5 Ways To Handle Christmas Overwhelm

Me in November: Ooh Christmas is coming! I love Christmas. I’m such a Christmassy person! Baileys, twinkly lights, buying presents, Michael Bublé. What’s not to love?

Me in mid-December: OHMYGOSH. I am so over Christmas. I feel so overwhelmed. I have so much extra stuff to think about. When is it over?

Christmas Overwhelm is a real thing and right now, it’s happening to people up and down the land. It’s that feeling when you think your head might explode if you add one more thing to your to do list.

My to do list, over the past week has looked something like this:

Buy Christmas cards. Find addresses for people. Write Christmas cards. Buy stamps. Post Christmas cards. Hand deliver Christmas cards locally. Buy emergency Christmas cards that I can send last minute to those people who send me Christmas cards but I didn’t send them one. Create a fool-proof Christmas Card list with addresses to make next year easier. Buy wrapping paper. Buy gift tags. Buy actual presents. Organise costume for school Christmas concert. Juggle work so I can go to school nativity/concert. Remember to dress child in Christmas jumper on Christmas Jumper Day. Remember to clean, organise and pack recycling items for child to do Christmas Junk Modelling at school. Remember to give money to school teacher Christmas collection. Book a supermarket delivery slot for our Christmas food. Work out what we’re cooking on Christmas Day. Order Christmas food and booze. Order enough Bombay Mix to feed a small army.

Christmas Overwhelm is also that feeling of waking up in the middle of the night and feeling anxiety creep in, as you realise Christmas is nearly here and how did that even happen? It feels like just last week, we were all rolling our eyes over the shops playing Christmas music way too early and feeling smug because we’ve bought one Christmas present already and maybe this is the year we finally get organised.

But no, because suddenly it’s mid-December and in the middle of the night, your mind starts whirring with ALL OF THE TASKS that need doing and the panic sets in.

Of course, all of this is made even more fun by being SO VERY TIRED because of all of the social events that – in October and November – you agree to because ‘Ooh that sounds like fun!’ Except what ‘October Alison’ always forgets is agreeing to three nights out in a row is a recipe for disaster. Thanks October Alison. Now December Alison has to either suck it up or let people down.

So, what can we do? Have a huge meltdown and spend the rest of December in a darkened room? So tempting. But not hugely practical. Here are some things I’m trying (TRYING!) to do:

  1. Get some perspective. Take a step back, look at the bigger picture and ask yourself: “Will the world end if I don’t send Christmas cards/buy that perfect stocking filler/send in recycling for festive junk modelling”? Clearly, in an ideal world, you’d do it all. And it often feels like other people are managing to do it all. But maybe it’s about prioritising – looking at your to do list and working out which things are non-negotiable and which can be put back, delegated or sacked off.
  2. Look at your diary and work out what the things are that you have to do, and which things would be nice but not essential. Do you have to go out to the PTA Christmas drinks the night before your work Christmas do and the night after you’re taking the family to the local panto? Sack off the PTA drinks – your wellbeing is more important than the blooming PTA. Spend the evening on your sofa, under a blanket, watching The Crown instead.
  3. Put in some coping strategies for next year, now. For me, it’s about writing a note in my diary for mid-October, reminding myself not to agree to lots of FUN things in December. Work always ramps up for me, before Christmas, so between that and festive admin, I actually don’t have much time/headspace for all the fun socialising. Basically, work out what your ideal December looks like, and make sure in October/November, you remind yourself of this. I also need to get organised with the admin side of things, so I’m going to create a Google Doc with a Christmas card list and everyone’s address (thanks for that tip Chloe!) so I can access it from my laptop, or my phone, and edit it if people move throughout the year. I’m also going to buy some big plastic boxes from Wilko’s to properly organise the Christmas decorations (current system: random plastic bags that get shoved in the loft) and one for Christmas wrapping paper, gift tags and ribbons.
  4. Stop trying to have the PERFECT Christmas. I think a lot of us are guilty of just piling way too much pressure on ourselves all the time, but more so at Christmas. Between advent calendars getting more and more elaborate (remember when it was just opening a cardboard door to reveal a picture?) and Elf on the Shelf, Christmas Eve boxes, reindeer food and snowy footprints, doing Christmas markets, booking tickets for festive shows, having mulled wine with friends, ice skating somewhere beautiful, going to Winter Wonderland, booking trips to magical forests to meet the man himself or flying to actual Lapland, it sometimes feels like everyone is living their BEST December and we need to keep up. But do we have to have the ‘perfect’ Christmas? Nah, maybe it’s better just to have a nice Christmas and keep our sanity in tact.
  5. Check out the Alternative Advent on Instagram – every day, @drjessamy @mumologist and @thepsychologymum are posting advice about getting through December in one piece. They’ve shared great tips on being kind to yourself, how experiences are more important than things and what to do when your ‘capacity cup’ is full. Check out their hashtag: #makememoriesnotmeltdowns

OK, I don’t know about you, but I feel better already. We can do this!

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6 Comments

  1. December 16, 2017 / 12:56 am

    Love it – I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed recently too – so many things I want to and feel like I should do, but work and just normal life admin is getting so hectic… Better just try and chill it a bit!

  2. December 16, 2017 / 8:10 am

    Spot on as usual Alison! I have been feeling this too… my list gets longer and my days go faster! I haven’t done everything I planned/hoped but I’m trying not to stress and ruin Christmas for myself! As you can worry about everyone and forget to enjoy it yourself! What gets done gets done and what doesn’t doesn’t is my mid-December mantra now!? Great post and I will check out those ladies you mentioned xxx

  3. December 17, 2017 / 12:30 pm

    That paragraph about the Christmas cards. That is me. And probably every single mum on the planet right now. If nothing else, the change in packed lunch requirements to fit round Christmas dinners! It’s a miracle I remembered to get any of it right! Perspective is right – I went to see Bad Moms Christmas on Friday night and it so gave me perspective.

  4. December 18, 2017 / 7:46 am

    Feel better already! & you have managed to write my list for me, so that’s one less thing off my list We start Christmas in October when we do our first fair so it’s a long time coming. Despite buying a few presents along the way and some wrapping paper in Sainos mid November when doing normal shopping and thinking that having wrapping paper (even with nothing to wrap) makes me ‘prepared for Christmas’, I’m surprisingly un-prepared. Now less that a week to go, I’m reliant on my prime account more than I’d hoped!!

  5. December 20, 2017 / 9:36 am

    I think the one I most need to remember is not overbooking social nights for December. I’ve had a great December but I’m bloody knackered right now!! The google doc address list has changed my life x

  6. December 20, 2017 / 10:32 am

    I love Christmas, but this rings so true! To top it all this year, we’re going on a ski press trip, so as well as cards and stockings, I have to sort salopettes, sun cream, woollie undies, extra luggage for all the presents we’re taking to Italy….it’s all in a big heap in the spare bedroom, haunting my dreams!

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