How to Have a Stress Free Christmas

I’d like to meet the person for whom Christmas is all good fun, peace on earth to all and general contentment. Even though children generally have nothing to arrange or organise Christmas can still become quite stressful. For adults, with all the planning, spending, desire to please and extra work involved Christmas can become a terrible time and be completely at odds with its original perceived intention.

History of Christmas

In a nutshell, the origins of Christmas lie in Roman times; not with the birth of Christ but with the old pagan Saturnalia festival. This was a time of lawlessness, excessive behaviour and according to my research even involved human sacrifice. If the horrendous queues in the shops over the season don’t put you off then do a little research into the origins of Christmas to make you think again!
The Christians adopted the festivities to gain conversions and over the years various pagan winter traditions became intertwined with the holiday, often with a Christian message overlaying the original reason for the custom. This article is not about whether or not we should celebrate Christmas, nor is it about the true meaning of Christmas but about how to have a Christmas break with purpose and meaning for you.

What is Christmas to you?

Is Christmas about party, party, party or is it about family to you? Is it just for the children? Is it just another day or is it the most important day in your calendar? Consider your expectations of the season. Do you have unrealistic expectations that end up deflating like a burst balloon as your dream of Christmas fails to materialise, year after year?
For some people Christmas fills them with feelings of dread, for others intense excitement. In order to set yourself realistic expectations of Christmas consider what it really means to you. Write a list of what you like about it and what you dislike. Describe your ideal Christmas in a paragraph or two. You may like to do the same for your nightmare season too.

Consider your Attitude

How much of your experience of the holiday is down to your attitude? If you are honest you will probably admit that most of your perception of what happens is down to how you decide to view things. Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge is a great character to consider at this time of year. Although it took three ghostly visitors he decided to change his attitude and behaviour to get the best out of the holiday!
This does not mean how need to adopt an attitude of manic fun or obsessive family focus. Instead consider your mindset towards Christmas. Do you tend to worry and fret or become miserable because of past experiences? Maybe you cannot be with those you love.
Think about those things that bring about this way of thinking. Put them on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is complete disaster and 10 is extreme happiness in your whole life. For example, if you worry that something will go wrong with the meal or while eating the meal, how terrible will this be as part of your life? In 3 months time how bad will it seem, or what about 3 years time?
Remember it is only one day and there are many other opportunities to have fun in life!

Consider Your Expectations

Another major stressor at Christmas is down to what we expect to happen. This can work both ways. A negative expectation of arguments, fights, family bickering or boredom can create an environment that we then see around us. We approach the day tense and expecting trouble. It then becomes a self fulfilling prophesy as our mood infects those around us.
The other expectation, which can be equally harmful, is that of your ‘perfect’ Christmas. Maybe for you it is the table laid artistically for an exquisite meal. The decorated tree, candles, carols. Perfect presents given and received, looks of delight on everyone’s face; then, after dinner everyone happily playing charades or enjoying some gentle family musings. It may just be having all those you care about with you.
Once again be realistic. It is only one day and one day where we can be stuck with a lot of family that we don’t normally spend a lot of time with. Enjoy the good moments, don’t dwell on the bad or expect perfection as it won’t happen!

Too Much

For many Christmas is a time of overdoing it. This may be any combination of overspending, overworking and overindulgence. Consider where you are likely to over do it.
If overspending is your weakness, set yourself a budget for spending and stick to it. Paying for Christmas throughout the following year is not much fun so try to avoid borrowing. Manage others expectations of what you will be getting them by being honest with them about what you can afford before Christmas. We all tend to buy far too much for each other anyway so even if money is no object think twice before diving in. Perhaps a promise to do something with someone would be a better present.
If you tend to overwork getting everything ready for Christmas, at best you will end up tired and perhaps grumpy, at worst you may become ill. Maybe you could lower your standards! Do you have to do everything? Delegate or ask for help. Does it really matter that the meal is completely home cooked? Does everyone want a big roast dinner? Do you really need to write so many Christmas cards.
As for over indulgence; the only way to this one is to be mature and sensible. Sounds boring? Remind yourself that the long term impact is that you will be spending the New Year considering how to shift the weight you’ve gained. The short term impact will mean that you feel uncomfortable or even horrible if drink is your weakness.

Reinvent Christmas

The best way to avoid feelings of stress is to reinvent Christmas for yourself. Decide what you want out of Christmas. Use your list of pros and cons you created earlier. Set yourself your Christmas goal, remember to keep it Specific, Realistic and Attainable. This includes considering those other people you will share the festive season with as well as how much time, money and effort you can put into the holiday.
Spend some time planning through how you will work towards this goal. Work backwards from your desired result using ‘in order to...’ to get to your first action steps.
You should now have a clearer idea of what a realistic good Christmas can be for you along with an action plan.
Now all you need to do is work through this plan, then relax and enjoy.

Author's Bio: 

Jacky Tustain offers personal coaching to help those people struggling with their lives to re-assess their life priorities, work out what they want in life, set themselves goals and put them into action. Good coaching is about helping you get results, this often starts with learning to believe in yourself and building your confidence. Why not have a no obligation chat with Jacky? Check out for more information.