It seems every magazine I look at this month is full of helpful "How to plan a stress-free Christmas in 27 easy steps!" articles. A veritable forest of instruction on how to plan ahead, get the perfect place setting, the most festive wreath on the door, darling little home-made things the kids can fashion themselves, 16 ways with a goose and cranberry chestnut stuffing and so on. Christmas can become one increasingly frantic package of chores and doing. I get a bit spinny in the head just thinking about it.
What I want to know is when did Christmas get so damn complicated? With so much instruction? So much to blimmin' well do? And so perfection focused: The perfect wrapping? The perfect tree? The perfect meal? Gak! It's literally all around. Do we need a masters degree in Christmas?
Not surprisingly there is a whole heap of stress and competition that can creep in at this time of year turning something which is, at its simplest, a joyful celebration into a marathon chore-fest that lasts weeks.
Christmas shouldn't be stressful, but increasingly it is. Why does this happen? Mostly it's because we are asking ourselves the wrong question:
"What do I need to get done for Christmas?"
That question is only ever going to result in a really, really long list of chores. And herein lies the stress. In the detail of making Christmas happen it's really easy to lose contact with our Christmas spirit. That delicious moment from childhood where we woke up to the most magical and special day of the year. Full of anticipation. Possibility. Excitement. Love. Fun.
And that's the thing. When I look back it's not so much the actual gifts I remember (mind you that beanbag in 1985 was an all-time low point) it's so much more the feeling of Christmas that was magical. And it's this feeling that in my frantic chore doing I am trying to recreate.
To have a less stressful Christmas I don't think it's about adopting a 19-point plan or military organisation. I think it's about reconnecting with our Christmas spirit at the outset, and remembering:
Christmas isn't something we do, Christmas is something we feel.
So, start at the beginning. What are the top three things you want to feel this Christmas?
Connected? Loved? Content? Abundant? Relaxed? Cherished? Grateful?
Work with that goal in mind. It will instantly dial down the anxiety on producing the perfect bread sauce (really, who cares?) and whether the napkins all match (again, who cares?). Ask for help where you need it, cross a few of the detail chores off the list and... just don't do them! Spend that time creating some connection, love or fun instead.
Remember it really is about the feeling of Christmas; that's what we are really trying to capture with all the efforts we go to. So connect with your Christmas spirit and don't sweat the small stuff.
• Remember, Christmas isn't something we do, Christmas is something we feel.
• Take a step back: how do you want to feel this Christmas time? Focus on the feeling state you are trying to create rather than a mile long "to do" list
• Choose three things to take off the list that don't really matter that much
• Add one thing to the list that will increase your feeling of peace and loving connection.
Louise Thompson is a life coach, yoga teacher and corporate escapee. For more from Louise visit positivebalance.co.nz.