Staying sane this silly season

We all want Christmas to be perfect, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of our mental health! Psychologist Dr. Sasha Lynn looks at how we can get the balance right while enjoying the big day. 

Bright lights, tinsel, wish lists, carpark wars, trolley-loads of food and crazy family catch ups. Sound familiar? It’s not called the ‘Silly Season’ for nothing! While Christmas can be fun and exciting, it does tend to bring with it stress, obligations and frenzy. 

Often plans for Christmas start months in advance. Negotiations are well underway; who’s hosting, who’s cooking and what’s on the wish list. The excitement can quickly fade as the pressure of expectations builds (including our own). Combine this with the rush of everyday life and Christmas can start feeling rather blah. Money woes, relationship woes, work-life balance woes, Christmas can feature it all. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Christmas can be an absolutely magical time, a chance to unwind, and appreciate those around us. Here are a few quick tips to help you take care of yourself and enjoy the festive season:

Slow down
It can feel like the apocalypse is upon us when Christmas approaches. Everyone’s in a mad panic and power walking shopping becomes standard. All that rush and panic can cramp our style and affect our wellbeing. Just being able to stop, take a deep breath and not absorb the rush can help us feel more in control and can keep our wellbeing intact. 
 
Preparation
Take the stress out of Christmas where you can by preparing things in advance. Start the present shopping early, plan the menu ahead of time, buy and freeze food for the big day. Whatever you can get done earlier, do it. While it seems a pain initially, you and your mental health will thank you when you’re cruising into Christmas day. 
 
Share the tasks 
They say it takes a village and Christmas day is no different. If there are things that others can pitch in to take the load off you, let them do it! It can make the day that little bit more special when everyone contributes and taking some of the pressure off you is a silver lining. 
 
Stick to your limits
It’s easy to get caught up in the emotion and push yourself a little further at Christmas but in the long term this can create more stress. Make sure that you set your limits emotionally, socially, financially and physically. How much can you take on? How much do you want to take on? Be open with others if it’s all getting a bit much and seek support if you find you’re overwhelmed. 
 
family opening presents beside the Christmas tree
Keep it simple
There doesn’t need to be a 10-course meal, a selection of meats, or personalised place cards. Christmas isn’t about the trimmings, it’s about spending time with those you care about and celebrating the holiday. Keeping the day simple can help to ease your stress and mean you can focus on what really matters. 
 
You time
Put that oxygen mask on first, before you tend to others. Christmas can see us wanting to do all things for all people, but you can’t be there for anyone else unless you’re there for yourself. Take a little time out for you, to recharge, refocus and refuel. 

Focus on giving 
This might sound a bit strange considering we just discussed the importance of looking after yourself, but giving to others can provide a great boost to your wellbeing at Christmas time. While we stress about what to put on the menu and how many presents we need to buy, there are people out there who won’t be having Christmas at all. They may be wondering where their next meal will come from. Giving back can really add a value to Christmas that no amount of tinsel can buy.

Keep it real
Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that Christmas Day is just that - a day. One single day. 24 hours. That’s it. We have many other 24 hour periods to get through in the year and any day can be special if we make it so. Christmas can be magical, but it doesn’t have to be over the top. If we forget a salad dressing, it’s ok. If things don’t go to plan, that’s ok too. The celebrations don’t have to be limited to the 25th December - Christmas is what you make of it. So do it the way that works for you, and keeps your wellbeing intact. 
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