Stress-proof your Christmas, says Elisabeth Wilson

Gift buying, food shopping, endless relatives arriving and the constant round of entertaining and party-going, Christmas is a stressful time.

Most of us have one particular “super-stressor” – the situation that seems to bring out our inner Godzilla. For some, it’s getting the Christmas dinner on the table. For others, the annual meeting with a bitchy sister-in-law.

For me, when I worked in an office, it was the annual party. For years, I’d wake up the morning after, feeling vaguely uneasy. A feeling that was swiftly followed by blind panic when I remembered the night before.

Way too much warm white wine and the exhaustion engendered by having to pack three weeks’ work into one was invariably a precursor to stalking the Most Important Boss in the room and bravely expounding in detail exactly what was wrong with the way they were running things.

It was only after this happened three Christmases running that I adopted the strategy of ordering a friend to escort me from the building at 10.30pm before I could climb on to my soapbox.

I am not normally such a klutz, but it took me a long time to gain the insight that Christmas is really stressful, and December is not a normal month. Be gentle on yourself. Sometimes cancelling that drink, party or shopping expedition and curling up on the sofa will be the most productive action you can take.

If you are like me, it also helps to recognise who and what is likely to bring out irrational behaviour and do your best in advance to neutralise the effects.

My absolutely most effective method of reducing stress at Christmas: operate the Christmas cut-off. Mine kicks in on the evening of the 23 December. If a chore or task isn’t done by then, it doesn’t get done because I take Christmas Eve off and don’t do anything more stressful than heat up a mince pie.

To get that Christmas glow, you have to take the time to anticipate, appreciate and relax into Christmas. This may mean your Christmas is not “perfect” – but it will be a true holiday.

Elisabeth Wilson is a counsellor and psycho- therapist and author of Stress Proof Your Life (Infinite Ideas, £12.99).

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