Christmas time! These words will either bring a huge smile to your face, or they will invoke a sense of panic and anxiety as the to-do lists, crowded shopping centres, family politics, an overload of social catchups and financial stresses rush around your head. There’s a reason why the term ‘Merry Stressmas’ has caught on. For what is meant to be a joyous time of year, it can often result in one of the most stressful (this recent study shows Christmas Eve as the most common day each year for heart attacks).

Add to this a year where many families have been unable to spend time with each other, many people have lost their jobs, mental health issues are at an all time high and it’s no wonder that for some of us the thought of Christmas in 2020 is all too much.

But it doesn’t have to be; and whilst it has been a tough year for many, it’s not too late to put some plans in place to help make this Christmas a fun and stress free occasion.

To help the overwhelm for this year I’ve sought the advice of professionals who have shared their tips for how to minimise the anxiety and how to help you take the stress out of Christmas.

Dealing with financial stress

Terri Watson, a money mindset coach from The Healthy Wallet Project says the key to removing financial stress from Christmas comes down to her favourite B letter word….. Budget! Here are her top tips for beating financial stress:

Know what you want to do and how much it will cost

So just like Santa does, write that list! Are you planning to stay home for Christmas, or head off on holidays. Will you be going to theme parks, eating out or buying airfares. By spending some time pre-planning your holiday season you’ll have a much better idea of just exactly how much money you’re going to need (or if you need to readjust your expectations – better knowing in advance right?).

Know how much you need to cover your bills while you are on holiday

Mortgage/rent payments, childcare fees, utility bills; unfortunately these don’t go on holidays when you do. Don’t forget to factor these in when you are thinking about the cost of your holiday

Create your budget or adjust your current budget to make sure you save enough for Christmas

When it comes to present buying, food, decorations and possibly a holiday, understand exactly how much it will cost in advance so you you can plan appropriately. That way you can plan to put extra aside if needed, and you won’t be caught with a credit-card hangover come January.

Plan how much you are going to spend on gifts and STICK TO IT!

I’m sure many of us have been in the situation where we’ve thought of the present first and then been shocked by the cost. This year try and flip it on it’s head and allocate a dollar amount per person and find a present to match. The key here though is sticking to it.

Bring your kids into the conversation, they need to understand and be apart of the process of deciding what is important to your family at Christmas time

Most kids have little concept of money, so you can forgive them for not taking into account financial restraints when they are thinking about which presents they’d like or holiday activities they want to do. By bringing them into the conversation early you’ll be able to help manage expectations early on.

If you’re needing some extra help this season with keeping track of your budget, The Healthy Wallet Project runs both group and one-on-one coaching sessions. They also have have a 90 Budgeting Journal designed to create clarity and move away from financial stress with confidence. To find out more about The Healthy Wallet Project visit them here.

Dealing with emotional stress

For some the thought of spending time with family over the holidays is a happy one. For others it can trigger feeling of anxiety, isolation or unhappiness. Janice Williams, Counsellor and Parent Coach says:

This time of year can raise lots of mixed feelings. If you find that Christmas is not a joyful time for you, it’s okay to acknowledge how you are feeling whether it be sadness, regret, loneliness. Don’t keep these feelings to yourself, though. Talk with trusted friends, a family member or a counsellor”.

Jan shares some tips that may help those worried about the upcoming holiday season.

Get into the Christmas spirit by focusing on helping others

Helping others, particularly during this time, can help to rouse you from looking inward. Volunteering for community groups will give you a sense of unity and giving back. Or reach out to your neighbours, offer to get items from the shops, help to put up decorations in their front yard, take them a cake. Little things like these create a sense of belonging within your neighbourhood. It’s surprising the conversations we have with our neighbours while involved in street activities.

Manage your own expectations and be realistic

Have realistic expectations of family members. Our family will not always get it right in what they say or do, but we also won’t get it right. If you find that a family member easily triggers an emotion in you, be aware of that emotion, press the imaginary ‘pause button’ and try some breathing. Distraction such as twirling a Christmas ribbon around your thumb is another helpful tool, or it may mean going to the bathroom for your own time-out to help lower your emotions. If you find it particularly difficult, then consider excusing yourself early.

Choose a neutral location

Consider having Christmas celebrations in a neutral place, such as the beach or park, where there is space for you to move. Relatives are often better behaved if situated in a public space.

Prioritise your own wellbeing

Put aside time for yourself. Get out into green space and breathe. Listen to the sounds, smell the freshness of this space, look up and see what the clouds have formed, roll a stone in the palm of your hand, take a sip of water and let it slowly flow down your throat.

Janice offers private therapy and coaching sessions and has over 20 years experience helping many women through the challenges of motherhood and parenting, through grief and loss, stress and anxiety, family concerns and other life struggles. 

Her sessions will help you to achieve increased wellbeing, improved self-confidence and create meaningful change. To find out more, visit Janice’s website here.

Managing your physical stress

For most of us the holiday season is generally a time of over-indulging on food, drinks and sunshine. Many of us also tend to put our normal exercise and movement habits on the back-burner, but as Charlotte, from Pilates by Charlotte says, this can often contribute to our feeling of overwhelm. Her advice is to make sure that we continue to schedule in time for ourselves and reminds us that it ok to say no to social events if we are feeling overwhelmed.

Her top tip for managing your physical heath during busy periods is to try and prioritise your exercise. Body movement can be an essential part of any self-care routine and it’s also a great way to lift your mood and energy levels.

She also says it’s not necessary to keep slogging it out at the gym over Summer (although there’s nothing wrong with that if you want it), but just look for simple ways to keep your body moving. Simply make a concious effort to schedule in a walk, some gentle stretches and Pilates movements or getting involved in some fun family activities such as cricket or cycling and you’ll see that your body and mind will thank you for it. 

Pilates by Charlotte has a studio in Frankston South in Victoria and also runs weekly online pilates sessions. For more information visit her site here.

Taking care of the younger family members

It can be easy to forget that our in amongst all the excitement of school holidays, family and social engagements and the possibility of gift-receiving, our children can also get overwhelmed at Christmas too. Routines are often disrupted and kids are also great on picking up on the emotions of their family members; advice from My Girl’s Wellbeing says it can sometimes help if we stay in the present moment during these times and find opportunities to help children develop a sense of mindfulness. Reducing time away from screens can be helpful, as is encouraging reading or journalling. This could be a great way to encourage mindfulness from a young age. While there’s lots of lovely books available on the market, one of her favourites is ‘Just Breath‘ by Mallika Chopra which also incorporates mindful movement too.

My Girl’s wellbeing is a site dedicated to connecting and supporting mothers and daughters on their journey to a more balanced lifestyle. Visit their site for wellbeing strategies and additional resources on how to develop resilience and confidence to help your daughter to thrive.

Finally, if gift-buying is causing you grief, use our mega gift guide for gift-spiration for the entire family… Simply, click and wait for your gifts to arrive.