Ten must-dos for a stress-free Christmas
Breffni Molloy of Milltown and Danielle Carroll of Tuam getting their Christmas shopping all wrapped up on Monday in Galway
1. Manage your time well. There are five days left until the big day so if you still have a lot to do it is important that you have a plan. Otherwise the hours will just slip away and you will end up frazzled before you even get to carve the turkey. Begin by monitoring your time, this will help you pinpoint where you are wasting precious minutes. Then, make a list and decide when you are going to get these jobs done. Your list could include everything from buying last minute presents or icing the Christmas cake (or even making it if you were short of time) to ensuring the chimney is clean for Santa and the grocery shop is in hand.
2. Prioritise. If you have a lot of duties but very little time then aim to reduce your seasonal workload by prioritising. Many of us spend up to 80 per cent of our time on non-essential tasks, according to research, so ditch these, at least until after the New Year when hopefully you will have more time.
3. Be selective. Apply this thinking to everything from which parties/get togethers to attend (if any) to how much of your precious time you will spend with friends/relations who do little to boost your mood or confidence. Remember, it is the season to be jolly and we all know people who have a knack of chipping away at our cheer so avoid these, if at all possible.
4. Have realistic expectations. You may have the best Christmas ever but then again things might happen that could dampen your spirit, such as having a battle on your hands as you try to prize the whiskey bottle off drunken Uncle Bert, or listening to Great Aunt Agatha moan about the draught every time you open the kitchen door, or ending up with lumpy custard or turkey burned to a cinder. Accept in advance that there are going to be stresses and that things will go wrong.
On a more serious note, your pressures may be much more challenging, such as a very tight budget or no budget at all, or you may be coping with loss, job insecurity or unemployment, or battling with illness or other difficulties and may not feel in the mood for celebration. Yet you want to ensure your family or partner has a good Christmas. Then, aim to focus only on the important things, and try to achieve these.
5. Limit your spending. Even if you are one of the very lucky people with a healthy bank balance (Is your name Bertie or even Enda?) no doubt you did not get to that highly prized position by dipping wantonly into your Holy Communion money. So, you will be working from a budget like the rest of us, lesser financially solvent mortels. Staying within budget is one of the keys to a stress-free Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Set a cash limit for individual gifts, such as under €10, €20 or €30, depending on your circumstances, as well as grocery shopping and do not go beyond this. If you intend to hit the sales follow the same guidelines. Use cash instead of cards as you will be less likely to overspend.
6. Set aside some “Me Time”. Amid the hustle and bustle, tinsel, mulled wine and mistletoe it is all too easy to put your own needs on hold and to concentrate all your energies on others. Be gentle with yourself. Make sure to find some time to relax, go for a walk, have a hot bath, read a book or watch your favourite television programme.
7. Be tolerant. Remember that patience is a saintly virtue which you may need in abundance during the festive season together with dollops of kindness, tolerance, compassion and understanding. If these attributes do not come naturally to you then it’s time to start working on them. If all goes to all pretend to be nice, it’s a once-a-year occasion, and after it’s over you can make mean faces, punch your pillow or create a cardboard cut-out of your most irksome relation or Christmas guest and throw darts at it!
8. Count your blessings. 2013 may not have been a great year for you in some respects but there must have been some positives along the way. Escaping any major misfortune is a huge plus. So too is having a decent home, people who care about you and a job you like. Make a little gratitude list, counting all the little things which bring a smile to your face. Then, if your mood dips over the festive season or stress furrows your brow recalling these may help you appreciate that it is the season to be jolly.
9. Learn to let go. This advice applies to grudges, deep seated resentment, old hurts and current irritants which when built up may cause a Vesuvius like eruption threatening family and work relationships and likely to give you high blood pressure or a migraine and even put you off your mince pies or Christmas pud. Vow to put aside any such issues, if not for keeps, at least for the next week or so in the interest of harmony and goodwill.
10. Get in the spirit of things. It comes just once a year so promise yourself to make this the best Christmas ever. Be determined to enjoy yourself and to brighten other people’s lives by giving them a smile, doing acts of unexpected kindness, offering a kind word or buying or making someone a special gift, if your budget allows.
Try to look at the season through a child’s eyes and appreciate the wonder and magic of it all. Even if the rain pours down, the wind rattles the window panes or if Jack Frost nips at your fingers get out into the great outdoors, if not to make a last minute dash to the shops, at least to blow the cobwebs away and aid your digestion after a hearty meal.