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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!