It will come as no surprise that for most people, the festive season is stressful as well as super fun. Emotions run high, family dramas come into play, and the juggle of winding up the year at work, celebrating with colleagues and friends, and shopping for gifts can put even the most level-headed among us in meltdown. Throw children into the mix, or if it’s your turn to host Christmas this year, and it’s no wonder things get a little silly.
The good news is there are ways to keep the chaos to a minimum and to maximise your enjoyment of this lovely time of year. All it takes is some self-care, preparation and perspective … and plenty of Christmas spirit.
6. Give experiences, not things – write out vouchers for a day at the beach, a trip to the zoo, and other outings your loved ones would value.
8. Wrap up some of the decorations you make and give to teachers, colleagues and friends as gifts.
9. Have your children draw Christmassy pictures for their grandparents and wrap them up themselves.
15. DIY Christmas cards. They don’t have to be masterpieces; even a potato stamp dipped in paint will be appreciated.
17. Make whatever you can ahead of time.
18. Use a recipe app to make life easier.
19. Make a shopping list and get what you can now, then put a list on the fridge for last-minute purchases – and then ask someone else to go out and get them.
20. Keep mostly to tried-and-true recipes you know will work – a failed cooking experiment the day people are coming over for lunch is stressful.
22. Ask children to think about the year, and talk about what you’re each most grateful for.
23. Have them write words in coloured pencil on cardboard about what Christmas means to them, then cut them out and hang them on the tree (yes, ‘presents’ is sure to be one of them’).
24. Make a new playlist of Christmas music, including songs from your childhood that make you smile.
25. Buy yourself a new book now to read in the downtime you carve out for yourself between now and Christmas – it will remind you to do so.
27. Keep table settings simple but special – include a decoration guests can take home. It’s an easy but special addition.
28. Use linen napkins, rather than paper, to bring a sense of occasion – you can buy beautiful vintage ones secondhand.
29. Embroider on some holly or another Christmas symbol – far from adding to your already long to-do list, needlework, knitting and other craft is known to be effective at reducing depression and anxiety.
33. Try to ignore seasonal obligations, just for this year. If you’d love to stay home and celebrate with close family or friends rather than rushing around to multiple venues, maybe this is the year.
34. Take time to read some old favourites, to your own kids or some other children you know.
35. Ask yourself, ‘What if?’ What if you skipped the Christmas-time hullabaloo this year, and kept things ultra casual?
39. Keep meals simple in the lead-up to Christmas – easy and nutritious is the name of the game to keep you feeling good.
40. Organise grocery deliveries, at least for the weeks surrounding Christmas, to avoid the stress of supermarket shopping during the busiest periods.
41. Spend some time alone outside at least once a week, tuning in to what really matters.
42. Think through the decorating details in places where guests tend to gather – flowers in vases aren’t especially Christmassy but it’s little things like these that will make parties feel more festive.
44. Do you have enough wrapping paper, sticky tape and ribbon? Put it on the list.
45. Stock up on brown paper and string – write people’s initials on the wrapped present in your best handwriting instead of on cards.
46. Gather berries and bush treasures to tuck into gift wrapping.
47. Reduce the number and expense of presents you buy this year – more is rarely better.
48. Gather presents in piles to make sure each child is getting a similar number. It will avoid fights later on.
49. Give yourself a present to acknowledge how far you’ve come this year.
50. Wrap a present or two each evening in the lead-up to Christmas to avoid having to do it all in one big frenzied rush (your gifts are likely to look a lot prettier as a result).
51. Choose or make gifts you can put in a jam jar, then tie up with pretty string.
52. Have a present-wrapping evening the weekend before Christmas – play Christmas music to set the scene and pop open a bottle of bubbly.
53. Wash glasses ahead of time.
54. Make lots of ice in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
55. Check your booze supplies – replenish with more than you’re likely to need.
56. Decide on a couple of cocktail or mocktail recipes and give guests a choice between them – that way you won’t have to have every spirit under the sun on hand.
59. Get your guest room in order for guests you know are coming to stay (or last-minute sleepovers for anyone who’s had a few too many).
60. Schedule in a massage or facial for some forced relaxation – it can be hard not get wound up at this time of year.
62. Plan your outfits for upcoming gatherings to save time and panic on the day.
63. Iron everything ahead of time. Think you don’t have time? Set up the ironing board in front of the TV and iron in front of your regular shows.
69. Clean your windows a week or two out to brighten up your home – you’ll be glad you did it.
70. If you’re stuck for gifts to buy, stick with wine … and don’t be too hard on yourself if you crack open a bottle you planned to give someone. It can always be replaced!
71. Don’t just make edible gifts, create candles, salt scrubs and body butters in personalised scents for family and friends … then test them out on yourself to make sure you’ve got them just right.
72. Take long bubble baths to wash away your worries – a relaxed house member is far nicer to have around that one who’s stressed