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Tips for a stress-free Christmas 

Why worry? – Anxiety can be useful – to protect you from things going wrong! 

BUT – once you have looked at your worries and planned how to deal with them – you need to let the anxiety go.. it has done its job. 

Plan and prioritise – what is really important to you this Christmas?

Keep perspective by stopping for a moment and looking at what is really important to you about Christmas. What is really important to you – to those close to you? If you are getting upset and irritable by trying to dash around and get everything done just the way you want it – is this really the way to a happy Christmas? Are you driven by other people expectations? By the media? Is a happy Christmas really dependent on having lots of presents or eating and drinking too much? 

Tip: Step into someone else’s shoes for a minute and look at yourself. Would they judge you as harshly as you judge yourself? 

Ditch, delegate, or do! Sit down and spend a few minutes writing a list of what you think you need to do. Go through the list and then 

  1. Cross out what is not really necessary 
  2. Talk to those around you and elicit their help
  3. Decide when you need to do the rest and do it!

PS: Go shopping early in the day if you can – the shops are less crowded!

Tip: Write things down – then they don’t need to go round and around in your head!

Keep a pen and paper by the bed – if you are lying awake in the wee small hours worrying – write your thoughts down; things you need to remember, things that are stressing you. Then you can know that you can let them go, for now, as you can look at them later.

Tip: Ask yourself three questions; Can you do anything about those worries? Are they really worth worrying about? Will they still seem important in five, ten years time?


Sometimes we need to say “No” but it can be very difficult – we automatically hear ourselves saying “Yes, of course” and then wishing inside that we hadn’t! We feel that people will be very upset and think less of us if we say “No”. 

Tip: Give yourself a little time to think – don’t give an immediate response. “I’m not sure, can I let you know later” can be a useful phrase to keep in mind. Then think about it – do you really feel you should do it or is there a part of you that really knows you should say “No”. 

When thinking about how the other person will feel – don’t mind read. A useful ploy is to imagine how you would react if the situation was reversed and they were saying “No” to you. We usually treat other people with more understanding than we give ourselves.

How you say “No” is important – tell the other person how you feel – don’t make them guess- tell them that you feel that although you wished you could say Yes” and you feel bad having to say “No,” you haven’t the time, energy etc .

When we get stressed we tend to concentrate on all the bad things that could go wrong. This generates more anxiety and so the spiral continues. OK – no-one has a crystal ball and no-one can say for sure that those awful things won’t happen, but are they very likely? When you think of possibilities why only the bad ones?

Tip: When a bad possibility comes into your head, instead of dwelling on it, shout “Stop!” inside and think – this is one possibility – now what could a positive possibility be? 

There may be very many possibilities, and some will be more probable than others.

Imagine what you want to happen – you get what you focus on. If you try not to think of a pink elephant – what happens? If you feel stressed you will be stuck in negativity and because that is where you are focusing your attention it will be more likely to happen. Close your eyes and take a few minutes to see in your minds eye how you want things to happen – really imagine yourself thinking, feeling and behaving the way you want to be, step into that image of you, feel how it feels, and say something appropriate inside. This way you start to focus on what you want.

Unlike our friends, we don’t choose our families, and this may mean that there are tensions surrounding family get-togethers during the festive season. You cannot change how other people react, but you can help yourself. If you are feeling calm then you will feel more able to cope. So see yourself coping calmly (see above). There are always patterns of interaction within families – so change a reaction or response that you typically have – and you will change the whole pattern. 

Tip: See someone whom you feel threatened by as dressed in a pink tutu and Wellington boots and you will feel less threatened by them. 

Take a step away and realise that other people are responding from their own emotional background and problems and then maybe you could feel sorry for them. 

Take time out if you start to feel upset and help yourself feel calmer before interacting again. 

You may be alone by choice and enjoy it, but many people are alone by circumstance.

Tip: Do something for yourself – give yourself a treat. 

Spend some time going for a walk or doing some physical exercise – don’t just sit in front of the TV and feel lonely. Alternatively doing something creative will help you feel more positive.

If there is any way you can help someone nearby, then why not offer? People are often too shy to ask for help. You may feel shy about offering but how would you feel if someone offered to help you? You might turn down the offer, but you wouldn’t think badly of the person offering, would you?

If you are able then volunteer your services to the voluntary sector – hospitals and shelters are very busy over the Christmas period.

Most important of all – if you want to feel calm and stress free – is to take some time out every day just to be with yourself. There may well be things you already do that help you to feel calmer – do some more! Even if it is for just 5 minutes a day – try closing your eyes and imagining yourself doing some activity you enjoy (swimming, horse riding, cycling, running), seeing, smelling, hearing and feeling and then gradually slow down the pace of your chosen activity until you are ready to go somewhere calm, peaceful and relaxing, maybe a real place, maybe somewhere imaginary. Remember that if you are tired sitting down and doing any relaxation or meditation may send you to sleep – put an alarm on!

Tip: Physical exercise or doing something creative can help us to stay calm and keep our balance. Yoga, meditation, self-,hypnosis or other visualisation techniques when done regularly really help.

Make a point of every now and again noticing whether you are holding yourself tense and imagine letting go any unnecessary muscle tension on the outgoing breath.  

Find some object, sound or visual image that connects you to feelings of calmness and keep making that link to help counteract your stress. Maybe visualising the sea helps one person to feel calmer, someone else might have a picture on the wall of their office that they look at to remind them of calmness.

Begin to notice the little things – the taste and texture of your food, the feel of the hot water in the shower, the things you can see and hear when you go for a walk. If you are focusing on these then you are not running over and over future problems and stressing yourself up! 

Happy Christmas! Ann Williamson