Friday, 9 December 2011

My Guide to a Stress~Free Christmas

'A Letter to Santa' ~ watercolour on paper

Hello dearest!

Winter has landed early in my little corner of the world; the temperature is barely above zero and there are snow flurries and gusty winds which have left the trees bare and grey.  However I do like this time of year; I like to see the white snowy fields criss-crossed by the dark dry stone walls and a brooding Pennine sky looming above, I like bracing wintery walks followed by drinks of hot chocolate, curled up on the sofa wrapped in homemade hooky blankets and a good film on TV... stark contrast I Do Not Like overheated shops, big queues, hustle and bustle and the rush to get to Christmas.  Nor do I enjoy catching bugs from being in germ ridden, overcrowded places or the stress that can come from Christmas shopping.  I also dislike arguments with family and friends brought on by stress and a car crash of everybodys' mixed expectations of how things should be.

So, I'm going to share some simple secrets on how to get to the big day, serenely, on time, feeling relaxed and in tip top health.  I promise you won't be disappointed - it's so simple and it all works.

'Snowflake Angels' by Carys

Here goes:

1:  The Fend Off Colds and Sore Throat Miracle Remedy (aka: instant Pep Up Tonic)

I make this myself, a lot.  I like to drink this as a soothing, warming herbal tea.  It's wonderful if you're feeling under par, at the onset of a cold, or feeling the razor sharp swallowing that comes with a nasty sore throat.  It's my instant pep up and bacteria fighting winter tea:

You need:  fresh ginger, fresh thyme, fresh organic lemon and a manuka honey (or good antibacterial one, such as Troway Hall's).  A little loose tea leaf infuser is useful too, to hold the herbs and spices (otherwise you can just put everything in a beaker and strain through a sieve into your mug).

Best made fresh, Makes 1 mug: 

Grate or chop a thumb sized, peeled piece of fresh ginger.
Snip up a generous palm full of fresh thyme.  Add both of these to your infuser.
In a mug, add a teaspoon of good honey and a couple of teaspoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice.  Pour boiled water over all the ingredients and leave to steep for 5 -10 minutes.  Drink up and enjoy.

'Snowflakes' ~ Crochet pattern by Attic24

2:  Do Easy Christmas Shopping - or Don't.

There's a couple of really easy ways to avoid the nightmare of Christmas Shopping...those bustling, busy, hot shops full of queues and crying children.

Don't do it.

Solution 1:  The obvious one, shop online.  Do it all online.  The amount of stress you'll save yourself is un-bel-ieeeeeveable.  There's nothing you can't order online these days, so save yourself the hassle and stay home.

Solution 2: Choose Handmade.  In these days of feverish mass consumerism, I'm finding the gentle art of homemade more and more appealing.  Handmade is the way forward and there are oodles of books and magazines to whet your appetite and inspire you.  My favourites are Mollie Makes and Handmade Living.

Hand Embroidered Lavender Pillow gift 'Cornishware Jug & Daisies'

3:  Let go of Expectation.

I'm one of those people who roll with the flow on a lot of things although I do have a perfectionist streak which comes from a Virgo moon bobbing about in my birth chart somewhere, so I do have to battle with that part of me sometimes!

On the whole though I think I'm pretty easy going about how stuff turns out these days.  Take my Christmas tree for example, it's not perfect.  It's covered in a myriad of different rainbow coloured decorations and lights and is ever so slightly tipsy, with the fairy on the top listing drunkenly to one side - but that's ok, we don't mind things like that.  It makes me smile to see it :)

However, Christmas can bring out our inner perfectionist.  We can want the whole day to go a certain way, to look a certain way.  We can want the people we're with to be a certain way and we mentally prepare for it down to the tiniest detail and feel crushingly devastated when something goes 'wrong'.  Some folks prepare for this one day for months.  Can I just say...and I know some of you reading this will already have elaborate table layouts planned and a time table written out - please, for your sanity, just try and release your hold on any expectations you might have about it all.  Let the day come, and let it go.  And in between, relax and enjoy it.  Things will go wrong, things won't always go as planned.  Relaxing our level of expectation will release a whole truck load of stress, which is a good thing - I mean, Christmas is meant to be enjoyed, right?

All decked up!  My daughter chose those funky pink lights!

4:  Congratulate Yourself

Yes.  Do this often.  In the middle of everything you're doing, stop right where you are and hug yourself (I mean it, this releases endorphins like you won't believe).  I also encourage you to say something like 'You're so GREAT!!!!!! You are doing such a WONDERFUL JOB!!!'  This is a good thing to do - it makes you instantly feel better and a little self love goes a long way in helping you be nicer to others.  Don't wait for someone to pat you on the back for your efforts (you can get grizzly waiting for, or expecting a compliment), do it yourself.

5:  Nurture Yourself

Probably obvious, yet as essential as breathing in and out.  Nurture yourself.  Be kind to your body and mind.  Do relaxing things for yourself; go outdoors for walks and breathe in good wintery air, do some gentle exercise like yoga or pilates or take yourself off to Zumba and dance your butt off!  Take deep relaxing baths laced with essential oils to lift the spirits (i heartily recommend grapefruit and eucalyptus for this time of year), drink plenty of water - at least 6 to 8 glasses a day, and sleep.  Switch off your computers at least half an hour before you turn in, and do a bit of reading to gently unwind and prepare your body for rest.

Looking after yourself first isn't a selfish thing to do, you're actually going to be in a better, healthier and more naturally giving place to look after your families when you do this stuff for you.  

All of this works, I swear.  And I know this because I do it myself.

And I hope, in a small way, these little stress busting tricks and treats will help you too.

Sending bunches of mistetoe and a glass of mulled wine your way...
Love Julia x x x


  1. This is such a nice and useful post! Thanks a lot. Will try you miraculous remedy as I am in the middle of a cold and don't feel well. And you are so right about Christmas (or any holiday) being about your attitude. I used to get very upset when my birthdays didn't go the way I had expected. But I let it go and now I enjoy them the way they are.

  2. Thank you for these stress busting tips Julia - a good reminder for me. I really fancy the herbal tea with ginger. A lovely post - very comforting. x

  3. I totally see why this all works! I'm with you on herbal teas. If I've got a cold I make soup with 2 onions, 2 gloves of chopped garlic and 2 cups of vegetable stock. and chili (powder or fresh chopped)It tastes great, peps you up and makes you feel nourished when you can't face food. Otherwise, elderflower tea at the first sign of a cold. I prefer it to a syrup because sugar depletes the immune system. I drink it 3 times a day for 5 days or if the symptoms seem not to develop at all just 2 or 3. More often than not the sore throat or sniffle just goes away. Not easy to get though elderflower! I like your choice of herbs too.

    I've done much shopping online this year and yes it is so much better. I can't give up the food shopping though and I find that really stressful. The last couple of days before Christmas, loading up the last purchases of fresh stuff is just awful. Queues right down the isles. Nightmare!

    Other than that I really don't make a big deal of Christmas other than to try and enjoy it all and do as little as possible.

  4. That's a very kind post Julia. Thankyou for taking the time to share with us your stress free festive season! LOve those fairy lights!
    jess xx

  5. This is a lovely post, very calming and full of really good stress busting tips. Sometimes we forget the sensible things to do and need to stop and remember. I am going to make a note of your special drink too to ward off colds and other lurgies!
    I hope you have a lovely weekend, Julia.
    Helen x

  6. What a pleasant, pleasant post! God Bless!

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  8. Lovely post Julia, Christmas is to be enjoyed and definitely not stressed over in my book. Online shopping truly is the best. And just go with the flow...

    Helen xx

  9. I love the sound of your tea Julia, I make a similar one but without the thyme, will try it out.
    We've ditched horrible Christmas shopping in our house, last year was handmade, this year it's secondhand or recycled, no stress at all just leisurely strolls round charity shops instead and a mooch through ebay if we're so inclined! Oh and my own favourite a little incy wincy drop of whisky and ginger wine of an evening...........very good for a peaceful sleep. ♥

  10. Dear Julia,
    I like your Santa so much! Even the post itself, who does not whish having a stressless time before christmas?
    Have a wonderful miracle time!

  11. This is so wonderful. It's all good commonsense and most of us are aware of this wisdom BUT how fantastic it is to read it from someone who understands.

    I am really grateful for your words and will think of you when I am throwing my arms around myself ... after having a good laugh at myself for looking so funny!

    I love winter for its poetry. Being ill takes away from winter its magic.

  12. Gorgeous post Julia. It calms me!

    I am signing off for the year, and I just wanted to pop by and wish you and your family a Wonderful Christmas and a Very Happy New Year!

    See you in 2012!!!!

    Much Love

    Vanessa xxxxxxxxxxxx

  13. I expect a lot of your readers are full of cold - I am too!
    Lovely post choc full of calming sensible advice, thank you.
    Happy New Year!

  14. ok... so I'm late a bit. But I still have to tell you that wee robin fluttering towards Santa totally made my day... well, night :)


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