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How to Stay Sane at Christmas!

Christmas StressArticle by Lynda Shaw

Most of us think of Christmas as a joyous, colourful and fun time of year but we always seem to forget that hand in hand with that goes a hectic, busy and stressful time of year. They don’t mention the lugging around of shopping bags for hours in Christmas carols do they?? Fa la la la la.

It goes without saying that Christmas can be joyous and magical, that is, if it goes completely according to plan, which it rarely does. It can be difficult to enjoy Christmas when it sometimes feels as though it is one giant ‘to do list’, with a big pile of washing up at the end. There can be a lot of pressure put upon us during the festive season; it has to be a great day, with the best presents, and the most delicious dinner.

This is not the case.  In order to ensure you actually have a Christmas worth remembering, or more importantly worth repeating, you need to consider a few things. Not everything is going to go to plan, but that is absolutely fine. It doesn’t matter if the turkey dinner is an hour late, or if you get another pair of red socks from Auntie Jean. It’s all part of it, Christmas isn’t defined through the perfect day, it’s a time for us all to enjoy spending time with our families and friends.

Christmas can also be a time where people can be very low. Use the season to reconnect with people, focus on all the good things in your life and best of all find a way to help others.  It will give you a new perspective on Christmas. If you are spending Christmas alone turn it in to a positive experience by curling up with your favourite food, films and call loved ones during the day. Music has a way of being able to keep us calm and happy, so whether you stick on your favourite Christmas album or Classic FM, keep it playing throughout the day to keep your mood lifted and enjoy yourself!

Don’t Carry the Christmas Burden on your Shoulders

Don’t carry the Christmas burden on your shoulders. It’s so easy to attempt to do everything yourself, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Delegate tasks out to other people, it can also be really refreshing to try and ‘do Christmas’ differently from the way you’re used to. Try having everyone make and bring a different part of Christmas dinner, it means that everyone can put a lot of effort into one dish with minimal stress. Let everyone help with the washing up!

Continuing with changing your traditions – as we get older you may find your network for whom you buy presents, grows. Why don’t you suggest that you all go for a meal instead of buying each other individual gifts? The time you spend in each other’s company is far more valuable than any store bought present, and will be a much more enjoyable experience than trying to purchase dozens of inexpensive keepsakes.

The most important thing to do at Christmas to ensure you stay sane is to take a break, and relax with your loved ones.  Christmas is not a time of year where you want to burn yourself out.  Don’t over-commit to hosting or attending too many parties or events or you won’t enjoy the important ones and may become unwell.  Make sure that you keep your mind happy and healthy in the pre-Christmas mayhem.  Among all the presents and the food and the decorations, remember that Christmas is about spending time with your family and friends. Take regular breaks from the madness and just enjoy this time, keep the ‘to do’ list in perspective and just relax.

Dr Lynda Shaw

Dr Lynda Shaw has lectured in Psychology and Neuroscience at Brunel University and conducted research on brain function and impairment, specialising in consciousness, emotion and the effects of ageing

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