Feeling stressed about hosting Christmas? Here's 8 tips from a psychologist to ensure a relaxed day

Some people look forward to Christmas for months – or even all year. But when the big day finally arrives, the stress can be so immense that the festivities can lose some of their sparkle.

Stress is often defined as emotional discomfort, caused by a fear that we’ll be unable to meet expectations, and psychologist and stress expert Sue Firth  points out: “Christmas seems to be one of those classic times where this is the case.”

Here are eight tips for reducing stress on the big day…

1. Timetable Christmas

Try writing a Christmas Day schedule, including rough times of when you or other family members will do important tasks, like putting the turkey in the oven or walking the dog. This will help you feel more in control of timings on the day.

2. Delegate

If you’re cooking lunch at home, delegate tasks like preparing veg and laying the table to the rest of the family.

3. Try a ‘bring your own’ lunch

Instead of cooking lunch yourself, have a festive bring-your-own rule. Ask guests to bring a plate of buffet food each, and get the kids to make their own contribution beforehand if they’re old enough.

4. Enjoy family time outdoors

Plan something physical to do as a group after lunch, as this will not only help relieve stress, but will help burn off the excess calories you’ve consumed. Plus, family members involved in after-lunch activities, like rounders in the park, are less likely to get into arguments.

5. Have an escape plan

Think of some excuses beforehand that you can use to escape if things get too stressful. They need to be believable, so try saying you’re leaving the room to ring a friend to wish them Happy Christmas, or going to check on an elderly neighbour.

6. Breathe deeply

When we’re stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and impairs the body’s vital functions, Firth advises: “If you feel your stress levels rising, take a few moments to yourself and take some deep breaths to help you relax.” Simply breathe in deeply through your nose, hold for 15 or 20 seconds and then breathe slowly out through your mouth, and repeat for a few minutes.

7. Try to snatch some ‘me-time’

Make an effort to get a bit of time to yourself during the day to play some relaxing music or at least some seasonal carols, light some scented candles, and have a relaxing hot bath to unwind.

8. Have realistic expectations

Don’t get hung up on what Christmas is supposed to be like and how you’re supposed to feel.

Firth stresses: “If you’re comparing your festivities to Christmas at the Walton’s, they’ll always come up short, so don’t worry about festive spirit and take it as it comes.”

Accept your family aren’t perfect and make a decision to try not to have any disagreements spoil your day, and try to steer clear of risky conversation topics which may provoke rows.

“Whatever the time of year, but especially at Christmas, it’s important to monitor your feelings,” says Firth. “Adopting a positive attitude can help you think of Christmas as less of a stress and more of a joy, and you may be surprised at how much even this change can help.”

- Press Association

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