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Tips to help you through xmasChristmas should be to be a time of fun, celebration, family, good cheer and relaxation. However, for so many, Christmas can increase stress and anxiety, and it can also be an incredibly lonely time, even for many who are surrounded by family and friends. The causes of Christmas time angst, can be numerous and varied, but there are some things that can be done to assist in providing the peace and good cheer we all seek.

1. Consider what YOU want

It’s common to be swept along with what everyone else wants you to do without ever taking time to consider what you actually want. It’s therefore a great starting point to ask yourself “what do I want to do this Christmas?” Once you know what you would like to do this Christmas, ask yourself “What actions, calls and conversations do I need to take, make or organise to create my ideal Christmas”. You may have to make some compromises, but if you know what you want, you have a better chance of creating it. Spending more time doing the things you want to do is a good way to reduce stress and anxiety, and increase enjoyment of your Christmas season which you deserve.

2. Don’t over-inflate your expectations

Don’t expect to create a ‘perfect’ Christmas. The most important thing is for you and your family to have fun, and do what’s important to you. Decide with your family that the focus of Christmas will be fun, rest and relaxation as opposed to being centered around just gifts. Spending quality time together can really be the best present. Remember, if something does not go quite to plan, it really isn’t the end of the world.

3. Plan ahead

Too many people spend weeks worrying about getting their shopping done. Write a list, shop on line, and incorporate a bit of present buying within your regular shopping. As for presents, a great tip is to always have an emergency supply, just a few small gifts just in case someone arrives unexpectedly with a present for you. Alternatively making things yourself if you enjoy craft or baking is also a positive distraction and meaningful for the recipient knowing that you spent time creating something. Printing photo’s and making a fun memory board or photo album for loved ones is also a great gift in this digital age, and it’s not too costly.

4. Don’t try and do everything

If you are responsible for cooking and hosting the Christmas Day festivities, don’t take it all upon yourself. Make sure that you delegate! Ask other family members to bring different courses of the meal to help you, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember its always okay to say ‘no’ to requests or demands you don’t want or you feel able to fulfill. If you struggle saying ‘NO’ then practice softening the same message by saying something like “That’s a great idea, but let’s look at doing that next Christmas”.

5. You time

Make sure you have some time for YOU, even if it’s just allowing yourself to watch a special TV show that you really want to see, reading a book, having half an hour quiet time or just having a breath of fresh air. Over the Christmas break also be kind to yourself. Spend at least one day relaxing.

6. Don’t be on your own

If you are concerned about being lonely over Christmas, maybe consider inviting a few others over who are in the same position as you or suggest getting together at a restaurant or hotel for a Christmas lunch. If this isn’t possible, consider doing some voluntary work on Christmas Day so that you are surrounded by other people, whilst also doing a good deed. The Salvation Army (www.salvationarmy.org.uk/volunteer-for-us) are always seeking volunteers, especially at Christmas. Volunteers will be asked to do an array of jobs from sorting donated presents out to serving festive meals.

7. Visit relatives or friends

Remember to consider family members, friends or neighbours who might be alone, or even those who find the festive period difficult. Just calling in to see them can help them and also knowing you have helped, help you too.

8. Laugh

Try to incorporate fun and laughter into situations during the Christmas period (particularly when it comes to family tensions). Laughter can release tension and laughing is good for you. Watching comedies, playing fun team games that will make you laugh such as charades and recalling memories from the past when you laughed uncontrollably will all help to lighten and lift the mood whilst also helping you to feel happier and less stressed.

9. Keep active

Taking a walk, exercising to an exercise DVD, downloading an app or visiting the gym is still important over Christmas, and a positive way to improve your physical and mental health. There are also activities you can take part in over Christmas such as Park Run, who organise free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in. Some Park Run’s are even operating on Christmas and New Year’s Day so check out their website for more details: www.parkrun.org.uk/events/events/

10. Mindfulness

Ten minutes of Mindfulness practice each day could help to keep you calm and relaxed. Headspace, Calm and The Mindfulness App are great places for you to start!

11. Planning a New Year

The great thing about the Christmas season is that it also leads us towards the end of a year, and start of a brand new one, which is a great opportunity to consider goals and exciting plans for the New Year. Setting goals will give you purpose, direction and a positive distraction. Goals don’t have to be huge, they can be small things such as reading a book you’ve been meaning to read for a longtime, starting a new hobby, visiting someone or a particular place, clearing out draws an cupboards, going to watch a theatre production, charity work, applying for an online course or joining a local gym. Anything at all you’d like to achieve or try this coming New Year. Write your goals down and just work on one at a time, diary the result and work on the next.

12. Support helplines if you need it

You are never really alone at Christmas. If you feel you need to talk, need help or support the following charities can offer support:-

Age UK – 0800 055 6112
Anxiety UK – 0344 477 5774
Childline – 0800 1111
Crisis – 0300 636 1967
MIND – 0300 123 3393
No Panic – 0844 967 4848
Samaritans – 116 123
SANE – 0300 304 7000

We would like to wish you a magical Christmas, filled with love, peace and happiness and the most wonderfully happy, productive, healthy and happy New Year.