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Feeling snowed under in the run up to the Christmas?

As kids we look forward to this time of year. There’s the advent calendar, lights, tree, decorations, school vacations, stocking, a visit from Father Christmas and, of course, the long anticipated presents.

But sadly, once you’ve grown up, with all the responsibilities and obligations being an adult entails, your Christmas spirit can get snuffed out. Even thinking about the planning, preparation and costs involved can fill you with dread.

Christmas Stresses

There’s a lot of pressure involved in the festive season for us grown ups. Typical concerns might be:

  • The expense of travel and gifts.
  • Decisions about where to spend the holidays and who with.
  • Difficulties of spending time with people you don’t see often.
  • Worry about what to wear and who to talk to at parties.
  • Insecurity about what gifts to give and what you’re given compared to other people.

Ridiculous isn’t it? Christmas should be joyful, not stressful. So it’s time to pare it back to the essentials, make sure there’s time for you and make your Yule cool again. Here are some ideas on how to keep your  Christmas season simple.

1. Gifts

Make a list of everyone you have to give gifts to and come up with practical ways to deal with it. Make a decision to spend sensibly and only buy what you can afford. It’s true that it’s the thought that counts so it’s absolutely fine to give a home-made gift or something you got in a second hand shop.

For friends or family who live overseas send an online gift voucher. Or do a long distance swap. My brother lives in the UK, I’m in Australia and we each have three children. Years ago, we agreed to buy low value presents for our own kids and wrap them up with tags from their aunt, uncle and cousins. That way we can easily pick things we know our kids will like and haven’t already got plus avoid crazy postage costs. We haven’t bought gifts for each other for years, but I’m looking forward to a phone call or free Skype video call with him.

For adults

Think about having a gift free year. Or give a home-made voucher for babysitting, a massage, garden weeding or a special meal you’ll cook them. Because it’s fun to have gifts wrapped under the tree for everyone I tend to get gifts for my husband that he needs anyway like a new shirt, some hot chili sauce or a camping chair. My husband doesn’t want any gifts but the kids like to have something to give him so that keeps everyone happy.

For children

Cash is always easy and always popular plus it keeps you out of the shops where you might end up overspending. Small denomination notes of two or four $5 notes with a total value of $10 or $20 will make most kids happy. Or if you want to give them a gift get something cheaper or on sale and don’t fall into the trap of spending twice as much as you need to.

For bigger family get togethers

Suggest organizing the big day so each person only gets one gift up to a certain low value. Then everyone is allocated someone to buy for and can get creative by seeing the best present idea they can come up with for $10. We did this one year and I had to buy a gift for a male friend and came up with the idea of a miniature bottle of rum and a can of coke to mix it with. He was pretty happy.

2. Family Matters

Accept that there may be friction at some family reunions or events and decide in advance not to get involved. Avoid other people’s dramas and don’t create your own.

To achieve this limit contact with people who annoy you and be the person who takes the high road. Vow to set aside your differences for the day or the week. Try pretending you’re the Dalai Lama or Desmond Tutu — then, no matter how other people behave, conduct yourself with grace and equanimity. Challenge yourself to keep it up for as long as necessary and have fun with the new peace-maker you. See if you can surprise your family and yourself with your chilled out behavior.

Finally, remember, that just because you have to spend a long weekend with your family doesn’t mean you have to pass every minute in their company. Take time out for yourself. Go for a walk or nip off to your room to read a book for an hour. It’s your holiday too.

3. Food and Drink

If you’re in charge of food preparation make it simple. Design a basic menu or outline of meal ideas and tell people what you’d like them to bring. Think about who can supply the meat, fish, salad, nibbles and desert and don’t be afraid to ask for help on the day.

Or break from tradition with a barbecue or a pot luck meal instead.

4. Parties

There’s no need to buy new clothes, especially for a party. Wear your best and newest clothes or the old outfit that never fails to get compliments. Unless you’re an A-list star there’s no shame in being seen in the same thing twice or more.

Limit your drinks, smile and try to talk to people you don’t know. Have fun and socialize. That’s what parties are for.

If you’re really not looking forward to a party make polite excuses and stay away so you don’t bring anyone else down. Relax, give yourself a break and save the parties for when you’re in the mood to enjoy them.

5. Kids

Manage their expectations. Explain to them that the holidays are for spending time with family and friends and Christmas gifts are a bonus but not necessary. Television is the enemy and if your kids watch TV they’ll have seen many toys they want to buy or be given.

Look at toy catalogues and go through them with your kids. Mine seem to be satisfied if I acknowledge their wishes, make a note of the things they want by circling them in the catalogue or writing them in a notebook. But I explain that they will only get one or two things and that some things they like are too gimmicky, too expensive or not suited to our lifestyle.

For example, all my kids want a computer game you plug into the TV, but we just tell them they already have enough screen time and they’ll have to wait until they can afford to buy them themselves. They accept that and look forward to playing these types of games at their friend’s houses. Their friends are fed up with them already so I feel justified in my choice and am determined not to be swayed by peer pressure. I love my kids and I don’t have to show it by buying them expensive toys that will end up in a landfill.

Hopefully reading this gave you a few ideas on how to make your Christmas a bit more chilled out. Stay away from the hype, advertising and shops as much as you can and your stress levels will reduce instantly. I realised that just the thought of going shopping was making me feel irritable so minimising shopping is crucial for me.

There are five of us in our family and we’ll have an auntie and cousin on board for the big day. I’ve got a master list of who’s giving what to who and I’m keeping it simple. We’ll be staying at home in the morning, playing and relaxing, then heading to the beach in the afternoon.

Whatever you’ve got planned I hope you’ll have a chilled out and fun festive season.

What are you doing this Christmas and what tips have you got for surviving the silly season?

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