A parent's guide to surviving Christmas.
By Georgina Rodgers
While Christmas can be fun, festive, and make for the best of times, especially when there are small and excited children in the mix, it can also lead to serious overwhelm. With so much to plan and organise and an extra-busy diary on top of everyday life, it can take its toll on our physical and mental health. There is also the pressure to make it ‘perfect’ and with everyone else seemingly enjoying plenty of airbrushed fun, it can leave us feeling out-of-sorts, stressed, and frankly, exhausted.
So, it is important to look after yourself at this time of year, so you feel good and can make the most of the festive season. Take a moment to be kind to yourself and follow our top self-care tips to make the holiday as enjoyable and stress-free as possible.
It can be very easy to build up picture-perfect expectations of what we think Christmas should be and then we feel bad if our Christmas does not quite match these self-inflicted ideas. Focus on what matters most to you and be kind to yourself if things do not go quite to plan. It is just one day out of 365, so do not stress about it.
Think about what Christmas means to you and create some of your own traditions with your family. These can include anything that your enjoy doing, so might include cosying up with Christmas books, doing a Christmas puzzle, or enjoying some festive baking.
With Christmas parties, catch-ups, dinner parties, festive fairs, and a million other events, it is very easy to be swept up with invitations and feeling that we ‘have to’ do certain things or make commitments. Pace yourself carefully and allow yourself to draw firm boundaries and say no to the things you feel you do not want to commit to but always accept the invitations that take your fancy, and never feel guilty about having fun. Whether you are letting your hair down or curled up on the sofa, it is important to take care of yourself too.
Make sure you carve out time for friends or a partner. Organise a babysitter, plan a date night, or meet a friend. Also, ensure you allow time to recharge at home, even if it is to enjoy a bath or watch a film. Try to slow down, enjoy some downtime, and when you feel stressed, listen to your body so you can step away from the situation and take some deep breaths or do a guided relaxation exercise. Try these exercises from the mental health charity, Mind.
Christmas offers the ideal opportunity to think about what you are grateful for. This can be anything, from a delicious mince pie to a cosy home, or giggling little one. Thinking about all the things we are thankful for has been clinically proven to reduce stress levels, improve relationships, and boost well-being. Create your own personal advent calendar by choosing one thing a day in the run-up to Christmas that you are grateful for. Other ideas include writing a journal or making a gratitude jar.
Time to stop scrolling! With social media and a constant flow of Facebook alerts and Instagram stories, it can be easy to feel overloaded and stressed, especially when we are bombarded with so many images of other people having the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Switch off your phone or put it on airport mode and take time away from technology so you can focus on connecting with the people (and furry friends) that matter.
When it is cold and gloomy outside, getting out may feel like the last thing you want to do. A good dose of fresh air and sunlight will be a natural pick-me-up and help you feel more relaxed and less stressed. The WHO recommends we all get 150 minutes of moderate exercise (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise) each week, so even a 20 minute daily walk is a great place to start. Get everyone dressed up and hit the local park or woodlands.
Georgina Rodgers regularly writes for parenting and lifestyle titles. Her books include Peace of Mind: A Book of Calm for Busy Mums. She is also a mum of two daughters.