Family Christmas

7 ways to stay calm this Christmas

On the verge of a meltdown in the lead-up to the holidays? Commit these tips to memory and yule finish off the year with composure and confidence

By Gabrielle Tozer
Overcommitted, overloaded, overscheduled and just plain over it.
Yep, the end of the year is often jam-packed with stress.
A UK survey even found that people consider Christmas the sixth most stressful life event, alongside divorce, moving house and changing jobs.
“We don’t call it the silly season for nothing,” says Kelly Exeter, author of Your Best Year Ever and champion of living “a life less frantic”.
“Everyone is that little bit more frazzled and grumpy.”
But it sure doesn’t have to be that way. We’ve rounded up seven tried-and-tested strategies to help you ditch that overwhelmed feeling this year.
It’s instant calmer!

Write it down

A to-do list can be a lifesaver around this time of year. It makes it easier to keep track of everything and allows you to prioritise what deserves your attention and time.
Life coach Domonique Bertolucci agrees. “Every time your thoughts buzz around in your head, they’re wasting the mental energy you could be giving to something you really do need to think about,” she says.
So pick up a pen and free those thoughts that are clogging up your brain. Once you’re done, have a closer look at your schedule.
“What’s achievable and what can you let slide?” Domonique says.
“Instead of juggling 100 balls, focus on one thing – then move on to the next.”

Practice saying ‘no’

It can be one of the hardest words to say, especially if you’re someone who’s prone to people-pleasing. But for the sake of pre-Christmas sanity, it’s time to add “no” to your vocabulary.
You’ve got your to-do list sorted now, so if an invitation doesn’t align with your priorities, it’s OK to politely decline.
Exhibit A: those people you haven’t seen all year who suddenly want to “catch up before Christmas”.
“You know when a good time to catch up with these people is? After Christmas!” Kelly says.
“A decent catch-up in January beats a stressed-out, ‘I only have time for a quick drink, then I’m off to the next thing’ in December.”
It’s also a good idea to not commit to any invitations on the spot. Instead, say something like, “Thanks for thinking of me – I’ll get back to you soon.” That way you’ll buy yourself time to make the right decision.

Breathe (yes, really)

According to Harvard research, slowing down your breathing with yoga, meditation or relaxation tapes can relieve anxiety and feelings of stress.
But if the thought of squeezing something else into your pre-Christmas timetable is too much right now, a simple breathing exercise can work wonders – and it takes just seconds!
“Breathe in for four seconds and hold for four seconds, then breathe out for four seconds,” Kelly says. “Do this four times. It’s guaranteed to bring you down a notch or two.”

Go easy on yourself

This year, take the pressure down.
Whether that means delegating tasks to relatives, swapping a turkey for fresh seafood to avoid being in the kitchen all day, or running a Secret Santa to save money, tell yourself that near enough can be good enough.
“Shop for groceries online, give experience gifts (movie tickets or restaurant vouchers) and avoid being near major shopping centres in December,” Kelly advises.
“And don’t stress if you don’t have time to send out fancy Christmas cards.”
As American happiness expert, Gretchen Rubin is renowned for saying: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Pre-Christmas diet? Ditch it!

Stressing that you should shed a few kilos before the food and drink bonanza really kicks off?
First up, forget dieting! Instead, focus on getting in plenty of fruit and vegetables and moving your body for at least 20 minutes everyday, says Kelly, who has a background in human movement and exercise.
Her other tips? “Drink two large glasses of water each morning as soon as you get up,” she suggests. “Eat meals from a smaller bowl or plate than normal – that way your mind will think you’re eating more than you are – and don’t go back for seconds. Enjoy the feeling of being satisfied rather than overly full.”
Bonus: if you stick with these healthy habits during December, you’ll already be on the right track to continue them once the
silly season wraps up.

Be grateful for what you have

It’s scientifically proven that showing gratitude contributes to our overall wellbeing. In fact, it’s one of the greatest contributing factors to happiness, according to a University of Pennsylvania study.
So if you’re feeling exhausted, adopt a daily gratitude practice where you write down three things you’re grateful for. Another way to boost happy vibes is to write someone a thank you letter – it’ll
make yours and their day.

Lock in downtime

Last but not least, plan to have fun, even among all the deadlines, obligations and holiday madness.
“Schedule movies with a friend, a game of tennis or brisk walk – or, even better, a leisurely lunch!” Domonique says.
“Schedule things into your diary that force you to switch off.” We don’t have to be told twice!