Ahh, the festive period. The most magical – and arguably most stressful – time of the year.
As I get older, it feels like Christmas comes with more pressure. As a kid, I barely did anything apart from open presents, play with new toys and eat chocolate. The only ‘pressure’ I experienced was that associated with removing the funny bone when playing Operation on Christmas morning.
Now though, I have a weight the size of Santa’s sack on my own back. I’m expected to buy presents, assemble toys, host family, decorate the house, arrange festive days out, cook Xmas dinner, travel to see extended family and continue Xmas traditions, all whilst making it a magical experience for my daughter.
I don’t begrudge any of the above, but it kind of makes the festive period feel like a huge admin task that lasts for way too long. This isn’t helped by Christmas appearing to get earlier and earlier each year. People putting up their Xmas decorations in mid-November and mince pies stocked in supermarkets in September?! Have a word.
When the Christmas period is full of stress points, remaining positive and staying strong is pretty much all you can do. Crumbling like a poorly baked gingerbread house and crying into your mince pie isn’t going to do anyone any favours. As we begin the countdown to Xmas day, I therefore thought I’d share some of my most common Christmas stresses and how I attempt to stay strong through the festive period.
If there’s one thing that makes me stress over the festive period, it’s buying presents.
It’s not that I don’t want to buy gifts to treat my loved ones – it’s just that I really struggle for inspiration. My parents have been in my life for 31 years, my brother for 29 and the missus for 11. When you consider every present buying occasion during those combined 71 years, I reckon I can be given a bit of slack for not having any new ideas.
Despite this, presents have still got to be bought. Saying “I couldn’t find anything for you this year, my dear” isn’t really going to cut it. Present ‘shopping’ for me therefore starts on Boxing Day of the previous year. I don’t buy anything, but I keep my ear out for any subtle hints which could make gift selection that bit easier. If the missus points out something she likes, then I make a mental note. That way, when we hit the festive period, I’m at least armed with a few ideas and not totally clueless. Which makes a change!
Once you’ve bought the presents, you’ve then got to wrap them. I hate wrapping presents. Is there anything more pointless than spending time and effort covering something in decorative paper, only for it to be ripped off and put in the bin afterwards? It’s not just this though – have you ever tried to wrap presents with a toddler around? It takes five times as long and often results in the scissors and sticky tape being dropped down the toilet.
Trying to keep your cool as this happens is a challenge. So much so that I now only wrap presents when I’m sans toddler. This doesn’t make the job any more fun, but it certainly reduces some of the stress. To minimise the present wrapping stress even more, why not outsource and get someone to do it for you? Or you could sack it off all together and just use a gift bag!
Cooking Christmas Dinner
Other than going around to someone else’s house and eating their food, preparing Christmas dinner is a necessary evil. Despite it being a glorified Sunday dinner, it takes a military operation to ensure everything is plated and cooked ready for consumption. There’s so much expectation on the meal that it has the potential to make or break Christmas day. Is the turkey moist? Have the Yorkshire puddings risen? Is the gravy lump-free? No pressure then.
We try to do numerous things to stay strong as we cook the Christmas dinner. Firstly, we all chip in – Xmas dinner isn’t just one person’s responsibility. Secondly, we prepare – that means ensuring we’ve bought the food in advance (no last minute fights to get the last frozen turkey!) and that things are prepared (vegetables chopped the day before). And thirdly, we take shortcuts – for instance, homemade gravy is superior, but gravy granules are so much easier and quicker. Just don’t tell the celebrity chefs.
Entertaining The (Extended) Family
For many people, Christmas is about spending time with family. Although that’s great in theory, the reality can often be a little awkward. Bringing together a group of people who’s only commonality is their blood is always going to be stressful. Not only do you have the pressures of ensuring everyone has a good time, but you’re also tasked with keeping Great Uncle Frank and Second Cousin Meryl away from each other because they once had a 25-year family feud about a fence.
To try to make this time as enjoyable as you can, you need to provide entertainment. You’re unlikely to find one thing which will cater for everyone for ten hours, so different ideas are a must. For us, that involves festive TV, board games, jigsaws, a Christmassy walk and just enough mulled wine to smooth over any cracks. At least you then have another year until you need to do it again.
It could be worse though. Give a thought to the stresses, strains and challenges Santa needs to overcome in the run up to Christmas. As part of the Actimel #StayStrong campaign, they’ve produced this funny video to give an insight into how Father Christmas prepares at the Santa boot camp. Check it out below.
So those are four of my main stresses when it comes to the festive period and how I try to stay strong. How about you? What are the most stressful parts of Christmas? What do you do to overcome them? Let me know below!
N.B. This post is sponsored by Actimel. Actimel contains Vitamin B6 that contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. It also contains Vitamins B6 & D that contribute to the normal function of the immune system.