Have yourself a merry stress-free Christmas

Specialist Nurse Adviser at Bupa UK
01 December 2017

Christmas cards often depict idyllic scenes of cosy log fires, perfectly prepared food and piles of presents. But in reality, Christmas can often be a time of stress and worry.

Woman sat on the sofa in Christmas socks, with her feet up on the table

With endless to-do lists, busy festive gatherings and numerous other preparations, your stress levels can often rise. This might be especially true if you have a large or complicated family set-up, children to please, lots of travelling to do or financial strains.

If it’s all starting to feel a bit too much, take five minutes to read our top tips for a stress-free Christmas. A little planning can make a world of difference in your run-up to the big day.

Don’t underestimate having a ‘to-do’ list!

With so much to plan and do, your mind may be racing, causing you to feel stressed and unable to concentrate or sleep properly. Get on top of things by making a ‘to-do’ list. Write down everything you need to do, or perhaps make a couple of mini lists such as food shopping, Christmas presents and the dates of festive events. Breaking things down and tackling them one job at a time can help you to focus and feel less overwhelmed.

Try to identify when you’re at your most productive. For example, if you know that you’re a morning person, plan to do some of your most important jobs then.

Food glorious food

The pressure can feel very real when it comes to the high expectations of preparing a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. It might be a part of Christmas you enjoy which is great, but if it’s not, there are a few things you can do to make it easier.

If someone is coming to dinner and they have special dietary requirements, find out in good time and ask them what they would like to eat. Perhaps they can recommend (or even bring) something they usually buy for this occasion (ie a nut roast if they’re a vegetarian).

It can be a bit pricey, but it might be an option to go out for Christmas dinner to a restaurant or hotel. Or if you want to cook at home but find the ingredients overwhelming, there are some food companies that will deliver everything you need straight to your door.

Alternatively ask your guests to bring a dish, a pudding or drinks so that you just need to focus on the main course. Remember, you don’t have to take it all on by yourself.

Conquer the Christmas gifts

The closer it gets to Christmas, the busier the shops inevitably become. If you’ve left your shopping a little late, consider less stressful ways to conquer your gift list. Shopping online is a great alternative to packed shopping centres and high streets. Or if you have an interest in craft, using your talents and spending time making some gifts might give your brain some much needed time-out.

Feeling as if you have to buy lots of presents can also be stressful, especially if finances are tight. One option is to agree a budget with your family and buy each other one thoughtful gift within the allocated amount.

Writing Christmas cards and wrapping presents can be time-consuming, so pick a date in your diary to sit down and commit to writing them in one go. Alternatively, do a few each night to spread the load. Make it into a nice occasion – you could put some music on or a festive film to help get you in the mood. And make sure you have everything you need such as stamps and addresses to hand so you don’t lose your momentum.

Ask for help

You don’t have to deliver Christmas all by yourself. But do ask for help and get the family involved. Delegate tasks to other family members or try to get the kids interested in the preparations of Christmas. Plan ahead so you know what you need to get done and who’s responsible for what. Working as a team can be a really nice way of feeling the festive spirit.

It can be tempting to say yes to everything – and with the time of year – you might find you’re getting a lot of requests. While you want to make sure everyone has a great time, it’s important that you do too. So know what your limits and boundaries are and when to politely yet firmly say no things you can’t take on.

Give yourself a breather

If even the thought of a houseful at Christmas is enough to cause you stress and anxiety, think about some quick escapes if it all gets too much. Take a short walk, take out the rubbish or simply retreat to your bedroom for a few calming deep breaths.

If you’re going to a family member’s house for Christmas, think ahead to any travel arrangements such as getting train tickets. Also agree how long you’re going to stay at your family’s house or if you’re going to get a hotel or B&B. For example you might love your brother but the prospect of staying for a few days without your own space feels difficult, in which case a B&B might hold the key. Thinking ahead to what you would like and are able to do within the situation will help you feel more in control and prepared for a great few days.

Look after yourself

Throughout the festive season, make sure you look after yourself. Go easy on caffeine and alcohol, keep hydrated and make sure you factor in some ‘me’ time. Even if it’s just a relaxing bath or listening to some calming music to unwind. Eat well, get enough sleep and do some exercise – physical activity is a great stress-buster. At such a busy time of year, being in good health will help you keep your stress levels down and energy levels up.

Manage relationships

High expectations of a perfect Christmas or all being together inside for a long period of time can cause tension. If you know there are certain issues between family or friends, avoid those conversation killers or topics that you know spark conflict. Try to be patient and polite, or perhaps sit yourself away from people who may increase your stress levels. Step outside for a few deep breaths if you do feel tense or stressed, instead of snapping or bickering.

Savour the day

Remember to have fun in the run-up to Christmas and on the day. Take photos, enjoy watching your loved ones open their gifts, and savour that glass of champagne or sherry. If you can, get out for a Christmas Day walk to get some fresh air and escape the house.

With a bit of planning, Christmas doesn’t have to be stressful. If things do go wrong, accept that you can’t always control everything – let go of small things and savour special moments. Keep in mind that others are in the same boat and may also feel stressed. Offer others a hand when and if you can.

We wish you a merry stress-free Christmas!




Here at Bupa we understand how important your family is. So with our family health insurance you can rest assured knowing that eligible treatment and support is available for your loved ones when they need it.

Fatmata Kamara
Specialist Nurse Adviser at Bupa UK

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