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Money worries, frayed nerves, family issues and a packed schedule can all be part and parcel of this time of year. Here are some ways you can make this time of year more enjoyable, and hopefully a little less stressful.

Schedule some downtime

Work functions, family get-togethers and traditions, catch-ups with friends, shopping centre expeditions and, if you happen to be a parent, school events and holidays, play dates, parties and sporting activities…the list can seem endless.

While some of these events may have been planned well in advance (there’s something to be said for booking the end-of-year work party back in April!), others will spontaneously pop up. Your calendar may already be bursting, but it’s important to keep a little space for some much-needed downtime.

Whether you’re an introvert who needs lots of recovery time between social occasions or an extrovert who loves being surrounded by people, we all need time to recharge. Consider the effect it’ll have on your energy levels if you say yes to everything. This means you need to hone the ability to say no to things.

It’s a tough ask for people pleasers, but it’s a valuable skill that will save your time and energy.

Be realistic

There’s so much to do and only 24 hours in a day, so don’t feel bad if you can’t fit everything in. There might be outings you choose to skip or can’t make due to a calendar clash. This is a busy time of year for most of us, so rest assured you won’t be the only person unable to make every bash or tick everything off your to-do list.

If you’re hosting an event such as a Christmas lunch or New Year’s Eve party, let go of the expectation that everything will be perfect. If you want to go all out, try to put on an amazing food spread or decorate your place so it’s Instagram-worthy, but don’t stress if something is less than impeccable. Most guests would rather a relaxed host than someone stressing over flat meringues or mismatched napkins.

Plan in advance what you need to do for your soiree and take the pressure off as much as possible. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, consider asking guests to bring a plate to share. As much as you may want to whip up every dish from scratch, there’s no shame in buying pre-prepared food (ice a cake and throw some decorations on it and voila, you’re done!).

It’s also worth being real about what family togetherness will look like. Is it too much to ask for the kids to not fight, your sibling to not bring up a political debate at the table, your mother-in-law to not be passive aggressive? Possibly. Just because it’s said to be a magical time of year, doesn’t mean people dramatically change with it – if anything, additional stress can lead to less patience and tolerance.

No one has a perfect family, despite what social media can have you believe. Behind that smiling photo there’s usually a little bickering over who gets the last prawn. 

Look after yourself

It’s natural for exercise routines and healthy eating to be more relaxed around this time, so don’t beat yourself up about it. If you’re bursting with fruit mince pies, rather than a kip on the couch, go for a walk around the block. Keep up your energy by staying hydrated with water and enjoy seasonal fresh fruit and veg. Spend more time outside to make the most of the longer days and sleep in when possible. Self-care can easily fall off the radar, especially when life gets hectic, but it will make you feel a lot more centred and calmer.

The holiday season can be a difficult time for many people. If you, or someone you know, needs crisis support, phone Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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