Has Christmas gone from the most wonderful time of the year to the most stressful time of the year? On top of our already busy and hectic lives, we decide to push the boundaries even more by throwing in a whole month (or maybe more) of spending, worrying, increased workloads, commitments and of course taking part in the office secret santa that nobody really wants to be a part of.
Rather than ploughing through and running the gauntlet of events and carnage, here are a few things that can ease the tension and maybe bring back some of that festive joy.
1. Make a list and check it twice
Find out what tasks are naughty and nice for you in the lead up to the big day. This has already started for some but December can bring about double or even triple the amount of things we tell ourselves that we 'have' to do. It can be completely overwhelming. There's the shopping bit, which can be significant in itself, putting up the decorations, buying the tree, cooking the dinner, creating the ambience, driving hundreds of miles to spend time with loved ones, rushing to get work tasks done, entertaining the kids, clearing the wrapping paper and many more. Just stop for a second. Ask yourself, what tasks do I really need to do this year, if the list is still long, start to prioritise and then delegate. If we try to do it all, Christmas will just be another day where its all about getting through it. Lets enjoy each other's company and if you have someone to share the load with, start allocating jobs.
2. Ease up on the commitments
Where did this deadline come from? Friends we’ve not seen for ages all of a sudden require a catch up before christmas, i’m not entirely sure why we put this pressure on ourselves but we choose the busiest time of the year to try and lock in drinks with as many people as we can. Those meetups are likely to be rushed and of low quality because we are just all too stressed to sit down and relax. Maybe your catch ups turn into some kind of competition as to who has got the most on this festive period. Take a look at your calendar for the remainder of the month and ditch one commitment, you’ll thank yourself in the long run, your friend will probably thank you too. Give your friend the gift of time by not adding to their probably already hectic schedule and agree to meet up in the new year when its quieter and you can actually enjoy each others company.
3. Buy experiences rather than things
Being of a minimalist mindset this is always the first choice for me when purchasing gifts for others. I’m not so far long the minimalism spectrum where I don't enjoy gifts myself. I like gifts and I like stuff but I just enjoy the right kind of stuff that adds value to my life. I know most of my family would prefer experiences so take a look at the theatre shows, gigs, special showings of their favourite film, food experiences, sporting events etc. A good book is an experience too. Not only are you gifting the event, you are also gifting the anticipation, something to look forward to and maybe an experience they will tell their friends for the rest of their lives. They may not get that if you buy them a watch.
4. Avoid the double ‘gift’
Ruin the surprise. Unless you know the person you are buying for really well, don't take the risk of purchasing something they might like. If that means ringing them up and asking what they need (try asking this rather than what do you want and see if the answer is any different this year), I'll happily ruin the surprise. What a wonderful conversation to have if you were to ring someone up and say, I would really like to get you something for christmas because you are my friend and you mean a lot to me, is there something that you need that I can get for you?
If you’re set on still adding some secrecy to proceedings, phone a friend or partner and ask them instead. My folks are not big drinkers, my mum doesn't drink and my dad will enjoy the occasional beer but the amount of booze they get given at christmas is staggering. Don't be the person to give your recipient two gifts in one, the actual thing they never wanted followed by the guilt of them having to store it and go through that awkward social situation of dealing with it afterwards. I’m sure they don't want to hurt your feelings by saying your gift choice was a poor one, we all lose in this scenario so try to avoid it.
5. Don't overspend
Lets face it, the likelihood is that most of us are going to have to spend some cash. I used to be the worst one for going into short term debt to buy what I thought people would enjoy. I’m not perfect but I try and stick to a budget now and that has helped significantly. Once you know what the person needs, make full use of cashback sites and platforms such as ebay, gumtree and other marketplaces, the likelihood is that someone somewhere received the same gift recently and has had to get rid of it.
6. Don't panic buy
Only a couple of days left and I havent got so and so a gift. In an effort to just get something, anything, we will panic buy and all rational thought would go out the window. I would end up in department stores sifting through whatever novelty gifts they had left, chilli chocolate roulette for my brother or a chess board with shot glasses for my nan, it was just crap that never got used but the mindset was at least i have contributed something, it’s useless but someone got to open something. If you are in a situation where the clock is ticking, go back to basics. Some options could be buying scratch cards or a lottery ticket, placing a bet for someone, vouchers, making a charitable donation in their name, sponsoring an animal, a membership (obviously think carefully about things like the gym, you don't want to imply something!), book a massage or a spa treatment maybe or go for the tried and trusted box of chocolates.
7. Manage your expectations
So here it is, merry christmas, everybody’s having fun. We may anticipate the picture perfect christmas day with everyone around the table enjoying the festivities, everything is going as planned and even a sprinkling of snow to finish it off, however its is very rarely the case. Unfortunately we are all human and our lives are very complex so its only likely that the kids will get upset about what they did or didnt get, some of the food may not turn out as planned and the tree might fall down but if we keep it simple and don't add too much pressure to the situation, we’re able to just enjoy being in the moment. Also as a side note maybe leave social media for the day as there will be people needing to maintain status with the ideal family portrait, don't get involved with the comparisons, it will just add to the stress.
During the window between christmas and new years, we normally forget which day it is and generally what is going on. Use this period to reflect back on what you have achieved this year. What have you contributed to your community? What value have you added to people? Look through all of your successes and be proud of those achievements. Any difficult moments that you have powered through? What did you learn from them? What can you share with others to support them?
Bottom line, enjoy, be merry, laugh lots and make it an experience to remember. Merry Christmas!