring a side dish. Just make sure everyone stays in contact with each other so you don’t end up with a table full of desserts! I’m sure the adults in your family won’t care all that much if they don’t get a gift from everyone. Instead, consider a secret Santa system where you all draw names from a hat and have a smaller gift exchange on the big day. If you want to make things even simpler and more affordable, suggest chipping in for a big charity gift. This will not only help you to avoid rushing around the mall and ordering things in a big, expensive flurry, but will also make you feel better for giving to people who need it most. There are countless sites where you can buy certificates that allow the holder to donate a given amount of money to a non-profit of their choice. It’s not quite a new hair dryer, but do any of us really need more stuff?
With all the stress of the Christmas period weighing down on you, you may feel a little tempted to give the gym or your run around the block a miss here and there. However, if you really want to avoid the stress on the horizon, I recommend sticking to them like you usually would. This may sound a bit backwards, but believe me it’s not! It’s been proven time and time again that exercise is brilliant for stress relief, and although you may not feel it immediately, all those gym sessions, long walks and so on will add up. Missing sessions might seem like a quick fix to buy yourself more time. However, all you’ll really be doing is driving yourself towards more stress when you need it least! The other side of this is the amount you’ll be eating over Christmas and the period following it. Once you manage to get everything organised and finally sit down to your plate, it’s easy to have extra servings, drink a little too much wine, and break into the chocolates afterwards. This is fine once a year. However, if you’ve been exercising less than you should, this can easily manifest as self-loathing, usually around January 1st. Keep on top of your workouts and exercise schedules, and you’ll thank yourself later!
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