How to take the stress out of your Christmas

The Christmas holidays provide the opportunity for some end of year respite full of games, presents, festive food and most importantly lots of precious time with our families. However, for many of us the festive season comes with unwanted pressures that leave us more likely to be pulling our hair out than pulling on crackers. The Christmas holidays provide the opportunity for some end of year respite full of games, presents, festive food and most importantly lots of precious time with our families. However, for many of us the festive season comes with unwanted pressures that leave us more likely to be pulling our hair out than pulling on crackers.

There are so many different reasons that people get stressed at Christmas but the most common reasons tend to revolve around buying presents, preparing food and planning for guests. Nobody should be stressed at Christmas but unfortunately they often are; in fact the rates of heart attacks and divorce proceedings are at their highest point around the Christmas period, more than any other time of year.

In this article we will offer some crucial advice on how a little bit of foresight and some detailed planning can help to make your Christmas Day far more enjoyable, not only for your guests but for you too.

Shopping and gifts

One of the biggest hurdles to enjoying the festive season is the dreaded Christmas shop. The crowds of people, lack of parking spaces , gigantic queues and wallet busting prices are enough to drive anyone to tears in the weeks leading up to Christmas. However, there are a few ways that you can avoid High Street shopping all together or at least reduce the amount of time you need to spend out there.

1 – Take advantage of offers

How many times have you seen a present at a really great price, decided not to get it just yet and then later had to pay well over the odds, or, been left running around like a headless chicken because you’ve forgotten about it and now don’t know what to get them? Leaving things to the last minute causes unwanted anxiety and stress but can be avoided by keeping an eye out for offers all year round. Many stores will have various sales throughout the year; you could even begin shopping for the following year in the January sales. As well as spreading the stress of buying presents, this also helps to spread the cost if you spend out a little bit each month rather than one big spend in December.

2– Order online

For many people, the most frustrating aspect of Christmas shopping is trawling through various stores trying to find that one elusive gift for a friend or family, and no matter how hard you look you just can’t seem to find it.

By using the internet to shop you can search for the presents you need from the comfort of your own home. You can compare prices through websites like Google Shopping, read reviews from other buyers and even use an online auction site like eBay to battle it out with other shoppers for the best possible price out there.

While shopping online has many benefits you should remember that often discounts like those for NUS members, the military and NHS employees are only applicable in store.

3 – Lists

One of the biggest causes of stress at Christmas time is so-called ‘gift anxiety’. At its heart the act of giving gifts to each other is supposed to be a generous and enjoyable task but unfortunately it can bring about some unwanted feelings and pressures as well.

The person purchasing the gift might be unsure about whether the person already has the gift, would prefer something else or possibly might even be offended by the present. And it’s not just the person buying the gift who has pressure. The recipient might feel they have to pretend that they like the present they are receiving, and also have to go through the rigmarole of finding receipts and taking it back to the shop it was purchased from if they don’t want it, or have to keep it in their home so as not to offend the person who gave it to them when they really can’t stand it.

However, there is a solution to this. You’re never too old to make a Christmas list and they can actually makes the job of buying presents far easier for everyone concerned. These days, you can even put together lists online using websites like Giftster, which allow you to include direct links to where the product is being sold online and also allows you to leave a star rating according to how much you want it.


The pressure at Christmas isn’t only related to financial issues and the responsibility of hosting Christmas celebrations can weigh heavily on your shoulders. While Christmas might be a fairly low key affair for some, for others – particularly those with large families – there is a lot to think about.

1 – Figure out the numbers

Probably the most important aspect of hosting the day will be working out who is coming. As early as you can you should contact your friends and family to find out if they will be attending, who else they are bringing with them, whether they would like to stay the night, if they are bringing any food, drink or party games with them and whether they have any special dietary requirements. You should do this well in advance. You might even find that you’ve been let off the hook and that one of your relatives would prefer to host this year’s festivities instead!

2– Seating

An important reason for finding out the number of guests early on is so that you know how many hungry stomachs you will have to feed and subsequently how many seats and how large a table you will need. You will also have to think about items such as cutlery, table clothes and table trimmings. However, if you do have a last minute change of plans and numbers increase you could always ask one of your guests if they would mind bringing something with them.

3 – Decorations

If you’re planning on making your house look like a winter wonderland then start the job early. If you have a decorations box then have a quick sort through and make sure everything is still in working order, or if you don’t have one then maybe ask friends and family if they have any decorations you could borrow for a short time.

Decorating the home can be one of the least stressful parts of the run up to Christmas and with a little Christmas music it might actually be fun and even the children might want to get involved.


Arguably the most difficult part of the festivities is the Christmas dinner. With so many people to feed and lots of different dishes to prepare it can be a nightmare to get everything sorted without losing your marbles. However, through the years we’ve learned a few shortcuts which can significantly reduce your kitchen stress.

1 – Stick to the traditional menu

The classic Christmas dinner includes a light starter like smoked salmon or prawn cocktail, followed by a roast turkey with stuffing, roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, parsnips, Brussels sprouts and gravy with Christmas pudding for desert.

While you might be tempted to deviate from these traditional choices and try something more adventurous you don’t want to risk upsetting your guests when they find out there is no turkey or Christmas pudding. Although you might fancy a change from the usual Christmas dinner, your guests are probably very much looking forward to it.

That said, depending on dietary requirements you may have to search the web for some inspiration; websites like Pinterest have plenty of ideas for diabetic friendly, gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan Christmas dinners.

2– Prepare in advance

There is absolutely no need to prepare everything in the morning as a fair proportion of your Christmas dinner can be prepped well in advance and stored in a freezer until you need it.

Parsnips, potatoes, sauces, stuffing and some deserts can be stored in airtight containers, so all you have left to worry about is the meat.

Simply begin moving containers from the freezer into the fridge on Christmas Eve and leave them to defrost over night. Prepare your turkey in the evening and leave it to sit in the fridge over night before you put it in the oven first thing in the morning.

3 – Ask for help

Don’t forget that while you may feel like all the pressure is on you, your friends and family all want you to have an enjoyable day and for you to be part of their day, not just slaving away in the kitchen on your own. So don’t be afraid to ask for a bit of help, whether it’s helping to cook, washing up dishes or bringing some pre-made food, snacks or beverages to enjoy.

For more tips and advice on making the most of your time with family, learning how to wind down and relax and managing your work / life balance, visit our tips and advice page.

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