The 12 Ways of Christmas: how to be kind to yourself

If Christmas leaves you tired of turkey, sick of sprouts and hating holly, have you ever considered that you might be doing it wrong? You just might be – and here are our 12 tips for turning it all around next year.

It’s more than likely that you’ve been caught up in the modern drive to enjoy yourself at all costs when Christmas comes, just as the vast majority of us have. And as a general rule that involves throwing money at it, and hurtling around putting in place arrangements you’re not going to enjoy because you’re too busy being dutiful and looking after others.

Stop! It might be too late now to unravel what you’ve already done, unspend what you’ve already spent, and go back on promises you’ve made with the best of intentions. However, whilst you’re feeling frazzled and extremely un-Christmassy, consider our New Year’s resolution suggestions to make next year’s Christmas very much more appealing.

Twelve top tips for a relaxing Christmas

Plan early. Leave it to the last minute and you’re sure to heap stress on yourself. The sooner you start, the easier it is.

  • Keep it simple. Give yourself a break! Half of the reason Christmas is stressful is that we make it too complicated. You need to relax much more than you need, for example, to dash out to buy food that won’t be eaten by people who’ve eaten too much already, which means you’ll have to waste time by throwing it all away later, and agonise for weeks about how much weight you’ve put on. And it doesn’t matter how beautifully packaged and artisan-made the food looks. You don’t need it.
  • Scrap cards. This pre-Christmas ritual is all well and good, but do you actually need to send so many cards? Probably not. Certainly elderly relatives, who are not online, will appreciate them, and you should carry on sending those. But what of all your Facebook friends? Do they really need a card? We’d suggest giving the money you’d spend on their cards to a worthy cause who could use the funds better. Then you can post about the charity they’re helping you to support by not having a card. For work colleagues, suggest they all do the same, and circulate a list of suitable causes you might like to support together. There are some excellent suggestions on our Solo Expenses Giving Back pages. If you pick the same charity, your employer might agree to match what you raise.
  • Who’s cooking? It’s not all being left to Mum again is it, while half the family slopes off to the pub? Shame on you all! If you want to get together as a family, then work out who’s doing what beforehand, and share the workload of preparation. Starters for one of you; pigs in blankets and prepared vegetables for another, desserts or cheese for a third and someone else to set the table. Anyone who hasn’t cooked has to wash up. Better still, have no-one cook at all, but go out together for a meal in a convivial atmosphere. That’s hours of shopping, prep time and clearing away saved at one fell swoop.
  • Re-think the gifts. Here’s a habit that will be hard to kick. But ask yourself if the gifts you buy are really valued, or just there because you had to buy something (or anything, as the days clicked closer to December 25th). Experiences can be better than ‘things’. Consider clubbing together with relatives to buy a dad a flight in a Tiger Moth, for example. It’s probably something you couldn’t afford alone, but together it becomes affordable, and it’s much more memorable than more socks and an ill-fitting pullover. And while we’re on the subject, did you really need to spend as much on younger members of the family as you did? There’s no need these days for stocking fillers; stockings are quite full enough! Consider experiences for them that involve you too. When did you last go to a pantomime or a Christmas market? You’ll create the time if you’re following these tips.
  • Remember others. Not everyone is going to have as good a Christmas as you – but you could do something about that. In the days leading up to the main event, drop in on neighbours who live alone. Give something to your local homeless shelter (you could call in first and ask what they need). Buy something for a toy appeal (or divert something from the mountain of often unnecessary gifts for your own children; they won’t notice, but the child who otherwise wouldn’t have any other present at all certainly will).
  • Shop on line. At 2am in your pyjamas, if it suits you. They say shopping is a leisure activity these days. Really? The weeks leading up to Christmas there’s nothing leisurely about it. It’s far easier to buy things on line than to struggle amongst the throng of shoppers in the high street or shopping centre.
  • Turn off the TV. The number of TV channels keeps increasing, but there’s a finite amount of quality, so it’s spread more and more thinly. Do you really need more shallow game shows worked to the same tired format?; more ‘regular’ shows filmed in August but with Christmas tree backdrops to make them feel festive? Check out the TV listings, find what you really want to watch, see that and turn off the TV afterwards. Or perhaps you could record it to watch later? With the TV off, you could devote the time to party games with the rest of the family. Pick the right one, and you’re in for an afternoon of tears-in-the-eyes laughter!
  • Get outside. Get some fresh air and exercise. It’s the perfect excuse to spend time with youngsters and their new bikes and scooters. A walk in the local park will put colour in your cheeks, expend the lungs, and burn off some of the calories you’ve eaten, but shouldn’t have done.
  • Take water with it. The temptation to drink too much alcohol at Christmas is enormous, and if you succumb, drink lots of water as well. Your liver and your head will thank you for it on Boxing Day.
  • Go to Church. And why not? It would do us all good to remember what we’re supposed to be celebrating and to do something about it. The inside of a Church, especially a large and old one, has a calming influence, allowing time for reflection in a way that’s not possible in any other way. Take the children with you; they need to know what it’s all about. Try it; you might be pleasantly surprised.
  • Relax. This is the point we’ve been working towards since the start of this blog. Life is stressful enough year-round, and you need to give your body and mind a chance to pause and reflect on what’s happened in the year behind you, and what you can look forward to in the year ahead. It’s a time for dong nothing, even for a little while. Lie is like running down a railway station platform with two heavy suitcases. You can do it for a little while, and then you need to pause for breath and put the cases down for a moment whilst you gather yourself to start again.

Be gentle on yourself. Merry Christmas.