12 Ways To Beat Christmas Stress

Christmas is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year but that’s not always the case. It’s a sad fact that 20 percent of working people say they struggle to relax during the holiday period because of the pressure of getting things organised, and over a quarter find the festive season so stressful that they wish they could skip it altogether*. If this is you, you don’t have to feel like that any more. We asked the experts for their advice on beating festive stress so you can make it to the new year hassle-free.

1. Remember to delegate

“Don’t be afraid to delegate or ask someone for help,” says Kelly Pietrangeli , author of

Project Me – A Practical Guide for Busy Mothers

( “Your partner may not wrap gifts as prettily as you or might have a different idea of what to buy his mother, but if it frees you up to do other things, let go of perfection and take help in whatever form it comes. If you’re hosting Christmas, don’t be afraid to delegate dishes to your guests. It saves time, money and stress. Remember that it’s the conversations and the occasion that make the memories.”

2. Forget perfect

“We often feel the need to please or impress those we care for and much festive stress stems from trying to put on the perfect Christmas,” says Dr Mark Winwood, director of psychological services at AXA PPP Healthcare ( “Try to make an extra conscious effort to say ‘enough is enough’ when you’ve finished a task and be satisfied with what you’ve achieved rather than worrying about what’s wrong. Thinking positive thoughts really can help to reduce stress. Remember that nobody’s perfect – take comfort from your successes and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach impossibly high standards.”

3. Keep it simple

“This Christmas, give yourself the gift of keeping it simple,” says Kelly. “It’s not about crazy spending, cooking the consummate turkey dinner or finding the ultimate present for that oh-so-difficult person who has everything. Christmas is about spending time with people you love. You don’t need to go overboard, gift giving is not compulsory – it’s a choice. Hone your list to those you really must buy for. A small thoughtful gift will be appreciated much more than an expensive, thoughtless one bought in desperation.”

4. Think before you drink

“Everyone looks forward to letting their hair down at Christmas parties but remember that alcohol is a depressant and regularly over-doing it can affect your mental health, leaving you feeling run down, drained and even leading to anxiety and depression,” explains Dr Mark. “If your party commitments are testing your limits, think about opting out of rounds or alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones. Pre-booking a taxi home can also help to ensure proceedings come to a pre-planned close and reduce the temptation to get carried away.”

5. Gratitude practice

“When the holiday season makes you feel overwhelmed, the simple practice of gratitude is a powerful way to improve your wellbeing,” says Dani Binnington, yoga practitioner, wellbeing expert and creator of Healthy Whole Me. “Take a moment to sit down and find five things that you’re grateful for. These can include people, objects, experiences, memories or your health. Jot them down or repeat them out loud a few times and then carry on with the rest of your day. The practice of gratitude allows you to see just how lucky you are, even if you feel that life throws challenges at you.”

6. Chew liquorice root

“The run up to Christmas places a lot of strain on our adrenal glands,” says Jenny Tschiesche, consultant nutritionist for Indigo Herbs ( “Liquorice has been found to help regulate cortisol, the stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Chewing on liquorice root can serve two purposes because, while it’s giving our adrenals a break, it also can distract from the state of anxiety by providing something to hold and chew. Liquorice can also be enjoyed as a tea by infusing the shredded or powdered root in boiling water.”

7. Protect yourself

“Unsolicited opinions can push you to lash out,” says Kelly. “In The Handbook for the Urban Warrior, The Barefoot Doctor offers a technique of visualising an invisible shield that protects you from negativity. So, when someone’s questioning your gravy making technique, take a deep breath and imagine your shield. When you’re reaching over for your second helping and someone makes a snide comment about the diet you’re meant to be on, activate that shield. While you can’t control anyone else’s behaviour, you can control your reaction to it. Rise above it, let it go and refuse to let it affect you.”

8. Re-think your shopping list

“If your Christmas shopping is sending you into a mini-meltdown, re-think what you’re doing,” says Dani. “Do we all need more materialistic things? Do our children need more stuff that comes in mountains of plastic packaging? Gifting experiences are a great alternative to buying another over priced glove and hat set. From dining out experiences to spa days, your loved ones will be able to make fabulous memories in the new year.”

9. Take the time to make memories

“When everything is a rush, no one is happy, so don’t over schedule Christmas or give yourself too much to do,” say parenting bloggers Becky Goddard Hill and Penny Alexander, authors of the new children’s happiness book Create Your Own Happy. “By limiting the times you cater for or visit others, you’re creating space to bake gingerbread, make decorations and read Christmas stories with your kids – these are the simple, happy, Christmassy things they will remember most.”

10. Make space for yourself if you need it

“Decide ahead of time how much you can realistically handle,” advises Kelly. “If one day’s more than enough, don’t invite people over (or stay with them) for several. If that’s not possible, give yourself some breathing space. Go hide out in your bedroom with a magazine for an hour, head out to ‘run some errands’ or take the dog out for a long walk. Anything to give yourself some time out so you can re-enter with a fresh frame of mind.”

11. Try meditating

Try this mini-meditation from mindfulness expert Neil Seligman ( to help you quickly regain clarity and calm.

1. Stop and pause. Feel your feet on the floor
2. Take a deep breath and bring both of your palms together, holding your hands in a gentle clasp. Feel the warmth and energy of your body
3. Open up and widen the focus of your awareness by observing non-judgementally what’s happening internally and externally
4. Proceed, or pause again until you are feeling calm and clear

12. Remember that you choose your own feelings

“If life throws you a curve ball, choose to stay calm,” says Kelly. “If things aren’t going the way you’d planned, choose to feel flexible. If you find yourself in a real hump, decide to snap out of it. Don’t beat yourself up if this feels hard, just quietly observe your emotions, gently remind yourself of how you want to feel, and then make some adjustments to help you feel that way. No one else can make you happy but you.”

Health & Wellbeing