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  • Writer's pictureAntonia Higgins

Fight the Festive Frazzle - Part 1


It’s December, and 'silly season' is upon us! Suddenly there's a frenzy of buying, socialising, decorations, writing cards, wrapping gifts, seeing everybody 'before Christmas'...not to mention the usual things we have to do in our everyday lives. Even for people who love Christmas, it can all be a bit overwhelming.


If you’re one of those people whose self-care goes out the window faster than a speeding sleigh on Christmas Eve during the festive season, then read on. Here's part 1 of my blog on fighting the festive frazzle with 24 self-care suggestions to help you make life a bit less frantic this month.



1. Map out your month

For many people December is a month of juggling more than usual. Between work, social events, shopping, cooking and - for those with kids - off-the-chart excitement you can burn yourself out before the big day’s even arrived.


So your first step to fighting the festive frazzle is to map out your month. What is December looking like right now? Grab your diary and look at what is spread out before you. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your commitments so far?

  • Does it look manageable?

  • Have you allowed a realistic amount of time for everything? Things usually take longer than you think they will, so allow yourself more time than you think you'll need. Your future self will thank you!

  • Do you really want/need to do everything that you’ve agreed to? How much is desire and how much is duty? If there are a lot of 'shoulds' in there, remember it's ok to cancel plans.

  • Have you scheduled downtime? If not, now is the time to do it. Schedule your self-care time like you would schedule a meeting or a lunch date with friends. Block out the time in your diary/calendar. If you just ‘leave space’ you are likely to end up filling that with something else. Blocking out time helps you honour your time for yourself.

  • Have you thought about tasks as well as events? Think about where you need to factor in time to do the things you need to do as well as all the places you need to be.

  • Is there wiggle room? Things change, and sometimes rearranging things is necessary.


Once you’ve answered these questions and adjusted your calendar, check how it looks now. Are you happy with how you’re using your time? If so, you’re done. If not, adjust it until you are!


This is now your (hopefully realistic) plan for the month.


2. Make lists

When you have a lot to remember, lists can really take the stress out of life. When your head is full of things, worrying about forgetting those things just adds to that mental noise. And the festive season can certainly be one of those times when there’s just too much to keep in your head. So it can be helpful to write down the important stuff so you can tick it off as you go. Things like cards to send, gifts to buy/make and food shopping will all be helpful.


Remember to write your ‘nice list’ too: books you’d like to read, films you’d like to watch or places you’d like to go over the holiday. Remember that the ‘nice things’ are important too.


3. Clear out

A pre-Christmas de-clutter can be very satisfying, especially if you know that Christmas day will bring lots of new ‘stuff’ into your home that you need to find a place for. Clearing out unwanted belongings makes space for new treasures without you feeling like your house is overloaded. At this time of year local charity shops and gifting pages on Facebook welcome donations.


4. You can’t do everything ‘before Christmas’

There’s something about his time of year that makes us think about all the people we haven’t seen and all the things we haven’t done and how we’d really like to fit all this in ‘before Christmas’. Why do we do this to ourselves??? Suddenly Christmas has become this deadline for everything and a stick we can beat ourselves with if we’re not getting it all done. STOP! Lets think about this:


Why is ‘before Christmas’ such an important timescale? Is it about another year passing without doing the thing/seeing the person? Is it about sharing the Christmas ‘warm fuzzies’ with others? Is it about feeling that you must cross this thing/person off your to-do list before you can relax into your holiday time? Are any of these a good reason to go into your holiday period burnt out and exhausted from trying to do too much?


Re-framing your thinking may help you give you some breathing space. Once Christmas is over, having things to look forward to can help you through the ‘winter blues’. So plan some of those social events for after January payday. Save some of those tasks for times when the weather is awful, you’re stuck indoors and want to feel you’re doing something purposeful to move you forward in the new year.


5. Wind down at work

My first tip for fighting the festive frazzle was to ‘Map out your month’. You can do this for your work life as well as your home life.

How’s your work schedule looking for December? Grab your diary and look at what is spread out before you. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are your commitments so far?

  • When you see everything laid out in front of you, do your expectations look realistic?

  • Have you allowed a realistic amount of time for everything? Things usually take longer than you think they will, so allow yourself more time than you think you'll need. Your future self will thank you!

  • What is important and/or urgent? How much of what you have scheduled are things that must be done, and how much are things you (or someone else) thinks you should do? If there are a lot of 'shoulds' remember it's ok to negotiate, delegate and reschedule to make the best use of the time you have without working yourself into the ground.

  • Have you scheduled breaks in your working day? This is important self-care. If you haven’t, now is the time to do it. Block out the time in your diary/calendar. If you just ‘leave space’ it is likely to end up being filled by something (or someone) else.

  • Have you thought about tasks as well as meetings? Think about where you need to factor in time to do the things you need to do as well as all the places you need to be.

  • Is there wiggle room? Things change, and sometimes rearranging things is necessary.

Once you’ve answered these questions and adjusted your calendar, check how it looks now. Does it look manageable? If so, you’re done. If not, perhaps it’s time to talk to your manager about what can be moved into the new year.


6. Beware ‘energy vampires’

Beware of ‘energy vampires’! We all have them. They are the people or the things that suck the energy out of you and leave you feeling drained. They might be in your workplace, your family or your social circles. It might be those jobs that leave you feeling exhausted. And even though you know they’re not good for you, it might be really difficult to avoid them. So what can you do to preserve your energy?


  • Remember that, in your family and social life certainly, you are not obliged to spend time with anyone. It’s ok to say no to invitations or demands on your time. “I’m sorry, but I won’t be able to make that, but thanks for thinking of me” and “I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time to do that for you at the moment” are two useful phrases to keep in mind.

  • You don’t have to meet everyone’s expectations. If it all feels too much, remember that your expectations are important and you are allowed to expect to have time on your own if that’s what you want.

  • When meeting an energy vampire is unavoidable, set a time limit for yourself and honour that. Arranging these meetings in a lunch break for example, helps to minimise the time you can stay.

  • If your energy vampire is a task at work, give yourself enough time to break it into chunks so you can work on it in short bursts but still meet your deadlines. And reward yourself when it’s done.


7. Set some boundaries

Christmas can be a time when we try to be all things to all people, and while it can be lovely to catch up with lots of people and spread some good cheer, there’s a line between desire and duty. Setting some boundaries around your activities over the festive period can help you get some time to relax and recuperate so you feel well-rested when it’s time to get back to normal life. And thinking about where these boundaries in advance can be helpful. Things to think about are:

  • How much time you want to spend with others

  • How much time you want to keep for yourself

  • Who it is important to spend time with

  • How much money you can spend

  • How much you will eat and drink

  • Where you want to go

  • Who you are willing to give time to help

  • What help you are willing to give

It’s not your responsibility to meet everyone’s expectations. If it all feels too much, remember that your expectations and needs are important and you are allowed to expect to have time on your own if that’s what you want.


I hope you find these blogs interesting and helpful. If you’d like to read more of my musings you can subscribe to my blog at https://www.tranquillocounselling.com/blog and follow me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tranquillocounselling.


Contact me

Contact me at counselling@tranquillo.group to discuss how counselling might be helpful for you. I work face to face from my therapy room in Falkirk, and online.





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