Christmas countdown self care advent calendar has 25 ways to beat festive stress

This has been a difficult year, so if you’re feeling anxious about the festive period, you’re not alone.

Counsellor Lynn Crilly has put together a special self-care advent calendar with stress-busting tips for every day.

1 Focus on yourself

Christmas is often a time when we put others first, but the beginning of December is a good time to think about what you really want this year.

If you want to celebrate and put your tree and decorations up then that’s great, but if you don’t feel particularly festive then that’s OK too.

Don’t feel pressured to do what everyone else is doing.

2 Don’t get overwhelmed

It’s important to know your limits. Be honest with yourself about when you need a break and don’t be afraid to say no.

3 Seek help

If you’re feeling especially anxious or low, don’t be afraid to seek help.

Although face-to-face therapy might be limited, there is a lot of help online and through charities.

Don’t ignore how you’re feeling. Look at your local council website to find out what’s available in your area, or can visit the Sane website for help at sane.org.uk.

4 Focus on what you can control

Try writing down the things you’re worried about.

If it’s something you can control, write down suggestions for how to tackle it.

If it’s beyond your control, simply cross it off the list.

5 Put your feet up

December is often a hectic month, so don’t forget to take time to rest. As well as making plans to see friends and family – either in person or virtually – set aside days or periods of time when you can rest and focus on yourself.

Sit in a quiet room and read or listen to music, or go for a stroll by yourself.

6 Avoid the comparison trap

It’s easy to compare your own festivities to those on social media or adverts.

But remember, most people don’t have the perfect Christmas.

So don’t put that pressure on yourself.

7 It’s OK to be different

It’s important to accept that each family member will have a different idea of what they’d like to do at Christmas.

Take some time to accept and understand that not everybody will want the same things as you.

8 Avoid too many commitments

Whether it’s work Christmas Zoom parties, visiting relatives or family quizzes over Skype, there is often a pressure to make lots of plans at Christmas.

But try to avoid putting too much in the diary and leave room for rest and spontaneity.

9 Eat mindfully

Christmas is often a time of excess, but a balanced diet will help keep your mental health on track.

Limit the amount of sugary foods you have as this will cause an energy spike followed by a drop.

If you’re having an indulgent dinner, make your lunch a healthy one.

10 Make a to-do list

From wrapping presents to decorating the tree and buying food, there’s always lots to do.

Make a list of what needs doing and in what order.

Are there any tasks you can delegate to others, or simply leave off the list this year?

11 Limit your spending

This year especially, many of us will be feeling the pinch, so lower expectations on giving and receiving gifts.

Agree a budget in advance with family and friends, or do Secret Santa where names are pulled from a hat and you buy a present for that one person.

12 Use your senses

Use aromatherapy to help you feel calm and get into the spirit of Christmas.

Light candles or use an oil diffuser.

Look for scents such as cinnamon, cedarwood, frankincense and cloves, all of which have mood-boosting properties.

13 Set work limits

It’s tempting to check your emails after hours or take phone calls in your free time, especially if you’re working from home.

Try to stick to office hours and make people at your work aware that you will be switching off at a certain time.

14 Limit social media

Social media can be great for keeping in touch with people, but it can also have a negative effect on mental health.

Plan technology-free days in the run-up to Christmas.

When using social media, stop to think about how it makes you feel.

15 Be flexible

Having a strict structure to the day can make us anxious when things don’t go to plan.

Try to make a rough timetable, but be flexible too.

If you have little ones, pencil in one activity a day, such as baking, making decorations or doing a nature trail.

16 Light it up

This year, more than ever, we all need a little hope. Try decorating your house with fairy lights and candles, as these symbolise hope.

17 Don’t diet

At this time of year, we’re often bombarded with information about the latest diet or exercise regime, but crash dieting can be bad for your mental health.

Instead, focus on nourishing your body with tasty, nutritious food and going for plenty of walks outside.

18 Drink responsibly

There’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks at Christmas, but remember that alcohol creates a high followed by a low.

Alternate alcoholic drinks with water and only drink alcohol with meals.

19 Question your thoughts

Our mind can play tricks on us when we are anxious and our thinking can become distorted.

If you’re worried, take a moment to examine your thoughts.

Is there solid evidence to support what you’re concerned about?

20 Pick up the phone

We’re communicating digitally more than ever before, but without seeing body language and facial expressions, it’s easy for things to be misinterpreted.

An abrupt email from your boss or a text from a friend might cause panic if not read correctly.

If in doubt, speak on the phone instead.

21 Beware of ‘what ifs’

Anxiety feeds on “what ifs” – possible worst-case scenarios which may never come true.

Try to focus on the here and now instead of worrying about what may happen in the future.

22 Don’t fall into the avoidance trap

When you’re anxious about things, it’s tempting to avoid them altogether, but this can make the situation worse.

Can you challenge yourself to do something which is out of your comfort zone, such as attending a social event you’re nervous about?

23 Make a Christmas plan

If you’re spending Christmas Day with others, talk about what everyone’s expectations of the day are so you’re on the same page.

Have a loose plan of what you’re going to do that day and let everyone contribute something.

24 Take a deep breath

It’s Christmas Eve – you’re nearly there. If you find yourself feeling anxious, try this breathing exercise. First, exhale deeply.

Push all of the air out of your lungs until there is no more left.

Then let your next in-breath come naturally.

On the next breath, try to exhale for six counts and then inhale for four counts.

Do this for two minutes, or until you feel calmer.

25 Have a merry Christmas

In the morning, call to wish loved ones a happy Christmas and then put your phone down for the day. This will help you be present and enjoy it.

Avoid looking on social media.

That way you won’t be tempted to compare your day to what everyone else is doing.

Above all, remember that Christmas is just one day in the year.

If it doesn’t go perfectly, that’s OK too.