How to be (a lot) less stressed at Christ­mas ways to tone down ten­sion

Sharon Walker dis­cov­ers how to en­sure the hap­pi­est time of the year doesn’t be­come the most stress­ful…

Woman & Home - - In This Issue... - Clare Evans au­thor of Time Man­age­ment for Dum­mies; cla­ree­ Sally Brown ther­a­pist, coach and agony aunt; sally­brown­ther­ Si­monne Gnessen Founder of Wise Mon­key; fi­nan­cial-coach­

With the pres­sure on to put up the most in­sta-wor­thy decs and rus­tle up a Miche­lin-stan­dard lunch, it’s not sur­pris­ing that most us feel more fran­tic than fes­tive right now. But don’t panic! Fol­low these tips to have your­self a very merry (and stress-free) christ­mas. 1 WHY PLAN­NING IS CRU­CIAL... When there’s a lot to do, the dif­fer­ence be­tween breez­ing through and pan­ick­ing is of­ten for­ward-plan­ning. “some peo­ple even buy their presents in the Jan­uary sales and wrap them up ready for the fol­low­ing year,” says time man­age­ment coach Clare Evans. If that’s you, there’s no need to read on, but if the mere thought of Christ­mas sends you into a pan­icked frenzy, it’s time to get or­gan­ised. “First, think about what’s im­por­tant to you at Christ­mas, so that you know what to pri­ori­tise,” says Evans. she rec­om­mends a mas­ter list di­vided un­der sub­heads for food, presents, dec­o­ra­tions and par­ties. “Write down ev­ery­thing that needs to be done and make a plan of ac­tion for each week.” and don’t for­get, “al­low time to un­wind too, so you’re not ex­hausted, or on a short fuse,” says ther­a­pist sally brown.

2 THE MONEY IS­SUE With the av­er­age fam­ily spend­ing £810 on Christ­mas and many of us buy­ing on credit, money can be a huge source of stress. “Even a £12.99 gift could end up cost­ing you over £42 if you pay for it on an ex­pen­sive credit card,” says fi­nan­cial coach si­monne Gnessen. as much as we hate dis­cussing money, Gnessen says we need to break this ta­boo. broach the sub­ject by say­ing, “Do you mind if we restrict costs this year?” Re­mem­ber you’re prob­a­bly not the only one dread­ing that Jan­uary credit card state­ment. Gnessen sug­gests do­ing se­cret santa for the adults, but with a higher price point so every­one gets some­thing de­cent. Now could also be a good time to look at your re­la­tion­ship with money and the mes­sages you’re send­ing your kids by over­spend­ing. “If you keep buy­ing more and more, and yet fret­ting about money, you’re send­ing mixed mes­sages,” says Gnessen. Don’t say, “We’re broke this year, so we’re cut­ting back on presents,” as that will cre­ate a scarcity mind­set. In­stead, try, “We’re do­ing things dif­fer­ently this year.” or maybe this is your op­por­tu­nity to have a big­ger con­ver­sa­tion about val­ues and con­sumerism. also con­sider what’s im­por­tant to the adults in your life – lav­ish gifts or time with loved ones?


What do you do if your in-laws seem to dis­ap­prove of ev­ery­thing you do? “Don’t rise to it,” says brown. “Christ­mas is about be­ing the ‘big­ger per­son’ and let­ting go of the need to be right. Re­spond­ing with gen­tle hu­mour may dif­fuse the sit­u­a­tion.” try to talk to your part­ner be­fore the big day and ask for their help. Keep the tone neu­tral with “I” state­ments to de­scribe how you feel. “say ‘I feel like


We’ve all seen too many John lewis ads to sail through this sea­son with­out some pre­con­ceived ideas, but you’ll have more fun if you don’t stress over ev­ery de­tail. “If you feel you ‘must’ do cer­tain things, ask your­self why,” says brown. If you’d rather do Christ­mas dif­fer­ently this year, “the key is to let peo­ple know early so they have plenty of time to get used to the idea and make ar­range­ments.” If your fam­ily ex­pect to stay with you, but tend to over­stay their wel­come, be clear when you would like them to leave. “say some­thing like, ‘We would love you to come from Christ­mas Eve to box­ing Day morn­ing’,” sug­gests brown. my ef­forts aren’t ap­pre­ci­ated’ rather than ‘your fam­ily are al­ways on my back’,” notes brown. Chances are they may be obliv­i­ous to how up­set you are. If your mother-in-law has a habit of tak­ing over your kitchen, try em­pa­thy over ir­ri­ta­tion. “some women find it hard to ‘hand over the reins’,” says brown. “What she is say­ing when she in­ter­feres is ‘I want to know I still mat­ter’. It might pain you to do so, but try to in­volve her as much as you can as it will al­lay her feel­ings of be­ing re­dun­dant.” 5 THE DAY IT­SELF If the marathon task of cook­ing Christ­mas lunch has fallen to you, then here’s how you’re go­ing to stay calm and keep it all on track. First, work out what time you want to eat and work back­wards from there. “Make your­self a timetable like they do on MasterChef,” says Evans, “and pre-pre­pare as much as you can.” For ex­am­ple, peel the pota­toes the night be­fore and keep them in a pot of wa­ter. If you’re un­cer­tain on tim­ings, Delia smith and Nigella have worked it all out for you. Either buy one of their books or look it up on­line in ad­vance. and re­mem­ber it’s not about turn­ing out the most per­fect meal imag­in­able. “you don’t need 50 types of veg, or even a big tur­key,” says Evans. “Keep it sim­ple. all the su­per­mar­kets sell tur­key crowns these days.” and most peo­ple would rather lend a hand than watch you run­ning around fran­ti­cally. too many of us feel like we need to do it all our­selves. “If help is of­fered, ac­cept it,” says Evans. and if some­thing goes wrong? take a deep breath. Peo­ple will re­mem­ber the day, not that you made four sauces from scratch. w&h

“The first step to beat­ing sea­sonal anx­i­ety is to work out what is pulling your trig­gers. Then you’ll find it much eas­ier to dial down ten­sions”


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