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5 ways to take the stress out of Christmas

This post is brought to you in collaboration with UNICEF

‘Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year!’ Cheerful cherubic children and harmonious adults delighting in each other’s company, while partaking of the most perfect meal in the most beautifully decked halls, where everything happens according to plan and everyone receives the gift of his or her dreams… Teehee… My Christmases have always been like that, haven’t yours? Although, I suspect I’d be a bit bored in all that perfection.

A real Christmas can be fun, but we just have to remember a few things to take the stress out of Christmas. Here is a list of ways to help enjoy Christmas more. I’d love to know what helps you guys enjoy Christmas!

P.S. How cute is the gingerbread house my brother made!

How to reduce stress at Christmas | Blah Blah Magazine

1. Christmas checklist

√ Meditate
√ Drink lots of water
√ Eat well (ahem, well kind of!)
√ Exercise
√ Get lots of sleep
√ Laugh whenever possible
√ Remember to breathe

2. Change the gift givingHow to reduce stress at Christmas | Blah Blah Magazine

Eight years ago, we stopped giving presents to the adults in our family and put in for a charity instead and haven’t looked back. At the time it reduced the gifts I had to buy from 18 to 3. It reduced the pre-Christmas fizz buzzing by half and we’ve donated a considerable amount to charity over the years.

We still have the fun of giving gifts to the kids, which to me is where the real joy of Christmas is. It also helps shift the focus of Christmas from things to people. This year I love the idea of buying a UNICEF water pump, $428, to provide clean water for a whole community and sharing the love and #givegood message.How to reduce stress at Christmas | Blah Blah Magazine Photo credit: UNICEF/DRCA2011-00205/Asselin

This approach probably works so well, because we have one of those rambling families, extending on for miles and trying to choose the right present for everyone is nearly impossible. I remember feeling a horrible angst giving a gift that just wasn’t right, but hey, I didn’t have time or money to get the ‘one’ or when great aunt Bertha gave me a gift, but I’d forgotten her present. All that is a thing of the past.

It also cuts back on the post Christmas stress of what to do with all those unwanted gifts. I mean how much stuff do we really need?

It’s not the answer for every family. Gordon’s family is a neater, nuclear family and are lovers of giving considered gifts. The idea of cutting the presents would be sacrilegious, but I know some members of his family would enjoy a UNICEF story book pack, $22, knowing how much joy it’d bring to some children in need.

Did you know giving to charity makes us happier than spending the same money on ourselves? Researchers at the US National Institutes of Health found, ‘When people give to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect.’

For neighbours, teachers, friends and women outside the family, I’ll be making a big batch of handmade bath tea or hand cream and a shaving lotion for the men folk.

3. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of goodHow to reduce stress at Christmas | Blah Blah Magazine

It’s tempting to build up Christmas as ‘the happiest time of the year’, but tension can mount when fantasy doesn’t match reality. Social media and particularly Instagram and Pinterest can be dangerous comparison traps, as much as fun as they are. If we worry about what everyone else is doing and overwhelm ourselves with so many projects and activities that we don’t enjoy them or feel lacking because we ‘fail’ to do them, it defeats the purpose.

Instead, we can write a list of what we want to do and take great joy in, scratching half the things off the list, because are we really going to send ALL those cards? If not, we can accept it and move on.

I’d love to pretend I make everything from scratch every year. No, I want to enjoy making the things I do, so I choose one, maybe two decorations to make with the boys and be done with it.

Christmas DayHow to reduce stress at Christmas | Blah Blah Magazine
Yup, it’s funny how challenging it is to keep things simple and focus on what we enjoy. Delegating can make it easier. This year, we’ll be doing a mezze platter, some oysters, pate and soda bread, which I can make beforehand. I’d do this roast chicken with pomegranate, because I’ve made it a gazillion times and I find it easy (but Gordon loves to get a bit fancy and he’ll do the duck version). My brothers will do salads and mum loves to do the desserts. She does a mean pavlova, and Christmas pudding. Otherwise, if I didn’t have so much help, I’d be using one of those clever companies that provides fully prepped meals and all you need to do is heat and serve.

4. Managing the sad bitsHow to reduce stress at Christmas | Blah Blah Magazine

If there has been a big change in the year, perhaps a death or divorce, then it’s worth having a conversation with the people closest to ask how they would like to deal with it. In the past, we’ve lit a candle or said a few words to acknowledge the person no longer with us, but some people prefer to not talk about it and that’s their right.

If there are family tensions to manage it can be easier to invite a lovely random person or two, who don’t have family nearby, as it seems to take the pressure out of intense situations, plus it’s lovely to really embrace that aspect of sharing Christmas.

The post meal slump can be the best or worst of times. We often try to distract everyone with a game of cricket, kite flying, swimming, watching a comedy or dancing to some tunes.

5. Enjoy the momentHow to reduce stress at Christmas | Blah Blah Magazine

We can choose to appreciate what we have and what we are able to do or focus on what we don’t have and what we’re not able to do. There is a lot of scientific evidence that suggests focusing on what we’re grateful for can dramatically reduce stress, but, hey, it’s not always easy, so…

When something stressful happens…
Take a deep breath or twenty,
Laugh (ahem, not always appropriate!)
Dance like a crazy chicken (has it’s drawbacks, especially if you’re carrying a hot bird),
Or quickly think of five things to be grateful for (even if it is that you only have to do this whole Christmas malarkey once a year).

I’d love to hear how you are going to give gifts that matter this Christmas in the comments below. Your comment will help children in need and every comment helps! Because we’re giving the best four comments the opportunity to give 120 Sachets of Therapeutic Food worht $64, 6 Footballs worth $43, 3 Story Books worth $22 or 500 Pencils worth $16 all by UNICEF and will receive a gift card with an explanation of how you have helped some kiddies this Christmas.

You must comment before 14 December to enter. Good luck! How to reduce stress at Christmas | Blah Blah Magazine

About BlahBlahMagazine

Cybele Masterman (Bele) trained as a beauty therapist, aromatherapist and journalist. After working as all of the above has found herself on a quest for a beautiful and meaningful life that doesn't cost the earth. Follow on google: +blahblahmagazine twitter: @blahblahzine or Instagram: BlahBlahMagazine

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  1. Best. giveaway. ever. we are doing a kris kringle this year so that we can give one well thought out gift. I’d love to do some work in a soup kitchen next year.

  2. I love this idea. The perfect Christmas giveaway. We have combined gifts this year so instead of finding something for the sake of giving a gift we have pooled together and got items that the receiver is needing. This has saved us over spending too.
    We still haven’t decided on our charity of choice this Christmas. Will have to look at Unicef and decide with the family.

  3. Gorgeous post. Christmas can be a tricky time of year, especially when juggling everyone’s expectations. We stopped giving gifts to the adults in the family a couple of years ago and it was not a welcomed change by my partner’s family! I try to make as many gifts as possible for teachers and friends. This year the kids are going to be doing a clean out of their rooms prior to Christmas and we will be donating toys and items that have been outgrown or are not used often.

  4. I am making/ baking all my gifts this year with the children. I am recycling old tin containers to give them in and DIYing my reusable gift tags. No rubbish here. Everything can be used and reused (or given to the dog, if that way inclined).

  5. Absolutely brilliant ideas all round. I especially love the idea of racking up huge contributions to charities rather than each other. Cooking simple food that you’re comfortable making, and sharing the cooking burden, so that it isn’t a burden. Inviting extra people. We often do that because my partner works with lots of people from other countries. I never thought about it as a way of defusing family issues. It definitely makes Christmas interesting. And finally, absolutely perfect giveaway!

  6. This is such an awesome giveaway and such great tips! We’re more trad than rad, but this year will be the first that we don’t send paper cards, instead we’re going to donate money to charity which is money much better spent. We don’t buy gifts for adults anymore, but I do like to give homemade baked goods to doctors, the postie, and other people who help us throughout the year to show them how much they are appreciated.

  7. We’re going to have some great karmic happiness running around this year….not only in our house, but in other parts of the world. Always leaves you with a great sense of happiness

  8. I wanted to send gifts to my sister/friends in Canada, so they had to be small, cost effective and meaningful. I found recycled paper decorations and Karma Living. Attached to these gifts I wrote a note that said these were infused with love, light and laughter and when they were finished with them they were to plant them, either in the garden or a pot with an intent to grow new dreams. I love being creative♥

  9. I love your checklist, especially ‘remember to breathe’. We have stopped gifts for adults, too, it makes Christmas so easier. Your post reminds me we haven’t done the Kmart Wishing Tree yet this year… time to put some thought into it.

  10. My children are visiting the local nursing home to sing carols for the elderly. I’m hoping everyone will get something out of that!

  11. This year is the first time I’ve included some secondhand gifts in the presents.

  12. Meditating is such a good idea! So easy to get wrapped up in the whole craziness of Christmas! We do exactly the same thing as your family and buy charity donations instead of gifts. This year we’ve bought Karma Currency vouchers which are such a fantastic idea! Have a fantastic Christmas lovely lady xxx

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