Last year I Reclaimed Christmas. I banished the stress. And we had the most imperfectly perfect, magical, Stress-Free Christmas. This year I can’t wait to do the same!
Fancy reclaiming yours too? How does a Stress-Free Christmas Sound? Maybe you are already feeling the stress building? Here’s how I banished the stresses and savoured the day…
I LOVE Christmas … even now in October I am excited! The nights are drawing in and the weather is getting colder. Snuggly jumpers are out, candles are providing beautiful atmospheric dancing light on the walls and the woodburner is keeping us toasty in the evenings. I’m already thinking about Christmas and how magical it’s going to be.
I used to find October flew by. Suddenly Halloween was a distant memory and the dreaded Christmas Stress had begun creeping in. November was over in a flash much like the fireworks! Before I knew it, I was in a stressful Christmas panic. Light years away from the stress-free Christmas I dreamt of.
It’s all to easy in the midst of the planning and prepping to forget Christmas is a time to reflect; to be thankful for all we have and what others have contributed to us. Time to celebrate, laugh, be with loved ones. It’s a time for family, love and joy.
Our kids are only little once and it’s such a magical time. Yet our first Christmas as parents I thought it would be a great idea to have everyone round. I hosted & cooked for 17. I don’t begrudge that at all; it was my choice. However. I piled so much pressure on myself to create the perfect day for everyone that I missed it! In fact, the whole of our holiday season was a crazy blur.
And I learnt valuable lessons. Lessons I thought I would share so we can ALL achieve our own perfectly imperfect Stress-Free Christmas!
As Mum’s we spend so much time playing so many different roles it was important for me to prioritise Christmas and make it sacrosanct for our family unit.
How to Have the Perfect Stress-Free Christmas:
1. Know What You Enjoy and Make Time For It.
There are so many fabulous traditions and each family has their own.
Think about what heralds the start of the festive season for you.
Maybe it’s going to the pantomime?
Adding a sprig of holly to your lapel?
On a trip to the Netherlands one December I was overwhelmed by the most amazing smell. It literally smelt like Christmas. And it was everywhere. The Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas on the 5th December and there are these bowls of biscuits called Pepernoten everywhere that are just too scrummy! The smell of cinnamon and Christmas spices immediately transport me to Christmas Wonderland.
Whatever it is you love about Christmas make time for it. Then do your favourite things mindfully and with a greater presence.
I love decorating the tree. So I set aside a night when I can enjoy the unwrapping of the baubles and finding the perfect spot for each one. I’ll have the fire roaring, Christmas music on and wine open!
By setting aside an evening I can really get into the festive spirit and start to feel the excitement build. Ross has no interest in the actual process of decorating the tree so once it’s set up and positioned he makes himself scarce [AKA he goes for a pint]
2. Plan Ahead:
So many things you can get ticked off ahead of time meaning you get to savour doing them rather than being pressured to get tonnes done and feeling like nothing is done how you want it.
Some quick planning ideas:
- Write Christmas cards early
- Present ideas list for each child that you both have access to. There’s nothing more annoying than thinking of a great gift and then forgetting it.
- Wrap as you go (and keep a gift list) I enjoy wrapping so it’s another of my priority activities!
- Meal plan.
- Shop online and get your order in early.
- Plan a super fun build up to the big day together. We like to mix in one “biggie” trip with other frugal / free(!) ideas.
- Plan downtime. Make sure you have something just for you on the schedule – you deserve it!
3. Embrace Your Imperfectly Perfect Day
Take the pressure off yourself! Not everything has to be pristine and perfect. Embrace the Imperfection!
Think back to your favourite childhood Christmas memories. It wasn’t “everyone had their favourite pudding”. It’s the imperfect moments that make it special and unique to you and yours.
What are the memories you share as a family together each Christmas? A cpuple of mine … Grandad waiting for Mum to leave the room so he could drink milk from his cereal bowl without her spotting him. Mum making pigs in blankets in surgical gloves to avoid the mess one year [not joking!] Or the year the thermostat broke in the oven while the turkey was cooking overnight [actually the best turkey we ever had!] and filled the house with black smoke.
Obviously I am not recommending you set fire to your turkey (or your house!). The point is it doesn’t have to be “perfect” to be PERFECT.
And PLEASE don’t fall into the trap of comparing – behind that perfectly laid Christmas table is an exhausted Mom taking pictures of everyone else having a fab time … the adage of don’t compare your reality to someone else’s showreel has never been more true than at Christmas!
4. Only Do 1 New Dish for Dinner
… if you can’t do that max 2!
There are so many fab recipes coming at us from every angle! I am soooo hungry every where I go as we are bombarded with food pics! I like spend a relaxed evening browsing and saving to pinterest [I have a Christmas Foodie Inspiration Board here you can follow] or going through my recipe / magazine collection to choose which dish will be my newbie table addition this year.
When we were a little older my Mum decided to go ALL OUT for Christmas Dinner. This was going to be a gastro extravaganza! She found a tonne of different side dishes that were all wonderful but dinner was mega late and she was stressed to the max!
If you aren’t Nigella – don’t try to be!
If you have small kids likelihood is they won’t eat it anyway but will get cranky if they are not fed. Plus the day is yours to enjoy too. I LOVE cooking a roast – so I want to enjoy it on Christmas Day too.
Practice your new side dishes first. Give your partner a taster the week before, make the mistakes and learn the sequence ahead of time.
5. Make it About the People who Matter Most
It may sound obvious but, you can’t please everyone all the time. By trying to get around ALL the family you can end up travelling, stressing and dragging the kids along in tow too. Make sure you prioritise your time with the people you really value – not those you feel you have a duty to.
We have a lovely tradition with our group of friends: we have an adults dinner out with a £15 Secret Santa and then set aside a day after Christmas to get together and have a kids Christmas party. We have silly games, party food and swap presents for the children which they open all together. Mayhem ensues with shouts and squeals of delight – wrapping paper flying everywhere and it’s awesome fun! Plus, it spreads the presents out nicely from the overload on Christmas Day.
6. Don’t Overspend & Create Unnecessary Stress
It’s a fact of life that Money Can’t Buy Happiness.
Not only that but financial hardship is a major contributor to stress. I know I find financial stress has a huge impact on my wellbeing.
It’s so easy to go a bit crazy at Christmas and land ourselves in debt. Adding to stress, if not now, then in the New Year and that’s a stress you can easily do without!
I have a budget which means we spread the cost of Christmas across the whole year and massively reduces stress for me over the holidays.
7. Be Organised: But Not Inflexible!
Allow yourself to enjoy the magic of the day. We planned to eat at 1pm last year. It turned out we were still doing lego in our dressing gowns at 1 so we ate at 5 instead. No stress. Just have something planned for the evening that will flex to a light lunch as a “tide over” if needed!
Prep the night before and have your planned cooking schedule ready to go. You can always adjust the start time if you decide to eat a bit later.
8. Get Some Fresh Air
Fresh air is good for us. Never more so than during times when we can spend a lot of time indoors. So get out the woolly scarf and mittens and take a stroll. Wintery walks are so beautiful. Fresh air also improves digestion – and we all need that during the festive season.
Plus it’ll give you more energy and if your house is full, it lets everyone take a break and get a little space.
9. Delegation is Key
I almost wrote this under the Embrace the Imperfect section above as to do this you do need to let go of your idea of perfect – but that’s ok!
Variety is the spice of life and it’s better to not have to do it all yourself.
Delegating has the added benefit of setting the tone for your guests that they are here to contribute too! For those that turn up, bag a spot on the sofa, give you their drinks order and don’t move again until they move to the table – please take this as a surefire sign they want to be on washing up duty!
You are not a catering service. Sure, be the hostess, but make people aware of where drinks are, that they are welcome to help themselves and have nibbles out so you can get done what you need to without running around after everyone.
Your Stress-Free Christmas Guide:
I truly hope these tips have helped you and you have found some new ways to banish Christmas stress for good!
If you have any tips to share please add them in the comments below – I’m always looking for new ideas and would love to hear yours!
Here’s to your Magical, Stress-free Christmas!
Love Ali x
PS If you can’t avoid your stress sources over the festive period or know you are likely to be stressed on the day regardless of your best laid plans this post: How to stay calm in the Christmas Chaos – is especially for you.