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Have a peaceful Christmas

Expert tips for dealing with the pressures of the festive season

In the words of Perry Como, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. It’s that time of year when we all rush around madly buying presents for loved ones and stocking up on festive food and drink. But for many people, it can be a time of stress and anxiety rather than fun and excitement.

“Christmas is a stressful time for many of us because there is so much pressure to pack everything into this time of year,” says Ray Sadoun, a mental health and addiction recovery specialist with OK Rehab ( “We are expected to spend an excessive amount of money on presents, catch up with all our friends and family, and get involved in as many festive activities as possible. While some of these things may seem fun, the joy of Christmas can be taken away when we are expected to be perfect.”

Rhiannon Bates, mindset, business and PR coach, and founder of Garnet PR (, says: “While we all want to make up for the disappointment of recent Christmases, if Covid-19 has taught us anything it’s the importance of self-care. Take some time over the holidays to rest, reset and do what you love, ‘filling up your cup’, and make the so-called ‘perfect’ Christmas one where you are relaxed and happy, ready to go into the New Year feeling great.” Here, Ray and Rhiannon offer some tips for how to reduce stress over the festive period.

Get your presents early

“If you’re the type of person to panic buy gifts on Christmas Eve, you’re probably used to feeling incredibly stressed every Christmas season,” says Ray. “I would strongly recommend that you start to buy your presents very early – preferably November or the start of December. That way, if you’re struggling for ideas or you change your mind about a gift, you still have time to fix it.”

Empower yourself to say “no”

“No doesn’t have to be a dirty word!” says Rhiannon. “Lean into your feelings and accept them, giving yourself permission to say no if you want to. Don’t want to go to that party? Say no. Don’t want to cook for 10 people and have to do all the clearing up? Say no and book the local pub. Do what makes you feel good. There are no ‘have-to-dos’ and sometimes saying no, even if it’s hard or doesn’t come naturally, is the best thing you can do for your own wellbeing.”

Set a budget

“It’s so easy to overspend at Christmas time, and the best way to avoid this is by creating a budget for yourself,” says Ray. “Before December hits, decide how much you’re going to spend on each person for presents and how much you’re willing to spend on activities. This will reduce any financial stress, helping you to enjoy your purchases without feeling guilty.”

Take time for a proper break

“Over the past 18 months the lines between work and home life have become increasingly blurred, with the majority of people working from home,” says Rhiannon. “It is especially important to make sure that over the Christmas break, work/life boundaries are clear and strong, and you have time to disengage your brain and just be you again. Pop that out of office on, turn off all work notifications on your devices or better yet delete any apps completely, and avoid your office during your time off. Give yourself both a mental and physical break. We all need it and this will benefit you so much more in the long run than spreading yourself too thin and not actually being ‘present’ to enjoy the holidays.”

Lower your expectations

“The main reason we feel pressured at Christmas time is that we have high expectations of how the holiday should go,” says Ray. “To avoid this, try lowering your expectations and being pleased with whatever happens. For example, instead of expecting to do three activities a week and catch up with every friend you’ve ever had, you could settle with one activity a week and some quality time with each of your closest friends.”

Take time for you

“Taking ‘you’ time over the holidays is essential to having an enjoyable Christmas and making sure you’re in a peak state going into 2022,” says Rhiannon. “Get clear on what your version of fun is and what fills up your energetic cup. Some people, particularly introverts, may find their energy is restored from alone time, others, especially extroverts, may actually thrive from socialising. The important thing is to let go of the guilt of wanting what you want and embrace it, while being mindful of those around you. So whether it’s snuggling on the sofa with a book, a winter walk with the dog or getting together with friends and family, do whatever it is that is fun for you, makes you feel great, inspired and full of energy.”

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