25 Tips to help you keep the happy in your holidays

For many, the holiday season is about spending quality time with family and friends; others may find themselves alone either through choice or circumstance.

If you are on your own, then spoil yourself or help someone else. If you want to be alone, treat yourself to something special to eat (anything from beans on toast to a 5 course banquet), watch whatever you want on TV, or sit in bed with a good book and a box of chocolates or enjoy a long walk somewhere. Alternatively, volunteer at a shelter or refuge, or maybe make up some sandwiches and a flask or two of coffee, and share them and your conversation, with people living on the street.

If your time is spent with family and friends, remember it’s not about how perfect your house looks, how much you spend on presents or whether the food you serve is restaurant quality. If you thrive on the whole thing, we’re genuinely happy for you but, if you don’t, then don’t do it. If the established traditions bring you to the verge of hyperventilation, or take you beyond, then make some new ones.

Either way, find a way through the festive season that keeps you relaxed and happy so that you can share that feeling with those around you. Take a look at our 25 SC Family top tips, in no particular order, to help you through the season:

1. Don’t try to be perfect. No one is, and all you’re doing is setting yourself up to fail. Author Rachel Kelly’s anxiety drove her to a major breakdown that came to a crisis point during a Christmas party she had insisted on hosting, even though she didn’t want to and didn’t have to. Rachel now employs the 60% rule saying she has learned the hard way that, “If my Christmas is 60 per cent right, I’m doing well. Perfection is an illusion, but the pursuit of it is real and can have damaging consequences.”

2. Be kind to yourself. When you’re kind to yourself, it shows itself in your kindness to others

3. Shop local. It’s a much more pleasant, and less stressful, experience than hitting the mall. You’ll be supporting your local economy and building relationships in the community, as well as finding more unusual gifts. Why not stop for a coffee and cake in a local café? Shopping closer to home is also better for the planet as you’re not driving your car so far.

4. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Seriously, this has to be the most important way to avoid stress now and in the coming year. You don’t have to buy your kids everything they ask for, and you don’t need to feel guilty about it. If your child wants an expensive gift, why not give them some money towards it? Put it in a piggy bank, or make one from a Mason jar; include a picture of the item or destination – check out The Penny Challenge – by saving just 1 cent extra each day, you can save $667.95 (or whatever currency you use) over a year. There’s no harm in teaching your children to save for something they really want, and to teach them not to over-extend themselves when they get older.

5. Limit the amount of sugar your children eat otherwise they’ll be bouncing off the ceiling when you’re begging them to go to bed! If Grandma keeps sneaking them ‘just one more’, send them home with her!

6. Make sure everyone knows that chocolate, nuts and grapes are potentially deadly to dogs.

7. Buying presents doesn’t have to be expensive. It truly is about the thought behind your gift, not how much it cost or whether it sports the correct designer labels. Make biscuits or candy, put together baskets or bags of smellies, Google making Mason jar gifts such as a manicure jar or a sewing one. Get the kids involved too.

8. “I lay helpless on the shed floor, my hands tied and my mouth covered with tape. I never could get the hang of wrapping presents.” Wrap gifts well in advance! (Quote ~ Fifty Sheds of Grey @50ShedsOfGrey)

9. Delegate. Decide who is going to help around the house, who is going to assist you with meal preparation and laying the table, and who is going to clear up and do the washing up.

10. Maybe you can’t or don’t want cook, or the whole thing is too expensive? Depending on your budget and preference, supermarkets are stuffed with ready prepared festive food, or ask your guests to bring a dish of something. Get them to let you know what it will be in advance otherwise you might end up with 10 desserts and no veg. This also helps if you have guests with food allergies or special diets. By the way, the world won’t come to an end if you use paper plates and plastic glasses.

11. Don’t feed the dog Brussels sprouts.

12. Buy your children Thank You cards and sit down with them to write and send them.

13. The holiday season can be a very emotional time for many people. Practice patience – learn how to breathe deeply and smile; both relieve stress.

14. Drink plenty of water.

15. Thoroughly defrost anything that needs to be defrosted.

16. Ban texting and social media at the dinner table. Change the wifi password if you have to.

17. Get some fresh air. Get as many people together as you can and go for a walk.

18. Don’t buy a puppy for Christmas. If you are thinking of getting a dog, visit the animal shelters in February or March when they’re full of abandoned Christmas pups.

19. Don’t stretch yourself too thin. There are people to see, parties to go to, washing to be done, meals to be cooked … you cannot do it all. Learn to say ‘no’ when you need to.

20. Play games. Board games, charades, Twister (being mindful of the Brussels sprouts), Hop Scotch, Simon Says, hide and seek (often more fun when you’re grown up).

21. Watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ – “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

22. Take a moment for yourself. (One of the SC Family admits to having hidden in a cupboard for a few sanity preserving minutes.)

23. Say thank you to those who work over the holiday period – doctors, nurses, police, fire services, shop and restaurant workers, call centre staff – there’s a long, long list of people who don’t get to spend the holidays with their loved ones.

24. Share. Take a plated meal to someone who lives on their own, or invite them to join you. Or why not make up some sandwiches and share them with people in need.

25. Do what you do with love, be thankful and enjoy.