How to combat festive stress and how I de-stress.
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
Christmas brings out the stress in some of us, I know, as I used to get really stressed and would make myself ill. Worrying if I had enough cash to get everyone what they asked for. The joys of being from a big family!
When I was younger managing money was difficult, Craig was working full time and late hours, I was at home with the kids and that in itself was stressful. I really hate shopping at the best of times, but Christmas shopping is just on a whole other level.
I would worry about money, worry about food, worry that I would get the wrong gifts for family members. To the point that I would end up with headaches, nausea, mood swings. All because of money and the pressure certain family members were putting on me to buy them certain gifts (Those ‘family’ members are no longer in my life). You know the ones that reappear when they think they might gain something....
For me, Christmas has never been about gifts and how much cash you can splash, it’s always been about spending quality time with my family. Playing games with the kids, going to festive events and supporting the local community. We even look forward to watching the Christmas ads! Making gingerbread, paper chains and playing christmas music on the piano.
Around 5 years ago when Elliot, my youngest, was teeny tiny (hard to imagine) I quite frankly had enough of the stress, it was the time of the year you are supposed to enjoy festivities. I sat down one night and told Craig things need to change, I needed to look after my mental health and we worked out a plan to combat the stress. To ensure our mental health as a family was a priority and I didnt want our kids to associate Christmas with stress and money.
How I de-stress
There are some things that you can do to ease the stress or to not get stressed at all (hard to imagine I know)
1) Plan. I am a self confessed list aholic. I make lists for absolutely everything, I am obsessed with stationery so it was the perfect choice for me. Start in January and plan what you want to achieve, whether it’s a monthly money goal or what food you want to buy for Christmas lunch, planning is the key. Some of the things I plan ready for December in advance are things like:
Christmas Gift list
Christmas Card lists
Events we want to go to
What food everyone wants (The arguments about types of meat or non meat in my family are just horrendous)
A to do list and then tick them as you complete
At the start of January I create a Money planner, how much we know we will be getting in each month, what goes out and how much I want to put into the Christmas saving tin.
Make a Christmas budget list for each person.
I like to have a clear out a few times a year, especially a month or so before Christmas, this saves the extra stress of doing it before santa arrives! I always give anything that isn’t broke to charity.
2) Set a budget. I set a budget for every person I buy for, our boys get the most spent on them, so we always make sure we get what we want for them first. Yes I do spoil my kids but I dont go way overboard doing it either. We also give them an experience gift list for the year.
It doesn’t have to be expensive items you buy for people and if you just explain to those wanting high end gifts that you are trying to save some money, i’m sure they will understand. (If they don’t, ask yourself do you need them in your life) Trust me I had family members that would only get in touch at Christmas time tell me what they wanted (it wouldn't be cheap) then they disappeared again. (They wouldn't even give my boys a gift!) One Christmas I just missed those people from my list altogether and it was the best decision I ever made.
3) Check out the online sales. I have always preferred to shop in store and support the local shops, however some items that are on my wanted list are included in online sales that you can’t get in store. I Always try to have my Christmas shopping complete by the beginning of December that way I can avoid the mad rush and crush of the stores. I just need to get the food.
4) Freeze yellow sticker item food. You can freeze most foods, I love nothing more than hitting some of the local supermarkets and having a yellow sticker run. Try doing this a few months before Christmas, you will be surprised at how much you can save on veg and meat. I feel I have to do this some months as my kids literally eat everything! Boys are hungry creatures! If you have a large family take it in turns each year to host Christmas lunch.That way you can just take one or two items saving you a fortune. Christmas eve Yellow sticker tips (hit M&S 30 minutes before closing (£1 turkeys), other supermarkets an hour before)
5) Set realistic expectations for Christmas day. We all have that one family member that does nothing but bicker all year, they will probably do so on the big day too. If you have touchy subjects that cause arguments then avoid these. We tend to sway away from politics once my uncle appears otherwise it’s like WW3 has broken out in my Nana's kitchen.
6) Learn to say no. This is so important to me, for many many years I would go along with what certain members of my family told me to buy as gifts, even though they knew I was a new mum and simply couldn’t afford to be spending hundreds on someone I would see twice a year. I finally plucked up the courage almost 3 years ago and told them NO. They didn’t like it and we haven’t spoken since but to me this just proves that you don’t need people who think you are a walking bank.This was the best thing I ever did to combat the mental strain I was going through. I am now almost stress free when it comes to the festive period.
7) Charity shops. If you are really really struggling cash wise you could always visit your local charity stores, the days of the smelly, dirty items are gone. Have you seen some of the bargains some people get in charity shops? Designer clothes for half the cost. Plus if you shop in your local charity stores you are giving back to those in need. If you can travel then look up charity stores in wealthier areas. I know someone who does this and she is always dressed to impress in high quality designer gear, yet she paid no where near retail for any of it
Ways I like to relax and take a break from it all
Go for a walk. I love to step outside at night in the winter and do some stargazing. You could go for a walk in the local park or somewhere you can unwind for a little while. (The Forest is my best friend)
I like to go to the beach and just sit for hours watching the world go by. The sound of the waves and the sand between my toes helps me unwind.
Sit back and listen to some of your favourite music, I have so many favourite songs, music has always been a big part of my life. I come from a very musical family and grew up playing various instruments, singing and visiting family members in theatre shows.
Get your partner or friend to give you a back rub.
Reading. I own enough books to fill a library so I always have plenty to read as this distracts me from negativity. I love 100 + year old books and have an impressive collection.
Have a green tea. It’s no secret that herbal tea is a love of mine, a great way for me to de-stress is to have a good quality cup of herbal tea with a squirt of honey.
Lavender, It is magic! I love to light a lavender candle and sit back and relax . Be careful though it can make you fall asleep. (Never leave a lit candle unattended )
Write whatever is on your mind down, this is something that I do a lot. I find it easier to express myself when I write things down. I have so many notebooks!
Yoga. Yoga is a love of mine, and it most definitely reduces my stress levels. Having a good stretch first thing on a morning can set me on the right path for the day.
Deep breathing. If I feel a moment coming on, a really great way to calm back down for me is to close my eyes, take 10 deep breaths and as you exhale after each breathe imagine you are pushing out the negativity. May not work for some but it does for me.
The Dogs, my two dogs are a great help in reducing stress. Stroking a dog has been proven to reduce stress levels. I like to go outside and play ball with mine (I have two crazy dogs who live for tennis balls)
If you find you are getting stressed more often, you could make a diary of your diet. Say you are a caffeine addict, I would recommend reducing the amount of caffeine you are having as this can significantly increase your stress levels. You can always reach out to your local G.P who can put you in touch with people who can help you Look after your mental health.
Don’t let the festive period turn into something you dread, learn to recognize the cause of your stress and take steps to combat it. Let Christmas be about family and doing the things that you love to do together, not about gifts or the amount of cash you have spent. Memories last longer than gifts. Look after your mental health and kick those festive blues in the butt.