12 Tips for Dealing with Christmas Stress

Words: Robyn Samuels

Remember when Christmas was just about waiting until midnight to unwrap gifts? That all changed the moment we became adults. As magical as the festive season is, the reality is that preparing a festive feast can be anxiety-inducing, especially if you are the host. While Christmas stress isn’t completely avoidable – between pleasing family and keeping commitments – there are ways to minimise the urge to sink to the kitchen floor and weep.

Tips for Christmas stress
Here are our best tips for having a less stressful Christmas.

1. Budget Well – or try to

The cost of living has gone through the roof. South Africans are spending more money on the average food basket, which is increasingly overwhelming – not just in terms of day-to-day living, but this also means increased Christmas stress levels. Petrol costs also affect those travelling from neighbouring provinces to visit family over the holiday season. Try your best to budget effectively here, and split costs where you can. Have a ballpark amount for expenses, especially if you want to avoid the ‘Januworry’ blues.

2. Plan Your Menu Properly

Roast Turkey
Make a shopping list and check it twice – preferably before you leave the shopping mall. Nothing grinds our gears more than having to make a double trip to the store, especially when queues are notoriously long during the festive season with everybody flocking to malls for last-minute shopping.

Check out our round up of Christmas roasts and festive sides.

3. Online Shopping

The beauty of retail convenience is that almost everything is only a click away. Ensure that you have the most important ingredients for your mains and roasts and freeze them ahead of time. It’s also worth stocking up on certain ingredients that are especially difficult to come by this time of year – think fresh cream, custard and all those Christmas essentials they never seem to have enough stock of. If you forget smaller items for your side dishes, don’t stress about having to make another trip to the store, order online.

4. Don’t Do It All Yourself

how to be a better cook
Hosting Christmas lunch or dinner can be daunting, to say the least. If you have guests or family staying over, assign a task to everyone.

Concerted efforts will help minimise Christmas stress, and knowing that everyone had a helping hand will make the day more enjoyable. Try not to micromanage people here, especially if you tend to be ‘particular’ or a perfectionist.

5. Taste over Perfection

We hate to break it to you, but you’re not a Michelin-starred chef – not everything has to be perfect, and even chefs make mistakes. So what if your potatoes aren’t as crispy as you would have liked or your malva pudding isn’t as moist? Gordon Ramsay isn’t going to appear in your kitchen and roast you for it. Others are more likely to appreciate the food more than you do, especially if you’re overcritical of your cooking.

Try these Christmas cooking hacks.

6. Kitchen Space

An overcrowded kitchen can be annoying, especially if you have a couple of people preparing different dishes all at once. Make sure your ‘holiday committee’ is well coordinated, and those needing to utilise the kitchen space will have sufficient time and a dedicated surface.

7. Take Advantage of Kitchen Equipment

Think about how you can effectively use your four-plate stove and cosy oven – work with what you have and maximise your kitchen space. If you have an air fryer, take advantage of it and use it to prep roast veggies or any sides that need to be cooked. Don’t have space on the stove to parboil potatoes? Use the microwave.

8. Décor: Simple Yet Festive

Chances are you’ll likely have your hands full if you are in charge of preparing most of the dishes for Christmas lunch. The last thing you want to worry about is taking the time to make your table look fancy schmancy. Keep it simple and try some of these simple yet festive Christmas décor ideas.

9. Cutlery & Crockery

Do a head count and ensure that you have enough cutlery and crockery if you are hosting a larger crowd. If you have a specific colour theme for your festive table, ask your friend or family member you are borrowing from whether they have similar plates or bowls. If you have two sets of crockery, you could arrange the mismatched crockery so that they line up and trick guests into thinking it was intentional – no-one’s gonna know!

10. Take Breaks

If you’re feeling particularly stressed by being in the kitchen, or if constantly being surrounded by visitors in your own home gets a little overwhelming, remember to be kind to yourself and take small breaks. Smelling essential oils, doing mindful breathing exercises or escaping out the back door to take the dog for a walk could help minimise Christmas stress.

11. Give Yourself Enough Time to Cook

Hands up if you hate when guests ask, ‘how much longer till we eat?’. Bear in mind that most people don’t eat much the morning of Christmas, in preparation for a full feast. Go into the kitchen with a game plan; think about your menu and consider the cook-time for your mains.

Make what you can the night before, like desserts and certain mains; you could always do finishing touches and smaller dish components the day of Christmas.

12. Spend Quality Time with Family

Hate to be corny, but the best gift is truly the present. Be sure to socialise between all the hosting. If you’re worried about getting everything done in time, plan a special day or a couple of hours to hang out with your family properly. It’s not every day that we get to see our loved ones together in one room, so spend quality time with them and cherish moments.

Still need to stock up on some holiday essentials? Check out this Christmas Shopping List.

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