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How to survive stress this Christmas

3 December 2012

While Christmas can be an exciting time, it can also be a big cause of stress for many of us, with financial difficulties, gift-buying pressures and hectic to-do lists rearing their ugly heads.

To take the stress out of the festive season and have a happier, chilled out Christmas, check out this Christmas stress survival guide:

Cause of Christmas stress: Financial difficulties

Solution: There’s no denying it; Christmas can certainly wreak havoc on our finances, with gifts to buy, nights out to attend, and food and drink to stock up on. However, it is important not to let financial pressures ruin your Christmas. Before you start making your festive purchases, try to write a list of everything you need to buy and set a realistic budget for each item. If you find that your list is going to blow your Christmas budget, try to find some ways to cut back on gifts, such as by making homemade presents, looking for bargains online, or organising a Secret Santa for friends or siblings, rather than buying for each individual.

[Related: What is your stress behaviour? Take our quiz]

Cause of Christmas stress: Family tensions

Solution: If the time spent with your extended family over Christmas always results in arguments, tears or tension-fuelled frosty silences, this can lead you to approach Christmas with a sense of apprehension or dread. To help cut out stress this Christmas, try to prepare yourself and have realistic expectations of your family. Accept that they are not perfect and that they will probably say things that you don’t like, but make a decision to try not to let it spoil your day. To help keep the peace, try your best to steer clear of risky conversation topics – and alcohol – which may provoke rows, and keep everyone occupied with fun sports or games after your meal. If you feel your stress levels rising, try to take a few moments to yourself and take some deep breaths to help you relax.

Cause of Christmas stress: Social obligations

Solution: A lot of us find that the festive period is met with an overwhelming amount of demands on our time from friends and family. There are work parties to attend, friends to meet up with, and the question of who to see on Christmas day. To minimize your risk of double booking yourself over this busy period, try to keep a diary or calendar displaying all your planned events so far. You could also try combining events and mixing groups of friends, if you think they will get along. Also, remember that not all your events need to be squeezed into the lead-up to Christmas. Make full use of the 12 days of Christmas by scheduling some events for after the big day.

[Related: Don't ignore the warning signs of stress]

Cause of Christmas stress: Culinary pressures

Solution: Does the thought of preparing a roast dinner with all the trimmings leave you in a cold sweat? You are certainly not alone. The pressure of entertaining over the festive season can be a stressful thing for many; however don’t let meal preparations take the shine off Christmas day. If you have guests coming over for Christmas dinner, you could suggest everyone pitches in by preparing and bringing a different part of the meal. Alternatively, try delegating tasks in the kitchen and getting your family to help out. Also, don’t be afraid to cheat a little and get your stuffing or Yorkshire puddings ready made or your vegetables ready chopped. So what if you’re not the world’s best chef? No one will ever know (or care).

Cause of Christmas stress: Not enough time

Solution: Not only do most of us have many social obligations over the festive period, the Christmas season is also awash with time-consuming tasks such as buying Christmas presents, wrapping gifts, decorating our homes and cooking Christmas treats. To free up some time over this busy period, try to make the best use of hours you would normally spend procrastinating, using your lunch hours effectively and multi-tasking while watching TV. Buying food and gifts online will also cut down on time, while short bursts of present wrapping – rather than a full-on gift-wrapping session – will help to make the task seem more manageable over this busy period.

Cause of Christmas stress: Choosing the perfect gift

Solution: According to a British survey by the Post Office, trying to find the perfect presents for our loved ones is the biggest source of Christmas stress. To help choose the perfect gift, start early by listening out for hints as to things your family and friends are interested in, which may inspire present ideas. Thinking about gifts related to the five senses (sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell) is also a good way to get inspiration for presents, as is considering the different aspects of your recipient’s lifestyle. The most important thing is not to leave it until the last minute and to spend enough time thinking about what your recipient may like. As they say, it’s the thought that counts, so make sure enough thought goes into your gifts this year. Read more on realbuzz.com...
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