It’s the most wonderful time of the year... right? For many of us, the Christmas period can actually leave us feeling utterly overwhelmed. 

"If ever there was a time of year when we’re juggling all the balls, it’s right now," says Jayne Hardy, author of The Self-Care Project. "All around us, there’s a rambunctious enthusiasm for the festive shenanigans and the ‘New Year, New You’ crowd lobbies for us to commit to changing ourselves in every which way. It’s easy to get swept along by the unadulterated fervour to find ourselves over-committed."

Fortunately, increased awareness of these pitfalls has led to an abundance of new methods to help people conquer the Christmas period. Self-care may sound like a wishy-washy term, but it simply refers to the ways in which we treat and help ourselves on a day-to-day basis.

And if you ever shudder at the thought of another invitation to a big social gathering, or you spend your day wishing you could curl up in front of the TV at home, then fitting in some relatively easy but beneficial self-care strategies into your schedule can reap some real rewards.

Take a break from work
And we mean a real break – turn off your emails, put your phone on silent and carve out some time for yourself. We tend to think that if we’re not always on the job, we’re slacking – but if we don’t leave ourselves time to recuperate, we’re never running at full capacity. Don’t run yourself into the ground – make the most of the time when you’re not at your desk.

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Learn to say no
There can be pressure to catch up with everyone in our contact book around Christmas, and the party invites and Zoom calls can clutter up our inbox. But Suzy Reading, author of The Self-Care Revolution, says: "If you say ‘yes’ but don’t want to, resentment leaks out. Be honest and give yourself permission to say ‘no’, or shape how things are done." Spend a few evenings on yourself to slow down the hectic Christmas pace.

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Go easy on the booze*
It’s possible to feel merry at Christmas without going overboard with alcohol. Alternate your drinks with water or ditch the red wine for a spritzer; when you’re feeling run-down, there’s nothing more unwelcome than a hangover – and you don’t want to spend an off-day with a splitting headache either.

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Decide your own schedule
Christmas is a time for family and friends, but that doesn’t mean we need to let our nearest and dearest demand the world from us. Suzy reminds us to stand firm and insist on a Christmas we can actually look forward to: "Breathe your way through and make sure there is time for stillness, quiet and rest, not just social connection and stimulation."

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Be kind
Don’t forget what Christmas is all about – forget the chaos and share some light, and you’re certain to feel better yourself as well. Take the time to find someone a gift you know they’ll love, give to a charity you’re passionate about, or reach out to those who might be alone at Christmas. Making people smile is infectious, and will help you make the most of the period.

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Enjoy the little things
Don’t get lost in the big picture – take tiny moments in your day to enjoy the things that make you smile. Suzy tells us to "look for ‘micro-moments’ of nourishment". Savour a sunset, enjoy that morning cup of coffee, play with your pets, or phone a friend for a chat. It’s the small things that can have the biggest impact on our mood, so make sure you celebrate them.

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Laugh
Keeping your sense of humour is a great way to put things in perspective; put on your favourite Christmas comedy, read a light-hearted book, or find a hilarious TV show or podcast. Sometimes it can be a real effort, but if you make yourself laugh at points throughout the day, the stressful stuff may not feel so overwhelming.

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*If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can visit Ask About Alcohol