I love it, the chill in the air, the buzz around town, the twinkling of lights, the lot! It really is a magical time of year. But being honest, I know that it can also bring a hectic time of frantic running, overspending and feeling under pressure! I decided to create a list of some suggestions to help you prioritise your time, money, energy levels and attention, so that you can embrace the things that are truly important at this time of year.
1. Take time to handwrite Christmas cards.
Technology has made it so easy to send a quick generic text to wish all of our contacts a ‘one size fits all’ positive message for Christmas. But think how truly special the important people in your life will feel if you were to take the time to write a heartfelt message. I remember in my early teens, I received a Christmas card from someone who wrote ‘Thanks for being you’. One simple line made me feel so appreciated and seen for exactly who I was, and it has stuck with me to this very day still. So whether you tell your loved ones why you are grateful for them, or recall fond memories with them, your sincere couple of lines could make a massive difference to their Christmas, and beyond.
2. Declutter in early December.
Spend a day decluttering your living space before the decorations go up and present deliveries begin to arrive. If we were to be very honest, we could very easily and happily survive without many of our material possessions, which can cause excess clutter in our surroundings. This can affect our mental wellbeing, causing us to feel overwhelmed and lacking clarity – definitely not what we want for this time of the year! Donating to local charity shops is a great way to help others while sorting your home too; maybe some of the excess that you are clearing out might serve as a wonderful and reasonably priced gift for another person who may be financially struggling.
3. Set a limit on your spending.
Christmas is meant to be a time of enjoyment and laughter, not stress and worry. Be sure to budget early in December to avoid feeling under pressure towards the end of the month. Make allowances for food, presents and social events, and maybe even over-budget to allow for unexpected invitations. That way you might end up being pleasantly surprised at the end of the month if you have a little bit to spare! When it comes to present-buying, stay within your means. It’s a cliché, but it really is the thought that counts. You show you care by making it meaningful, not by spending massive amounts of money. When food shopping, remember that most supermarkets only close for 1-2 days, so there is no need to overspend out of fear.
4. Make or bake gifts.
Crafting or baking gifts is a beautiful way to let friends and family know that they are fondly thought of. To know that effort and love went into the creation of something special especially for them is part of the gift in itself also. It also benefits you, engaging with creative activities that you enjoy is therapeutic, so everyone’s a winner!
5. Offer your time as a gift.
Offer the precious gift of your time to loved ones as their Christmas present, and maybe even request the same back in return. Rather than adding more material goods to the lives of others, why not gift experiences and the opportunity to make memories together? Maybe tickets to a concert, or even just making a plan to set a date for a special lunch or dinner with a friend in January when you both have the time and opportunity to connect properly together.
6. Upkeep your self-care routine.
Mind yourself amidst the potential madness! People generally put themselves under more pressure during this month than at other times of the year; extra social events, less sleep, more rich food and often a higher intake of alcohol can all take its toll! Don’t get me wrong, these are all to be enjoyed! But try your best to maintain your regular routines also, exercise, adequate water intake, good food when possible, taking vitamins and catching up on sleep to help to keep your immune system in good shape and your energy levels in tact!
7. Be selective with your company.
It’s lovely to be thought of at this time of year, and to be invited to social occasions, but it is very easy to overcommit to events, often beyond our own limits in terms of our energy. Get-togethers are intended to be a fun experience, but if you are too tired to enjoy them, they could actually feel like a chore. Be careful not to overbook your diary, and be selective. Prioritise your time and energy for those you love, and for those who equally love and appreciate you in return.
8. It’s good to give back.
A few years ago, my family accidentally doubled up on ham when doing the food shopping. There wasn’t a hope of us ever using that amount of food over the time, so we donated the ham to a shelter. The workers at the shelter were delighted saying that this would be perfect for using for sandwiches in the days after Christmas too. I hadn’t ever considered donating food at Christmas before that point, but now knowing how a small donation can go a long way, I would encourage it. The trolleys outside of the like of Dunnes Stores are a great idea, where you can donate extra food items from your shopping to be given to The Saint Vincent de Paul Society. A seemingly small donation could make a huge difference to the Christmas of another.
9. Stop and smell the mince pies!
In all the rushing around, it is actually easy to miss out on the beautiful, subtle experiences that present themselves at this time of year. Take for instance, two people who say that they experienced the Christmas lights in town. One person may be running from shop to shop, knowing that the lights are present, but being too preoccupied with the list of shops he/she needs to rush to before closing time to be able to fully be present to truly take in the lights. The other person, may take 5 calm minutes mid-shopping to simply walk, his/her only purpose being to look around and take in the twinkling lights. Two people in the same setting, with completely different experiences. Make sure to not let the magic pass you by!
10. Christmas is for children – you included!
Indulge your own inner child and allow yourself to enjoy the fun of the season! Whether it’s watching your favourite childhood movie, or lacing your hot chocolate with a ridiculous amount of marshmallows, these are exactly the simple pleasures that this season is all about! It’s also really therapeutic for our adult-self to reconnect with our inner child, again a win-win!
11. Give yourself the gift of time.
It is an obvious one to say to take time out, but easier said than done in such a busy time! Even just set aside a few minutes a day to read, stretch, meditate or listen to your favourite music, far from the maddening crowd! The days between Christmas and New Years are ideal to take a duvet day or to give yourself an afternoon to take yourself off on an adventure to enjoy doing what truly makes you happy – just for you.
12. Be realistic and gentle with your expectations.
Sometimes this time of year can cause us to put unfair pressure on ourselves. Some people may want to create picture-perfect moments and exhaust ourselves in the process without being able to be fully present in the moment to enjoy the experience. Others may compare Christmas to times gone by and feel disappointed if the day does not live up to previous standards. More may have lost loved ones and feel that Christmas has in turn lost its sparkle a little in their absence. Try to not put pressure on yourself to force yourself to feel certain way, or to feel that your situation should be a certain way. Work with how you feel, the company you have and the setting that you are in at this very time. In doing so you can focus on making this Christmas a gentle, enjoyable experience, filled with love and the things that truly matter to yourself and your loved ones.