Beat stress this Christmas

1. If you are one of those people who has left all your Chrismas preparations until the last minute, do not fret. Begin by compiling a “To Do” list. Include everything from sending Christmas cards and buying gifts to grocery shopping, cleaning the house, cooking Christmas dinner and visiting friends and relations.

2. Plan your day and be realistic about what you can achieve. If individual tasks seem daunting break them into segments. They will be easier to manage that way. Set aside one day or evening for Christmas shopping, for instance. Spend a free hour vacuuming or listing which festive foodstuffs you need. If the latter is always a stressor begin your grocery countdown now. Check the cupboards for food and beverages. Double check you have cream, bread, milk, butter, etc, for Christmas morning. Other items frequently forgotten are candles, napkins, indigestion products, logs, firelighters, matches and coal. Do all your food shopping in one day, if possible, buying everything except fresh vegetables.

3. Always try to finish each chore and tick them off your list. You will begin to feel more in control as you get through your action plan.

4. Make a list of what you’ll be buying for whom and where you think you will find it. This will save you time and reduce your stress levels. The best way to avoid giving someone an unwanted gift is to think before you buy. Consider the person’s likes and dislikes, hobbies and interests. With a little thought and planning you can please everybody.

5. Stay within your budget. If you have 10 people to buy for, it is easy to get carried away, especially when time is running out and the shops are busy. Before you set out, draw up a budget and vow to stay within it. Set a cash limit for individual gifts, such as under €10, €20 or €30, depending on your means. Otherwise, you could be ringing in the New Year with empty pockets. Avoid impulse buying.

Early morning is the best time to shop, avoid lunch-hours. If you visit an ATM near a shopping area, expect to spend ages queuing. Pay cash, if possible. It is easier to overspend if you use a credit card.

6. Doing everything perfectly is not necessary for a happy Christmas. Do the best you can and be prepared to take shortcuts.

7. Allow extra time. Apply this rule to everything, then you will minimise stress. If it normally takes 60 minutes to get through one of the chores on your Christmas action plan, give yourself 80.

8. Delegate. Get your partner, family or friends to help out, especially if you are under pressure. Accept all offers of help whether it’s household chores, babysitting or doing the weekly shop, getting someone else to lend a hand will lighten your load.

9. Aim for a good sleep routine in the run up to the festive season. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. If you find it hard to get to sleep, get into the habit of winding down with a bath, relaxing music and hot drink. Ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark and comfortable and that it is neither too hot nor too cold.

10. Recharge your batteries. Expect to be run off your feet in the next two weeks so built in some tension relieving activities into your daily routine both in the build-up to Christmas and during the season itself. Slip on your earphones and listen to your favourite music, potter around the garden, have a soak in the bath, do some painting or sketching, catch up with your favourite television programme or enjoy a good read. Remember it’s your time for you.

11. Control your reactions. We all react to others no matter how much we try not to. This Christmas refuse to let someone else’s stress/bad temper/Scrooge attitude affect you. If your family always ends up arguing over something during the festive season resolve to stay out of it. Try some deep breathing and remove yourself from the situation if possible.

12. Live for the moment. People tend to look back on this fast fading year at this time and often spend hours mulling over regrets, mistakes and what might have been. There is no point beating yourself over the head because there is nothing you can do to change the past, no matter how much you wish you could. Learn to let it go and steer clear of “if onlys”.

13. Avoid indigestion which is synonymous with the season of the holly and the berries. Overdoing food and drink seems to go hand-in-hand with Christmas. Prevent this happening this year by eating smaller portions and having regularly spaced meals. These will put less strain on your stomach. Try not to eat too late at night, cut down on slow-to-digest fatty foods, such as pastry, meat and chocolate, and eat as much fibre as possible. Try not to lie down after eating a big meal, sitting up will help to keep heartburn at bay. Pacing yourself is a good idea too. The festivities can last for a week so go easy on the food and drink. Indigestion is aggravated by smoking, alcohol, pregnancy and being overweight.

14. Sleep well. Aim to get a few early nights before Christmas so you will have enough energy to take you through the season. You’ll be glad you did when you are bright eyed as the others begin to wilt when the last cracker is pulled. If you find it hard to get to sleep begin winding down at least half an hour before going to bed. A hot bath and a warm milky drink may help. Avoid tea, coffee or heavy meals last thing at night.

15. Create memories. Christmas is a special time for children so make sure they enjoy it, it will help form lasting memories for them. If older children are usually in bed fairly early and have set meal and play times consider relaxing your arrangement a little as well as your expectations about their behaviour. Retain some routine however, especially for smaller child because it makes them feel secure. Allow them to stay up late every other night or a couple of nights a week and stick with the usual night-time bed routine, such as supper and a story.

16. Eat well. Your diet can help keep you calm by releasing mood boosting chemicals. It can also increase your energy and keep your immune system strong. Try to eat naturally in the busy days ahead. Aim not to overcook food because this will help provide vitamins B, C and E. Choose wholegrain bread, fresh fruit, salad, nuts, seeds, lean meat and fish. Try to balance meals, also.

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