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Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier and, with presents to buy, cards to send, parties to go to and food to prepare, it's little wonder our stress levels rise in the run-up to the festive season. In fact, a survey by the mental health charity Mind revealed that one in five of us feel under pressure at this time of year.
Keep your pre-Crimbo anxiety under control with these tips for avoiding stress.
Be an early bird
Okay, so it's a little too late to start saving for those expensive purchases but you can still get ahead of the game when it comes to shopping. Begin buying presents, decorations and cards now rather than waiting until Christmas Eve. You'll be able to spread the cost and avoid that last-minute panic.
To reduce the stress even further, order as much as you can online or via a mail order catalogue. Once again, you'll need to order sooner rather than later to avoid the dreaded 'out of stock' notice and the inevitable postal delays but just knowing that most of your gifts will be delivered straight to your door will help to take the pressure off.
The cooking, baking and food preparation associated with Christmas is also a source of stress but here too, you can get ahead. When you do have the time, ie. before the kids are at home and the decorating and gift-wrapping needs to be done, prepare meals that can be frozen so that you won't have to worry about cooking dinner in those last hectic few days.
The financial pressures of Christmas can put a huge strain on the family. If you have children to buy presents for, set a budget and stick to it - the same goes for the food and drink. Spouses and partners will be just as thrilled with a well-chosen, meaningful gift as with a bundle of pricey purchases. And if you feel overwhelmed by money worries, talk to your family - as well as the support and understanding you'll receive, you might just benefit from sharing the problem.
Sharing responsibilities is key to keeping your sanity ahead of the big day. Many of us work right up until Christmas these days and worry over the few days we'll be out of the office and we can quickly crumple under the pressure. If you are in a position of responsibility at work, lighten the load by enlisting staff members to help tie up any loose ends, and ensure that emails are dealt with deadlines met.
The same is true at home - if you insist on taking on all the preparations yourself, it won't be long before the blood pressure rises. The children can help with tidying, cleaning (they'll need room for all those presents, after all!) and decorating the tree, teenagers can address Christmas cards or wrap gifts and, if you have guests staying, enlist their help in the kitchen.
Christmas is a time for family and if everyone is involved, you'll all get a sense of togetherness.
It is vital to stay fit and well in order to cope with this busy time. Make sure you are eating plenty of nutrient-packed veg and healthy meals before the over-indulgence of Christmas and, if you can find the time, plan in some exercise. Even if it means parking the car further from the supermarket or taking the stairs rather than the lift, a little activity will release those all-important endorphins that will combat stress.
Take time out
It could be just 15 minutes alone with a cup of tea and your thoughts, or walk in the chilly winter air but taking time for yourself each day will allow you to relax, enjoy some peace and quiet, and get some often much-needed perspective.
Do you struggle with pre-Christmas stress? What are your tips for keeping your sanity? Leave a comment below...