I don’t find Christmas very stressful.
To be fair, I’m a child-free grown up with a very supportive partner so we’re pretty good at navigating Christmas without too much stress. Our biggest issue is usually making it around all the families on Christmas day so we can see everyone but Mr Smaggle doesn’t drink so he tends to happily ferry me around while I do a wine and beer tour of our family homes. It’s grand.
None of this happens by accident though, there’s lots of careful planning involved. For example, Mr Smaggle is an introvert and only has a few hours of solid people contact time in him per day before he stops being able to communicate effectively from pure exhaustion so we need to spend that time wisely. Me? I can’t get enough of Christmas celebrations. Often he’ll drop me over to my parents house nice and early so I can get the full Smaggle Christmas experience. Day drinking and listening to the Mariah Carey Christmas album while making gourmet food in the kitchen. He’ll come back a few hours later in time for lunch and he’ll have a lovely time, because he’s well charged and ready to be around people. It’s little things like this that help make the day enjoyable for everyone.
Every family is different and you need to come up with systems that work for you but here are a few things to think about this Christmas if you want to survive the holiday season with your sanity in tact.
1. Do what you want to do but try to make your family a priority
Theoretically, I’d love to have a quiet Christmas with just Mr Smaggle and myself in Melbourne without having to travel anywhere but to be honest, I really love Christmas with my family. I also still have three grandparents (I know, it’s like science fiction!) and I want to be there for whatever Christmases they have left. So for the next few years at least, I’m making that a priority. Do what works for your family. If packing the kids into the car for a week long trip up/down the coast of Australia is more trouble than it’s worth, give yourself a year off here and there and visit the family at a different time of year.
2. Give yourself a set amount of indulgent days
If you’re the type of person who needs to watch their weight (aren’t we all?), I have a fabulous tip from a listener of Straight & Curly. Jodie says to choose 10 indulgent occasions over the holiday season where you can eat and drink whatever you like and then you just eat healthily the rest of the time. Christmas and New Year will obviously be two of those occasions and then you have 8 occasions over December and January in which to play with. I love this concept because you get to enjoy yummy food and drink without doing too much damage to your health. Most people also respond very well to boundaries so if you put those in place before the season starts, you’ll have a better chance of sticking to them.
3. Don’t participate in gift giving if it’s not your thing
I buy presents for my immediate family, Mr Smaggle and Mr Smaggle’s immediate family. That’s it. My best mate doesn’t even get a present. I just chose not to participate in extra gift giving. I’d much rather take a bottle of wine to friend’s house and spend time with them rather than buy them an obligatory gift that I’m not even sure they’ll even like. It also saves me ending up with a bunch of stuff after Christmas day that I probably won’t use. If have to buy a present for someone, I always make sure it’s consumable. A bottle of wine or something delicious and edible, that way it can be eaten or re-gifted very easily and there’s less crap that ends up in landfill after the Christmas season.
4. Get on board with January catch ups
Everyone panics about catching up in December. What’s wrong with January? It’s a great time of year to hang out. Lots of people are still off work, the weather in Australia is beautiful and everyone is more relaxed after the business of Christmas. Leave your catch ups for January and do the least amount of stuff possible in December.
5. Don’t leave everything to the last minute
It’s only half way through November… you could easily get all your Christmas shopping done before December. Why not aim to do that? Full admission: I won’t be doing mine until the week before Christmas because we have to drive to Canberra and Mr Smaggle’s car is the smallest car in the world so presents literally won’t fit in the tiny boot. If you don’t have this issue, get cracking on that shopping. Do as much of it online as you can so you don’t have to go to the shops. I went into the city on the weekend in Melbourne and it was out of control already. Try to avoid the Christmas crush and get your shopping done now.
This week on Straight and Curly, Kelly and I talking about the holiday season and how to survive it. You know where to find it – podcast apps and all that jazz!