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Mental Health

5 Ways to Lighten the Load of Family Stress This Christmas

Have a love-hate relationship with the holiday season? You’re not alone. You might like getting the chance to connect with your nearest and dearest, but not all the stress of shopping, decorating, and gift-wrapping, especially if you’re also busy working at your day job until Christmas Eve. But organizing a proper celebration isn’t the only tough part about the festive season; for some people, navigating prickly family relationships at that same time adds to the pressure.

One way to lighten the load is to make things easier for yourself, according to psychologist Frederika Davies of Relationships Australia WA, and Brooke McAlary, author of Slow: A Realistic Guide to Living a Simpler Life at a Slower Pace ($17.67, Amazon).

1. You don’t have to get together before Christmas.

“It’s a nice idea, but in reality, all that socializing can make us feel pressured and we become too stressed to really enjoy it,” says McAlary. Reschedule engagements for after Christmas, when the pressure is off.

2. Make difficult decisions early.

Leave plenty of time for potentially tricky negotiations, such as who’s hosting Christmas lunch or where the children will have Christmas dinner in separated families. “It’s a way to avoid last-minute tension,” says Davies. “Be flexible and open to doing things differently as your family’s needs change.”

3. Share the load.

Write prioritized to-do lists and delegate tasks to family members. “People can’t read your mind,” says Davies. “Ask for help if you need it.”

4. Simplify the shopping.

Online shopping for gifts and food can be a blessing for the time-poor, according to Davies. “Don’t feel you have to give people things,” adds McAlary. Consider giving a voucher for an experience (a movie or hotel stay, for example), or donate to a charity on their behalf.

5. Think creatively when decking the halls.

We have all seen the discarded decorations tossed onto clean-up piles when December’s tinsel turns into trash. This year, try to re-use or even create your own personalized decorations. “We would actually buy ourselves more hours if we didn’t spend so much time buying stuff that we then have to dispose of,” says McAlary. “Most of my decorations came from my parents’ house and are 30 years old,” she adds, “but they are special because they only come out once a year.”

This article was originally written by Paula Goodyer. For more, check out our sister site, Homes to Love.

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