• Christmas, as much as we might look forward to it, can also be a hugely stressful time

  • Why not give yourself the gift of self-care this year? Coach Eleanor Marker shares her 5 simple tips to cultivate festive calm

Tis the season to be merry...unless you are the one responsible for making sure everyone else is having a good time! From planning the food, buying the gifts and even staying up late to make sure Santa brings his presents on time, it can often be more of an exhausting season than a festive one.

And the pressure for it all to go seamlessly can feel overwhelming. The heady combination of alcohol, family and the pressure to have a good time can understandably lead to feelings of anxiety and moments of panic. So how can we best prepare for Christmas to ensure that a merry time is had by all?

Beware perfectionism

Firstly, it is essential to recognise your inner perfectionist and tell him to take a hike! Your first step in achieving Christmas wellbeing is to understand that inevitably some things just will not go smoothly. It is part of the human condition to fail and greeting those moments with self compassion is so important. 

How you approach these glitches in your day is the difference between the uncooked turkey leading to a full on emotional meltdown or it becoming a funny Christmas story to tell next year. 

It is OK for things to go wrong, and it is just as OK to let this go and move onto the nearest minced pie with sangfroid.

Silence your inner critic

And linked to this is the second piece of advice and that is to be aware not only of your inner perfectionist but also your inner critic. Be careful of that voice inside you that makes you feel guilty for over-indulging. 

Christmas is a time of excess and that can make us feel uncomfortable, and I don’t just mean by having to loosen our belts after dinner. Many of us associate Christmas with overindulging in food and drink and this can then become associated with body negativity, inner fat shaming or self-reproach. But I would like you to reframe this period as one of indulgence, not overindulgence. Silence your inner critic for a couple of days and enjoy the festivities without guilt or recriminations. 

New Year is the time for active plans to make positive change; Christmas is a time for pleasure and connection.

Schedule in self-care

Thirdly, plan for you. It is a cliche, but no less true, that you cannot pour from an empty cup and this is no more so than at Christmas, so within your Christmas to-do list, you need to schedule and prioritise self-care moments. 

These can be whatever feels right to you, whether it is a candlelit bath, a quiet walk with the dogs or a mammoth lie in, make the time to create these gifts for yourself. And try to make these guilt-free pleasures. 

If your self-care involves chocolates and Netflix and this is how you relax during this busy time, then we won’t tell anyone if you don’t!

Create your calm

The fourth route towards Christmas calm is to recognise that is is often the sensory overload that causes our feelings of overwhelm, or even panic. The noise, the lights, the TV, the wrapping paper strewing the floor...it can be hard to feel Zen when you are surrounded by seemingly unbridled chaos! 

So do what you can to create some calm amidst the clamour, even if that means exiting for a few minutes into your room, lying on your bed and taking a few relaxing breaths. Lower your cardiovascular rate, calm your brain activity and settle your heart rate with some counted breathing or a gentle focus on the sensation of your breath. Then re-enter the fray!

Focus on the positives

Lastly, focus on the positives around you. Often the negative moments can blare out at us at Christmas: that disappointing present giving, the feelings of loneliness or loss often associated with this time of year or the challenges of difficult family dynamics. Sometimes these moments accumulate like a pyramid of Ferrero Rocher, just waiting to collapse. 

Instead, take some deep breaths, look around you and notice the sights, sounds and smells of Christmas. Immersing yourself mindfully in the moment is an amazing way to create a pause in difficult emotions. And into that moment of crafted pause, add in a positive thought. Perhaps this is something that has gone well, something that is truly wonderful or a moment of unexpected joy. Grab those wins and celebrate them.

Incorporating these five approaches into your holiday season can help to minimise both those feelings of overwhelm and also those moments of negativity that can rush up on us, sabotaging our Christmas joy. Silence your inner perfectionist and critical voice, take time for you, create some calm space and celebrate all your wins, and we all stand a chance of having a very Merry Christmas!

Eleanor Marker is a verified Welldoing online coach

Further reading

8 tips for healthy boundaries at Christmas

Managing negative body image during the festive season

The power of taking a pause: why slowing down is far from failure

Understanding your self-critic: how to stop being so hard on yourself