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Christmas time has crept up on us this year, and after the damp squib that was 2020, many of us are planning to go all out for the holiday season.
But a bigger Christmas celebration can also mean more stress, as we spend our financial and emotional resources in trying to make everything perfect for the big day.
This year, we’re thought to be spending more, with a study by eBay finding that 36 per cent of shoppers will be spending more disposable income on presents, while another survey found 42 per cent of people in employment find Christmas the most demanding and pressured time of the year.
Of course, it’s often women that bear the brunt of the festive stress: a YouGov study found that over half of women (51 per cent) found themselves stressed at Christmas, compared to just 35 per cent of men. A third of women also admit to feeling more anxious at around this time of year (probably because the success of season hangs heavy on our shoulders. Father Christmas? Please) – and the ongoing threat of the omicron variant certainly isn’t helping.
So how can we stop a full-on festive breakdown? Well, there are some simple steps you can take to stop yourself from being cream-crackered at Christmas, according to Health and Wellbeing Expert Stephanie Taylor at StressNoMore.
Stephanie urges those feeling overwhelmed by the oncoming Christmas season to take a moment amidst all this Christmas and Covid chaos and plan out how you’re going to tackle the season – with military precision.
“Preparing early can help to avoid stress, particularly with the threat of shortages,” she tells Tyla. “Preparing a list of gift ideas, meal planning and mapping out your social calendar can help you feel more in control and minimise the stress that comes with making last-minute decisions.
“But it’s important not to pile on the pressure and feel like you need to get everything sorted straight away. This stage is about getting a plan in place and spacing out your to-do list, so you’re not overwhelmed in the lead-up to Christmas.
Budget issues are another stress trigger over the festive season: despite fears about the rising cost of living and tightening budgets, Brits are expected to spend more than ever before throughout the festive season with the average person expecting to spend £1,108 – up from £883 last year.
However, Stephanie reminds us that if you’re worrying about forking out over the odds on goodies, to remember what really is important during the festive season.
“Are material things really the meaning of Christmas? Short answer is no,” she sasys.
“Remember, spending quality time with your loved ones is what it’s really about, and creating further financial stress after what’s likely been a tough year for many might only result in more stress and anxiety in the long run.”
To prevent overspending, Stephanie urges people to set themselves “realistic budget” for Christmas spending, and to stick closely to it.”
“Be savvy and shop around for your gifts or wait for sales when many popular items will be significantly discounted,” she says.
“Consider making your own gifts too. Sweet festive treats, flavoured tipples, handmade Christmas tree decorations and scented candles can all be made at home with a small spend on equipment or ingredients.
“Sure, they may take a little time, energy, and effort, but that's what make homemade gifts so special.”
The omicron variant is likely to be a huge stresser on people, with many people going into self-imposed isolation to avoid catching the virus.
The rapid stress of the virus has led Dr Chris Whitty to urge people to “socialise with caution”, and prioritise who they want to see in the run-up to Christmas in order to prevent the virus spreading.
It’s something Stephanie agrees with.
“Follow Marie Kondo’s approach – if it doesn’t spark joy, don’t do it,” she says. “Only say yes to things you want to do with people you want to spend time with.
“And make sure to leave yourself some ‘me time’ to relax and unwind in between plans too.”
When Christmas does hit full swing, it’s also easy to overindulge and treat yourself for making it this far.
Too much rich food and booze can make you feel more anxious, so Stephanie urges people not to let up on self-care rituals even when they’re celebrating with family.
“Try to balance your diet across the week to give your body the essential nutrients it needs to stay healthy and energised, while allowing yourself some time to indulge,” she says.
“Get outside and breathe in the fresh air. If working out or running isn’t your thing, a fast-paced walk can do wonders for your wellbeing – both physically and mentally.
“Most importantly, listen to your mind and body. If you’re not feeling good, rest and recharge, or seek advice from a health professional.
“And remember that COVID-19 is still a real threat, so don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with and follow the guidelines as far as possible.”