How to ensure your Christmas is kept simple
Think about the ingredients you need for a perfect Christmas and you might say good food, thoughtful presents and one or two great nights out.
But even more than that, what most of us would include is perhaps the most important ingredient of all - time.
Time to prepare, time to relax and time to spend with the people we love most. At its heart, Christmas is a time of simple pleasures, namely good times in good company. To make sure you really enjoy this special season, here's our guide to keeping Christmas simple.
Organising Christmas can feel like organising the invasion of a small country. Getting everybody in the right place at the right time, fully equipped with food, drink and presents, is quite an operation. And then there's the decorations, the crackers, the Christmas party...
Given all that, the best advice for many of us is to plan early and get as much of the preparation and organisation out of the way long before Christmas officially starts. Presents? Buy online. Food? Get everything that doesn't have to be kept fresh well in advance, and tuck it away in an out-of-the-way cupboard. Decorations? Delegate. Pass that responsibility onto another member of the household.
Quite simply, much of the traditional pre-Christmas panic can be mitigated by taking small, simple steps regularly in the weeks and months before the season officially starts. Which means that when it does, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy it.
Learn a simple word
One of the ways we all tend to overcomplicate Christmas is by saying 'yes' to every invite we receive, in the mistaken belief that a constant whirl of social activity is what Christmas is all about.
It isn't. It's about relaxing and enjoying yourself. Spreading yourself too thin can lead to exhaustion and anxiety. You'll stop enjoying the things you're doing and increasingly turn up just for the sake of appearances.
According to certified leadership and life coach Sue Belton, we all need to learn to say 'no' a little bit more.
"Saying no is one of the toughest things to say for most of us, and especially - in my experience - for women with children. Many of us are brought up to always put others first. But one of the most valuable things we can all do is to put ourselves first and then help others from that place. So be selective, take time out, and look after yourself during this hectic period. That way you will have more energy, resources, and much needed patience for those you love," she advises.
Factor in some time to do absolutely nothing, or to be spontaneous, and you'll have a simpler, happier Christmas.
Communicate more clearly
Complexity happens at Christmas when we don't communicate clearly. Relatives turn up at the wrong place or the wrong time. Dates get mixed up. Somebody forgets to collect that essential ingredient on the way home. It all leads to confusion, delay and anxiety.
So before that happens, organise some clear communication channels. Why not start a messenger or WhatsApp group for everyone involved in your main Christmas celebrations? Make sure everybody is mobile - a cheap handset and Pay As You Go contract can make it easier for everyone to communicate at Christmas (think Vodafone Smart First 7 or Doro 5030).
"And if it all does go bottoms up, accept it and ask yourself if it really matters," says Sue. "If someone's late or you forget the Brussels sprouts, accept it. What does it matter? Have some compassion for yourself - because isn't that what Christmas is all about?"
Don't expect perfection
Christmas should be fun, friendly, cosy, relaxing and joyful. What it shouldn't be is perfect.
Of course, if perfection happens to pop along as a happy by-product of all the other stuff, then that's fine. But if you aim for perfection you invite disappointment, and you'll stress yourself out when you reach for the stars and only skim the sky.
"If you are a bit of a perfectionist try this challenge," says Sue. "Instead of aiming for ten out of ten on everything you do, dial it down a couple of notches - go for a seven or eight. Start small, on something trivial, and then try something bigger like, for example, the Christmas table setting. And then notice the actual consequence. Everybody still had a great time, and you were less stressed."
By aiming just a little bit lower, you'll simplify your Christmas and free yourself up for the really important things, like spending time with the people you love. With planning, communication, managed expectations and plenty of time out, there's no chance of Christmas becoming a stress-fest.
Staying close to the ones you love is what the festive season is all about. That's why Vodafone has made made keeping in touch this Christmas even simpler with amazing value handsets and Pay As You Go.