The 12 ways of Christmas
1 Control conflict
We all have familiar triggers; someone is interrupted, which sparks a row about underlying annoyances. For the sake of your own wellbeing this Christmas, avoid this by listening to what others are saying and swapping knee-jerk reactions for a calm response. Give your harshest critics a role so they feel important – call ahead and make a clear request, such as, ‘I love your mince pies, can you bring a batch?’
2 Gift like a pro
Think about an experience you’ve shared, like going to a great concert, and use that as inspiration. Get some song lyrics printed and framed. What enhances their joy? Do they seem stressed? Build them a Christmas wellbeing hamper. For fans of exciting cuisines, gift them some foodie goodies.
3 Play this parlour game
PREP: Divide the group into two teams, A and B. Ask everyone to write four celebrity names on scraps of paper. Fold and place into two bowls.
PLAY: The first player from team A has one minute to get their team to guess as many names as they can by describing the celeb, no passes. Count the correct guesses, keep them out of the bowl and swap to a player from team B. Keep alternating until all names have been guessed and tot up the scores.
4 Stay fit, festively
‘The festive season is busy and usually boozy, which can see you falling off the fitness wagon,’ says PT Carly Rowena, who believes regular exercise plays an important role in your wellbeing at Christmas. ‘The best way to stay on track is to switch to morning workouts. If you get it done, it will boost your motivation, metabolism and feel-good endorphins, and it also increases the likelihood that you will choose healthy food during the day. Plus, a morning workout means more time to chill in the evening.’
5 Watch a festive film
Registered psychologist Patrick Keelan recommends festive flicks for festive wellbeing. ‘I watch many Christmas movies and TV shows because of the positive effect they have on my mood. Christmas movies feature common themes of hope, love, giving, kindness, and gratitude, and they help us tap into those positive emotions. These films powerfully remind us what Christmas is all about.’
6 When you’re missing someone…
A first Christmas without a loved one is tough – try these ideas:
- Ask everyone to share a funny story about the person who is no longer with you.
- Watch a movie you both liked or visit somewhere special to you both.
- Light a candle for them.
- Celebrate differently so you don’t notice every time they aren’t there.
- Donate to a charitable cause in their name.
- If you need a cuddle or a moment alone, tell the people around you.
7 Go for a walk
With so much of Christmas spent indoors, small irritations can easily escalate into full-blown rows. ‘There is something about walking that seems to provide a catalyst for perspective and reflection,’ says Sholto Radford, author of Walk: The Path To A More Mindful Life (Quadrille, £7.99). ‘The combination of its rhythm, the increased blood flow to the brain and the way it engages us bodily – and yet at the same time allows the mind freedom. When we walk, we give ourselves distance from what we have been occupied with.’
8 Leave work behind
‘In the run-up to Christmas, look at how many working days you have left, then decide on your priorities and where you need to manage expectations,’ says Grace Marshall, coach and author of How To Be Really Productive (Pearson Business, £12.99). Match your energy levels to the most relevant task. If you’re a morning person, do your mental “heavy lifting” in the morning, then save the mundane stuff for the mid-afternoon slump.
Christmas is an assault course of stressful scenarios, but don’t let it throw you off course. Instead, take a moment to stop and breathe. ‘When we breathe deeply and fully, the body relaxes and begins to release tension, allowing for greater absorption of oxygen into every cell,’ says Jean Hall, author of Breathe: Simple Breathing Techniques For A Calmer, Happier Life (Quadrille, £7.99). ‘Oxygen levels flowing to the brain increase, heightening mental clarity and promoting fuller awareness.
10 Get kitchen clever
Food writer, stylist and cook Myles Williamson shares his stress-busting tips:
Plan ahead: Use a weekend day to plan recipes, timings and lists for shopping and prep.
Get prepping: You can freeze veggie gravy, pre-baked stuffing and par-boiled roasties. Pre-chop any veg you’ve got planned for your dishes – it’ll save you time on the day.
Start on Christmas Eve: Finish last-minute tasks, set the breakfast table ready for the morning, get out your frozen dishes to defrost, fold napkins and make name cards.
11 Just say no
While the festive season is rife with social engagements, remember it’s OK to say no if it will help to protect your wellbeing. Prioritise and (politely) decline social engagements if you want to. Instead, watch a film or go for a long, relaxing walk.
12 Workshop your sleep
Late nights, rich food and flowing prosecco can mean sleepless nights and exhausted mornings. Make sure you’re practising good sleep hygiene: a quiet, dark, uncluttered, cool and phone-free space is what you’re after. Avoid using electrical devices 30-45 minutes before hitting the sack; your brain connects the light emitted from screens to that of the sun, and continues to release waking hormones. And try to squeeze in a bath before bed. Studies show that taking a bath 1-2 hours before bedtime triggers the brain’s sleep response.