Christmas is just around the corner, the twinkle of lights on a cold December night, the smell of mulled wine and mince pies is in the air, and the excitement of gathering with friends and family at the end of a long year is building.

But for all its magic and joy, the pressure and expectation of creating a ‘perfect’ Christmas can leave us feeling anxious, stressed and tired in the lead-up to the big day.

We’ve put together some helpful tips for a calmer, more mindful approach to the festive season that will hopefully leave you feeling more joyful on Christmas Day.

Setting intentions and boundaries
Our traditions and rituals of Christmas become embedded in our childhood and gently shift as our lives change. From new arrivals to lost loved ones, changes in location, health and circumstances all contribute to the ebb and flow of our Christmases.

Take some time to consider the aspects of your current traditions that you do and don’t enjoy and reflect if they match up to the kind of Christmas you hope to have this year.

Has your year been busy with work commitments, and are you relishing spending quality time with loved ones? Or are you craving a quieter, simpler Christmas?

Setting an intention and considering the boundaries you might need to place to fulfil your needs (such as gently saying no to select social commitments if you are craving some space in December) can help you feel calmer and more in control. Make a loose plan for December. Write a list of presents and food to buy, mark the calendar with social events and any craft or baking you hope to do and consider if there are tasks you can share to help shorten your to-do list.

Mindful decorating, wrapping and entertaining
When decorating your home for Christmas, try bringing a touch of the outside in. Head to your local park or woodland and look for fallen branches, greenery or pine cones. Dry slices of oranges in a low oven and thread them onto string for a garland.

Try a new craft, such as calligraphy to make your own gift tags, master origami paper stars or make your own Christmas cards.

Consider alternative ways of wrapping gifts that minimise plastic waste, such as the Japanese art of furoshiki, using pieces of fabric to create a stylish and sustainable alternative to traditional wrapping paper.

If you are hosting Christmas, you might feel pressured to create a perfect feast. If you are not used to cooking for larger numbers, this can make us feel nervous and stressed. Try preparing parts of the meal in advance and popping them in the freezer, or use ready-made alternatives from your local independent food shops that will help reduce food miles and allow you to spend more time with loved ones and less time in the kitchen.

Revel in the delight of digging out your christmas decorations from years gone by, conjuring happy memories of Christmas past, whilst reducing our carbon-footprint by resisting buying yet more new decorations!

Looking after yourself at Christmas
In the run-up to Christmas, we can get so carried away pleasing others that we neglect ourselves, often arriving at Christmas Day feeling tired and frazzled. Try to maintain healthy habits such as your daily walk, plenty of sleep and hydration and prioritise a few healthy meals amongst the rich festive food. If you have time, batch-cook things like soup or stews, so you have them on standby for days when cooking feels like a chore.

Try to minimise your time on social media if you begin to feel the pull of comparison – remember that social media usually only provides a glimpse or highlight of someone’s life rather than the whole story.

Remember to schedule time for your own self-care that keeps you feeling balanced or nourished – a hot, relaxing bath, gentle yoga, a walk outdoors, or a short meditation. When we are tired and stressed, we often feel like we don’t have time for these simple activities, but carving out time, even only 10 minutes can help replenish and restore us.

Focus on the small moments of joy
One of the kindest things we can do for ourselves is to let go of the notion of the ‘perfect’ Christmas. Setting high expectations can leave us sad and disappointed if we run out of time or energy to create everything we’d hoped to do. Try to be realistic with the time you have to prepare in December.

Bumps in the road happen in the run-up to Christmas – late arrivals, illness, forgetting the cranberry sauce, that dish you’ve spent hours making going wrong. Accepting the hiccups rather than getting lost in sadness or anger will help us keep a more balanced perspective.

Instead of trying to create the perfect meal, party or occasion, look for the small moments of joy and connection taking place around you – the way your child or loved one’s face lights up with happiness when receiving a thoughtful gift or that first embrace with a friend or family member you’ve not seen in years.

The tiny moments of connection that will help make your Christmas feel truly meaningful and memorable.

Enjoy a happy Christmas.

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