If there’s one time of year when we pile the pressure even more on ourselves, then Christmas is definitely it. It can be the most wonderful time of the year and yet the most not so wonderful time of the year in equal measure. Like our annual summer holiday, expectations run high with how Christmas is supposed to look and, rather than take a step back and look at the bigger picture of what’s really important during the festive season, we go hell for leather being all things to all people, trying to create the perfect time and more often than not setting ourselves up for a massive fall. I am, or rather, should I say I was, just as guilty of doing this.
A friend said to me the other day “Do you remember that time when you took a week off work to prepare for Christmas?”. Yep, that’s right, I decided one year when the girls were little, that I was going to do the full on perfect homemade Christmas, for which I totally blame Anthea Turner who at the time was being “The Perfect Housewife” and thus hosting “The Perfect Christmas“.
So I took a week off in October, made my christmas cake, made mince meat for the mince pies, even handmade Christmas tree decorations. Then when it came to the main event, I hosted Christmas at my house with my parents, my sister and her husband and my Grandpa with plans for a lavish Christmas lunch with all the trimmings, all made from scratch. I say planned Christmas lunch because, bless him, my Grandpa who suffered with low blood pressure got too warm in our living room when we were sat round opening all our presents on Christmas morning, stood up too quickly to go to the cloakroom and collapsed in my hallway. I hasten to add, he was ok, but was ambulanced to hospital where my parents spent the rest of Christmas Day with him! Needless to say, none of us wanted Christmas Lunch until we knew Grandpa would be ok.
And whilst this was a situation that couldn’t be helped, the picture I had in my head of how I wanted Christmas to be that year and how it actually was, was very, very different.
What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be
These days I am much more laissez faire about Christmas. Maybe its because the last four Christmas’s I’ve either had a parent ill, or it’s been a first Christmas without one of them or both. And whilst, I’m not going to dwell, there’s nothing like this situation to make you see what really matters at Christmas time!
These days I want to be present. Come Christmas Day I want to be the best version of myself I possibly can, not the tired, grumpy, overwhelmed version of me I know I’ll be if I don’t approach these next few weeks a bit more mindfully.
So with that here’s some of the things I’ll be doing to make sure that happens…
THE ART OF SAYING NO…
This is such a biggy (for such a little word!) and something that I used to not be very good at doing. I would say “yes” to this drinks invite, “yes” to that drinks invite without really thinking about the other priorities in my life, why I was saying yes to whatever it was, and whether it really mattered to me!
What I’ve realised is that it is impossible to keep everyone happy and that actually by trying to do so is not only flippin’ exhausting, you only end up feeling unhappy and resentful.
So instead of accepting every invite that comes my way, I’ve started to say “no” and created some boundaries, because actually what’s more important right now is that I stay on top of my work, my homelife and my wellbeing.
This is something I am going to be practising a lot more next year!
LET GO OF PERFECTIONISM…
So if you follow me on Instagram, you may have spotted that I’ve already had one little festive gathering this year. On Sunday my Uncle, Auntie, Cousins, Sister and their entourage – 20 of them in all – turned up for lunch! Now I love nothing more than creating a lovely homemade meal for everyone to enjoy, but with other commitments around the day I knew this just wasn’t going to be possible. So I cheated. No I’ll rephrase that, I got somebody else to COOK. If you’ve not come across COOK before then I strongly recommend you check them out! Our local Co-op stocks their range and being able to go and pick up delicious home cooked Beef Bourguignon when you’ve got 20 people for lunch is a life-saver.
Did my family mind? Did it affect everyone’s enjoyment of the day? Not one bit. If anything, it probably made the day more enjoyable because I was more relaxed and could spend a lot more time with everyone rather than being in the kitchen. Though my inner perfectionist did make me transfer the food into my Le Crueset before serving it up…
You have got to be your biggest cheerleader not your biggest judge
So what’s my point with all of this? Think about whether it will really matter? Let go of needing things to be perfect, put things in perspective and focus on what really matters – a relaxing, fun time with family and friends.
Yep, sorry Anthea, but perfect just doesn’t work for me anymore….
TAME THE TO-DO LIST
Who couldn’t be without their to-do lists at this time of year, and in terms of helping you feel less overwhelmed then there’s nothing like a good brain-dump onto a piece of paper to make you feel instantly better! But what if that list feels overwhelming and unachievable in itself?
My favourite way for tackling this, is to break my to-do list down into three categories on a daily basis: “I must do”, “I should do” and “If I’ve got time”, or “your musts, shoulds, coulds” as my Dad used to say to me!
Apart from helping me stay focused on the priorities of the day, it also helps me keep a perspective on what really matters what gets done. I think all too often (me included!) we write these lengthy lists that are full to the brim of things that would be nice to do, but aren’t essential, and then beat ourselves up when we don’t achieve them!
These days my mantra is “what absolutely has to get done will get done, and if it doesn’t then it obviously wasn’t a priority”.
Starry Night Village Scene Mug c/o Sophie Allport
TIME FOR ME
Talking of priorities, how many of us don’t see taking time to look afterselves as a priority?
When it’s such a busy time of year, we don’t feel that we can allow ourselves the time to relax, unwind and rejuvenate, but actually this is one of the time’s of year when it’s even more important! So for me, keeping up with my regular yoga class, retreating to the bathroom for a long soak, a glass of wine and my favourite book or simply taking myself off to my bedroom, lighting a candle and lying down for half an hour, all results in a happier, calmer, more balanced me!
I think it’s all too easy to feel guilty about “me time” but we shouldn’t, and we should make time for some “me time”. Every. Single. Day.
The best thing you can do is invest in yourself
One of the things I really like to do, if I’m feeling particularly frazzled, and is a trick I learnt from the lovely Suzy Reading is to lie down on the floor with my legs propped up against the wall, my arms spread out wide, and to spend five minutes or so focusing on breathing. It’s a great way of feeling calmer really quite quickly and is re-energising as it gets your blood flowing back round your body again!
So there we have it, four of the best ways I know to help survive this wonderful, but busiest time of the year.
We’re heading abroad for Christmas this year and I feel like I have a whole week less than everyone else to get ready for the festivities. A nice problem to have, but nonetheless, if not approached thoughtfully, will send my stress levels soaring into the skies! The only thing I want two see taking off is us on our plane Cape Town bound!
Do you have any tips for stying on top of festive overwhelm? I’d love you to share them below! And remember, “You Got This”