Editor's Note: This post was originally posted in November 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in December 2019.
Christmas may be a joyful time of year, but for many of us, that joy comes at a cost. With the kids off school, visitors popping in sporadically and a never-ending, undeterminable number of mouths to feed, it's easy to get overwhelmed.
Today, we're sharing some top tips for keeping your stress levels under control at Christmas.
What is stress?
Becoming a little flustered is one thing, but if you find yourself feeling overly anxious, irritable or low in self-esteem, chances are you're suffering from stress. According to the NHS, symptoms can also include trouble sleeping, headaches, muscle tension and even dizziness.
If this sounds like you, don't fret - a whopping 67% of mothers find Christmas Day stressful, with worries about presents, money, and food being some of the most common causes. With all of that to think about, and much more, it's no wonder the joviality of the festive period is often overshadowed.
However, all is not lost - there are many ways the NHS recommend managing stress, such as:
- Regulating your alcohol intake
- Learning how to relax
- Adopting good time-management techniques
- Taking regular exercise
- Having some 'me time'
- Avoiding unhealthy habits, such as smoking and drinking too much caffeine
With regards to Christmas specifically, some planning and preparation in advance will also greatly help reduce the strain. Here's a list of things we recommend taking care of now, to help ease the pressure on the run-up to the big day:
How to have a stress-free Christmas
1. Buy your Christmas cards in advance
Did you remember Great-Auntie Sue? Childhood neighbour, Derrick? The exhaustive list of Christmas cards recipients is enough to send anyone a bit loopy.
November may be a bit early to stamp and send your cards, but you can get ahead by picking up a few packs next time you're out. When you find yourself with an hour to kill, get writing so that come December, you'll be able to sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that no one has been forgotten.
If you've left it too late this year, don't worry. An email, heartfelt text or phone call will mean just as much to them.
2. Make storing food stress-free by deep cleaning your fridge & freezer
It's fair to say we take festive food pretty seriously in the UK. So seriously, in fact, that finding enough fridge space is one of our main sources of worry at Christmas time.
Deep clean your fridge and freezer in preparation and you - and all your hungry guests - will be safe in the knowledge that there's enough space to store all that deliciousness.
3. Stock up on your favourite Christmas tipples
Brandy, hot cocoa, cherryade - Christmas just wouldn't be the same without a cupboard full of the family's favourite tipples.
The prospect of not being able to cater for everyone's favourite beverages is actually one of the main stresses at Christmas, which just goes to show how seriously Grandad takes his gin. Make sure you're prepared for whoever drops in by stocking up well in advance.
4. Keep on top of that laundry pile
There's nothing more stressful than spending Christmas Eve stood over the ironing board or washing machine.
Make sure you're able to join in with the family Christmas cheer the night before by keeping on top of the laundry on the lead up to the big day.
5. Schedule in the dreaded, big clean
The one you've all been waiting for - the big, deep clean before all our guests and their 'onlooking' eyes arrive.
Despite the fact that everyone will be too busy cooing over new gifts, divine dishes and friendly faces to pay attention to the odd cobweb, it's something the majority of us feel obliged to take care of.
Make this mammoth task less stressful by breaking it down into small tasks and scheduling them out over a longer period of time. That way the prospect will seem much less daunting.
If you're short on time, try to hide as much clutter as possible in cupboards and under beds. Focus on the rooms that will be seen by guests like the living room, downstairs loo and kitchen.
6. Give your car the once over to avoid Christmas catastrophes
Many of us travel around a lot over the festive period to visit nearest and dearests. While it's great to catch-up, the cold, icy conditions can be tricky to negotiate.
Ensuring your car is fit for the Christmas weather by topping up your screen defroster, checking your tyres and packing a small screen scraper in the glove box for snowy days - it'll be plain sailing from there on out.
7. Rifle through your Christmas decorations
Christmas isn't about the materialistic stuff. Of course, deep down we know this is true, but we often feel pressure to make our houses look as beautiful as possible during the festive season.
If you're guilty of frantically rushing out to buy every bauble in sight as the big day nears, planning in advance is probably a good idea.
Check what decorations you already have in storage and it will help you stay calm and collected when buying new ones. There will be less temptation to buy things you don't need, helping to keep that Christmas budget low, and you'll also be able to construct a flowing décor you're proud of.
8. Make welcoming unscheduled guests stress-free
The beauty - and stress - of Christmas often comes from the unscheduled drop-ins of family and friends.
It's difficult to throw things together and make things hospitable at the flick of a switch, and whilst your guests will probably be happy with anything, chances are you'll want everything to be just right.
You can easily make such occasions stress-free by getting a few things together before such occasions arise. Fill a chest full of spare sheets and towels for any ad hoc drop-ins, stock up on toiletries, and clear some wardrobe space so your visitors feel as welcome as you intend them to.
9. Stock up on snacks
Christmas is the one time of year when you can expect an impromptu drop-in from literally anyone who's ever known you. Not only that, but you're obliged to welcome the guests - whether you recognise them or not - with the appropriate snacks and nibbles - it's no wonder having enough food is one of our main Christmas worries!
Stock up now to make sure you can fill any awkward silences with snack offerings.
10. Make board games easily accessible
You may no longer have little ones running around at home normally but, at Christmas, this is likely to change.
We all know the joy children can bring, but it's not always easy to appreciate when you're in the middle of cooking dinner for 12.
Make sure there's always something to occupy the little (and big) ones this year by placing a selection of family favourite games on show. It will help keep them quiet, and you calm, when concentration is required.
11. Write the mammoth shopping list
There's nothing as devastating as starting Christmas Day dinner only to realise you've forgotten to buy the most lusted-after ingredient - Yorkshire puddings, and lots of them.
Avoid stressing over forgotten ingredients by writing your shopping list as early as possible. (You should probably check it at least ten times too, you know, just to be sure). If you're having people over, why not ask them for suggestions?
Which is the task that stresses you out the most over Christmas? Let me know in the comments below and I'll do my best to help you through it!