The World is a Vampire: 7 ways to avoid being bitten by Christmas Overwhelm!

If you count the 1990’s as your formative years you may recognise this Smashing Pumpkins Lyric. I remember lapping all that poetic rage up about how the world is ‘sent to drain’.

However, fast forward to 2018 and the world is possibly sucking the life out of us like never before. Life moves at a frightening pace with digital overload, high expectations and an overwhelming sense that we need to try and be everything to everyone. None so more than at Christmas time.

Perhaps, like me, you have spent the last few weeks saying to yourself:

  • How did I let this happen?
  • Why am I going to this function, event or party? I don’t even want to go!
  • How did I spend so much on Christmas? Maybe I should buy more?
  • What will people think of me? I'm so tired I don't care.
  • I am so totally exhausted, run down and overwhelmed!
  • Why does Christmas time have to be so stressful?

After saying all of the above to myself (multiple times), I’ve come up with 7 idea’s on how I can do better next year. 

  1. Give experiences not ‘stuff’. If you have children then you’ll have a good understanding of the incredible amount of plastic junk that finds it’s way into your house. After putting up with well meaning grandparents, relatives and friends for years, I am now saying ENOUGH! Especially as I am the one who throws it out when it breaks 2 days later and, therefore, responsible for putting it all into landfill. So stop the cycle in your family and circle of friends and lead by example. Give, and encourage others to give, experiences not stuff. Here are just a few idea’s: theme park tickets;  restaurant vouchers; movie vouchers; private tuition for a special interest like yoga/fitness or painting; spa treatments; a free night of babysitting; whale watching; coffee vouchers; dolphin kayaking; or any other local experience which would be fun. This is the stuff memories are made of, not the ‘thing’ you leave under the Christmas Tree.

Disclaimer: So I’m going to be realistic here. You can't have nothing under the tree for the kids! That might taking things a little too far! So here’s a great idea I got from my good friend, Megan Sweetlove, who is known as the Quiet Family Lawyer for good reason. Try to stick to buying your children only 4 Christmas gifts. 1) Something they want. 2) Something they need. 3) Something to wear. 4) Something to read. Not sure I’ll be 100% successful next year. But there’s nothing wrong with aiming high!

  1. Not everyone needs a gift. We place enormous pressure on ourselves to buy friends, colleagues and teachers gifts. We spend lots of time thinking about it, hours trawling the shops for inspiration and we often end up spending our money on something that is….well a bit generic and a bit blah. But at least we're giving something, right?! Perhaps we should rethink our purpose and our intention for giving the gift in the first place. Is that person expecting a gift from me? Maybe we could go out for lunch or coffee instead of exchanging gifts. What would happen if I didn’t give that person a gift? Perhaps when you ask yourself these questions you might be able to cut your list down a bit. For those who do feel the want or need to give gifts, I’m going to point you back to number 1. Give an experience, not stuff. I was pretty happy with the teacher gifts we gave this year, a movie voucher in a Xmas card. You can get them at the supermarket and it took very little time and organisation to sort it out. Each one of them said to us, ‘that’s a great idea, I love the movies!’ Who doesn’t.
  2. Put nothing on your credit card. Don’t buy gifts that you cannot afford! Going into debt in order to ‘give’ at Christmas time is a very bad idea. All you are giving is yourself financial and emotional stress. Don't spend money that you don't have on gifts people probably don't need! Are your kids, family and friends going to think any less of you if you buy a smaller gift than you did last year? I’m going to hazard a guess and say no. If they do judge you for it, then thats a whole other conversation, isn’t it?! 
  3. Prioritise Christmas events and parties. You don’t have to go to every single one you are invited to. After a mini-meltdown a few weeks ago, I sat down a wrote a list of the events and things I’d said yes to, but were now causing me stress and anxiety adding to the overwhelm I was already feeling. So I went through methodically and changed my some of my RSVP’s from ‘yes’, to ‘sorry, I now can’t make it’. I immediately relaxed as I knew that I was creating space for more important things at this time of year, namely my family (and my sanity).
  4. Write a list of things that can wait until after New Year. These are the things that can wait. You’ll be better able to tackle these tasks in the new year anyway, after the overwhelm of Christmas is passed. Christmas is not a deadline! You don't have to get everything in your life done before the 25 December. Give yourself a break and put off what you can.
  5. Disconnect, switch off and unplug. Limit your screen time to 1 hour per day and put your phone and other devices away. Be present for your kids and those around you. Play backyard cricket, take a walk together, play a board-game, make a comic book (my boys love this!), colour in, have a nap, go for a swim or just sit, talk and be. Now I’m far from perfect and often spend far too much time in front of a screen. But I’m going to actively follow my 1-hour screen time rule over this Christmas break. Well I’m going to try, anyway.
  6. Take time for yourself. After imposing your 1-hour per day screen time embargo, you’ll have so much more time on your hands! Well, you might have a little more anyway. Make sure you take some time for yourself. Have a long bath, read a good novel, nap (yes there’s a napping theme here), listen to a podcast or just close your eyes in a quiet place and just breathe. If you only get time for 5 breaths, that's better than none at all. Slow down, quiet your mind and reflect on the year that was. After some solo reflection, you may find the space and peace to work out what you want 2019 to look like. Because you are, and always will be, in control of what the future holds.
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