It’s supposed to be the most fun day of the year – but for those organising it all, the lead up to Christmas Day can be anything but. Here’s our handy guide to help you feel more festive and less frazzled.
1. Share the load. Christmas is meant to be the best day of the year. Given this, it's hard not to fall into the trap of setting huge expectations – then feeling super-stressed and underwhelmed. To avoid this situation, planning ahead is essential - and get everyone in the family involved in the preparations. Giving everyone a job, from tidying up before the event, wrapping presents, laying the table or keeping children entertained, helps everyone feel included and takes the pressure off you.
2. Set the ground rules. If you’re going to stay with relatives or friends, work out beforehand who will do and pay for what, as well as how long you'll be there. Every family has their own Christmas traditions, so work out the day's timetable before the children rip open their presents. If you’re hosting Christmas, your rules should apply but if they don't – count to 10 and try to let it go.
3. Stick to your budget. Easier said than done, but overspending at Christmas just creates more stress come January. So have a budget for Christmas and stick to it. It’s good for children to learn that they can’t have everything they see and studies show that people prefer meaningful presents regardless of how much they cost. As they say, it’s the thought that counts!
4. Tame the tipples. A little alcohol can be relaxing, but don’t forget that it’s a depressant, so too much can make people moody and aggressive. And there’s no proven remedy for a hangover - apart from not drinking too much in the first place! Of course, it goes without saying that if you’re going out for a few Christmas drinks, make sure your plans include a taxi or negotiate who’s driving before you start.
5. Watch out for the little’uns. Christmas can be particularly hazardous for young children. Toddlers can choke on small items such as plastic toys from crackers and small button batteries – so check what's on the floor repeatedly. Try to keep small children away from the kitchen (which can often be busier over Christmas) and the same goes for the barbecue or outdoor fires.
If you're shopping for toys, make sure they're age appropriate so that a small child won't choke on it. And if you're visiting over Christmas, remember that other people's homes may not be child-proofed.
6. Give our firefighters a holiday too. The New Zealand Fire Service is kept extra busy at Christmas time. So blow out candles, keep them away from children and recycle or dispose of used wrapping paper. Check Christmas lights for frayed wires, loose connections or broken sockets before you put them up. Turn everything off at night, including fairy lights and kitchen appliances.
And remember, never leave food that's cooking unattended in the kitchen, and don't cook when you're drunk – both of these behaviors significantly increase the risk of fire.
7. Take to the shade. It can be lovely to organise gatherings of friends and family in the garden, on the deck or at the beach at this time of year. If you do, make sure there’s enough shade for everyone – and lots of water to keep guests hydrated. Getting sunburnt can increase the risk of skin cancer in later life and no one wants to get sun or heatstroke!
8. Schedule some ‘me’ time. One way to deal with the Yuletide stress is to book a yoga class or nip out for a walk, jog or swim. Exercise helps to reduce anxiety and mild depression and boost self esteem – all of which are valuable at any time of the year. And try not to skimp on the sleep (easy to do with parties etc.) because you'll feel less able to cope with Christmas Day.
9. Be prepared. Make sure you have enough prescription tablets and supplies to get you through the Christmas period – and if you’re going away, stock up on sunscreen, insect repellant and other essential items before you go. Then you can truly relax once you get away.
10. Relax and enjoy! Most of us worry that we’ve eaten too much during the holidays – especially too much sugar and fat. We probably have, but it’s Christmas, so give yourself a break for a few days. Try to include lower fat, higher protein snacks such as nuts, as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables - and aim to fit in some exercise over the holidays, even if it’s just a leisurely stroll or swim.