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Managing the mental load at Christmas

on Mon Nov 21 2022

How to manage the mental load this Christmas: Written by Chloe Lowe, The Parent List

Christmas is one of the busiest times of year for parents. The pressure to create a jolly and festive experience for everyone builds like a mountain of mince pies threatening to crumble at any minute.

This year - we’ve replaced our Christmas-with-Covid concerns with the rising cost of keeping our homes warm and families fed and clothed, let alone spoiled with extra special treats and gifts. Like many, you might be choosing to scale back your celebrations this year. But that doesn’t mean you won't still have a lot to juggle.

If you need a little support, this blog in collaboration with Chloe from the Parent List App looks at how we can help manage the mental load of Christmas while still creating lots of family fun and a little magic.

What constitutes the mental load of Christmas?

The sheer volume of things to think about and do can quickly lead to high stress, low mood and burnout. Couple this with the unavoidable comparison against Insta-perfect parents, crafting geniuses and amateur chefs and we’re close to reaching crazy-high and exhausting levels of pressure on ourselves.

But what’s the point in trying to create the perfect Christmas when you won’t enjoy a minute of it?

Let’s take a look at what contributes to the mental load at Christmas:

* Letters to Santa
* The rising cost of gift shopping
* Food and drink shopping
* Supply chain disruptions
* Remembering and celebrating November and December birthdays
* Family feuds 
* Pet care
* New Year’s Eve plans
* Party outfits
* Christmas Eve box
* Preschool nativities
* Class Christmas cards
* Christmas Fayres
* School non-uniform days
* Decorations
* Travel and sleeping arrangements
* Wrapping presents
* Balancing work/childcare/annual leave
* Buying presents for a partner
* Santa visits
* Festive days out
* Delivering presents
* Christmas cards
* Toddler tantrums due to a lack of routine
* Elf on the Shelf
* Work Christmas parties
* Keeping a tidy house for visitors

Crikey! We’ve probably missed a few here too.

10 easy ways to feel better about Christmas this year

Use this list to find one or two simple ways to manage your mental load this Christmas:

Prioritise. Grab a pen and paper and write a list of the top 3 things that mean the most to you this Christmas. Focus on those first. Doing a few things well will feel so much better than spreading yourself too thin and doing lots of things, just ‘ok’.  

Set a budget. Work out what you can afford, feel comfortable spending, and stick to a budget that doesn’t stress you out or blow the bank. Look out for discounts, offer days and second-hand shops and websites. Try your hand at some homemade gifts if you have the time and headspace.

Ask for, and accept help. Whether it be finding the right gift, cooking the Christmas dinner or taking care of the kids for a few hours. This is one of the hardest things for any parent, but asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Slow down to speed up. Running on caffeine at 100mph is detrimental to your mind and body. Slowing down - taking some deep breaths or indulging in one of Netflix’s Christmas movies - will help you reset, re-energise and find some headspace for creativity and getting your list ticked off.

Take stock. Young children can easily become overstimulated and overwhelmed at this time of year. Ask yourself: what do they really want and need this Christmas? And focus on that rather than succumbing to the pressure to spoil them or compete with peers which can result in overspending and overexerting yourself.

Focus on experiences, not things. Making memories as a family can be so much more nourishing than receiving lots (and lots and lots) of gifts. Planning a discovery walk in the woods, a special visit to Santa or a family trip to a local attraction might be just the tonic you need, without a hefty price tag and zero clutter in sight. Want to keep some traditions? A Christmas Eve box can be just as exciting without anything new inside - pop their favourite cuddly toy, last year’s Christmas books and some porridge oats dressed as Reindeer Food in there. Remember, the magic comes from their imaginations, not retailers! Check out Wiki Places for Kids for the best round-up of festive days out with kids.

Reduce your scroll time on social media. It’s incredible how many hours you’ll get back to wrap presents with a glass of mulled wine or play some board games with the family.

Avoid too many excesses. Easier said than done, but try to keep a balance. Don’t deprive yourself of a glass of fizz and a few mince pies - but counter them with a family walk in the fresh air or a fruit and vegetable-filled breakfast or lunch.

Escape the need to compete this Christmas. It’s a very British trait to need to present the perfect picture. But when you realise that you don’t need to - in fact, that you can’t control things such as natural disasters, the actions of your extended family or your delivery man - the effects can be truly liberating.

And finally. Don’t forget to give yourself the gift of self-care so that you can enjoy the Christmas period too.

Whatever kind of Christmas you’re planning this year, we hope it brings you lots of joy. And if you need a little help to manage the mental load, we’re here for you.

The Parent List app is free to download and full of lists to provide support and inspiration when you need it. So please register today, it might just be the best present you give yourself this holiday season!

Image Credit: Hurrah For Gin