Sleigh the stress: 9 tips for a relaxed Christmas

Are you feeling more manic than merry in the lead-up to Christmas? Here are some tips from the experts to help ease the festive stress and strain.

Christmas brings a unique blend of joy and tradition – but also, for many, an undercurrent of stress and anxiety.

The pressure to create perfect moments, the flurry of preparations and having to navigate family dynamics can overshadow the joy the celebrations are meant to bring.

Want to ease the pressure? The experts have this advice.

1. Plan your festivities

Nutritional biochemist, author and speaker Dr Libby Weaver, whose books include The Invisible Load and Rushing Woman’s Syndrome, emphasises the importance of planning, particularly in the lead-up to the holidays.

Dr Weaver recommends to ease the pressure, create a to-do list and a calendar of events.

“List down what you really want out of Christmas and focus on what’s important,” she says.

2. Delegate as many tasks as possible

You can’t decorate the tree, wrap all the presents, set the table, cook a turkey and make all the salads.

People love to help, so divvy up the duties and make this everyone’s day.

“No one will remember how clean your house was but they will remember a happy, warm and festive atmosphere,” Dr Weaver says.

“Remember, Christmas is supposed to be a holiday!”

3. Set aside some downtime

The deluge of festive dinners, deadlines and social engagements can leave you stretched pretty thin.

It can also place stress on families, especially children, who can feel neglected during this busy time.

Clinical psychologist and family consultant Rachel Samson recommends scheduling some time out.

“Look at your calendar and pencil in downtime along with all the holiday events,” Rachel says.

4. Learn to say no

Rachel reminds people it’s OK to say no to situations such as catch-ups and conversations that could stress you out.

“You can choose not to participate in difficult conversations to protect your peace,” she says.

“If the family dynamics are so challenging, it’s OK to opt out of family events altogether.”

5. Get plenty of sleep

Between Christmas shopping, school holidays and social engagements, it’s easy to get burnt out.

Jon Gregory, founder of Vitruvian exercise machine company, says prioritising sleep is a key part of surviving the silly season unscathed.

He says “ensuring that your body has time to heal, rest and recover” is imperative to keeping your health and wellbeing in check.

6. Practise mindfulness

All the running around can take a toll on our emotional wellbeing.

Mindfulness and meditation expert Luke McLeod, founder of the Soul Alive: Mindful Life app, encourages people to give themselves the gift of the present moment.

“Meditation is one of the few exercises that shifts the mind into the present moment and allows your thinking mode of the mind to take a quick break,” Luke says.

7. Move your body

As our social calendars fill up with long lunches, decadent dinners and cocktails and canapes, there is not a lot of time left for the gym.

Fitness guru Sam Wood advocates exercising in the morning so you start the day on the right foot (and balance out all that wining and dining).

Sam suggests “getting back into some kind of healthy-ish schedule” in early January to avoid frustration and disappointment down the track.

8. Drive carefully

The House of Wellness TV presenter Jacqui Felgate reminds people to stay safe on the roads over Christmas, when more of us than ever are out and about, including on long road trips.

“Take regular breaks and take advantage of driver reviver stops across the country,” Jacqui says.

“There is no more precious cargo than your family.”

9. Remember what the season is really about

In the whirlwind of preparations and socialising, it’s easy to lose sight of what Christmas is truly about.

“The holiday season is a time for coming together with family and friends,” Jacqui says.

Focus on what really matters to you, such as creating memories with loved ones, embracing the warmth of shared moments, and finding contentment in the gifts of presence and time.

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