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December is upon us, and if you’re feeling like you’ve hopped on a runaway train with failing brakes, you’re not alone.

The ‘silly’ season is in full swing, and the lead-up to Christmas is known to be one of the most stressful times of the year. Presents to buy, events to attend, and the intensity of spending time with family can all build the pressure. Here are our top tips on reducing the stress and overwhelm, and finding the joy again in Christmas. 

Manage expectations

The adverts and Christmas songs would have you believe Christmas is a time filled with nothing but happiness and good times. We can pressure ourselves into feeling like everything needs to be perfect – from the extravagant feast you spend weeks preparing to the pile of sparkling presents under the tree. 

Being realistic and managing expectations around the big day can help alleviate stress. Small mishaps and forgotten things are just part of life, and accepting that things don’t have to be magazine picture-perfect can help you to relax and enjoy yourself. 

Share the load 

Already overwhelmed by the mental load of tasks to do in preparation for the festive season? If you’re hosting a large number of people for Christmas Day or trying to be in charge of every present purchased, card sent and event attended, the mental load can be exhausting. 

Take a moment to stop and write a list of everything you need to get done, and think about what you can delegate to those around you. Could your kids help with Christmas card writing? Could your partner be in charge of some of the presents and items to purchase? Sharing the load and making it more of a team effort is a great way to involve the whole family and reduce your overwhelm. 

Focus on the right people 

Families can be tricky things, and family dynamics can cause a huge amount of stress. 

Whether you’re dreading spending hours with family members you don’t get along with, or are already anticipating feelings of loss around the people you will miss out on seeing, it’s normal to feel stressed about what feels unavoidable. 

While time with some people and time away from others is a given, try to give yourself a feeling of control by also scheduling in some time with the right people – the ones you know are guaranteed to boost your mood. Even if it’s just booking in a coffee with a good friend, knowing you have something to look forward to that is within your control can be a big boost. 

Create your own Christmas 

Rather than being led by what you feel you ‘should’ do for Christmas and the holidays, create your own version of festivities. Think about what works for your budget, and your family. 

Perhaps this year you’d be happier having a picnic at the beach than hosting a sit-down lunch at home for a dozen people. Or maybe it’s more budget-appropriate to have a ‘Secret Santa’ approach to gift giving, rather than buying for each and every family member?  

Remember, there’s no ‘right’ way to do Christmas, and creating a new approach and finding new family traditions can make it feel more fun. 

Schedule in some downtime 

Already feel like your December diary is full? Take another look. Is there an opportunity to schedule in some downtime for yourself? 

This could be taking an hour to go for a walk on your own, booking in a massage, or promising to down tools for a few hours one weekend to watch a Christmas movie with your loved ones. 

Knowing you have some opportunities to pause and catch your breath can really help with your capacity to cope when things are feeling chaotic. 

Acknowledge your emotions

It’s normal to feel like you’re on an emotional rollercoaster. Happy, sad, angry, hopeful, joyful, stressed.

Acknowledge the way you’re feeling and try to accept it. If you aren’t feeling good, think about what you can change. 

Try to practice gratitude for the little things that don’t cost money. Reading a story with your kids. Hugs with a person you’ve been missing. Listening to Christmas music and thinking about the good things in your life. 

Being present and focusing on the small moments might just be the best present you receive this year. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or like you can’t cope this Christmas, get in touch with us to discuss options for finding the support you need. 

If you need urgent help, contact Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.