Pressing Pause Podcast episode 38 7 Tips for a calmer festive season


Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.

I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m here to share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.


Welcome to episode 38. It’s less than a week until Christmas Day so I thought this would be a good time to share with you seven ideas for creating a calmer Christmas this year. 

Okay let’s dive in, Number 1, get realistic.

Christmas comes with its own set of expectations and ideals. It can be bright and fun and joyous. And it can also be messy and stressful and exhausting. Because this time of year has a label – Christmas – there’s a tendency to expect people and situations to be different. Because it’s Christmas the children shouldn’t squabble, you should have more energy and everyone should be happy and jolly. Your red flag here is the ‘should’ word, I talk more about this unhelpful word in episode 14 if you want to have a listen.

If that’s not what life is like the rest of the year, why would things magically change because it’s Christmas?

Being realistic about what is doable doesn’t mean you’re settling for a mediocre Christmas or that you’re not going to try to inject some magic and fun into the festivities. It just means that you’re not going to set your expectations so incredibly high that you’ll wind up disappointed that your Christmas isn’t Pinterest-perfect, and overwhelmed with trying to make it so.

The trouble with expectations is that they’re very black and white, either they’re met or they’re not. Swapping expectations for hope makes things more flexible, there’s less pressure because unfulfilled hopes don’t equal failure. You can hope for something and if it doesn’t happen, if your hope isn’t met, you’re still okay. So if you expect the Christmas meal to be Nigella-standard and it isn’t you’re disappointed and you feel like you’ve let everyone down. However, if you hope that it’s of Nigella’s calibre and it isn’t, it’s not such a massive failure and you don’t feel like Christmas is ruined.

Number 2 Drop the comparison. 

Everywhere we look there are images of beautifully decorated homes, magical Christmas parties, perfectly cooked Christmas lunch with all the trimmings, and families having a wonderful time with no hint of a squabble. That picture postcard Christmas looks perfect and we want ours to be just like it. But these images are a snapshot of a moment. They’re photos showing the best side of life, polished and tidied up and of a moment in time. It doesn’t make them a lie but it doesn’t show the full picture of real life either.

Just as in everyday life it’s not a good idea to compare yourself and your way of living to other people, the same applies to Christmas. However someone else chooses to spend Christmas is their choice and it need not make any difference to what you do or how you value your own festive season. Everyone does Christmas, and life, in their own way and while it may look jolly and shiny and perfect you’re only getting a brief glimpse at the story. They may be smiling and it all may seem wonderful but that doesn’t mean they aren’t facing challenges and difficulties too. You know that no-one’s life is perfect and you know that no-one’s Christmas is perfect either.

So focus on what you want to do, how you want to spend your time and who with, and enjoy your own Christmas as it is.

Number 3 Don’t try to do it all.

You are inventive, intelligent, resourceful and thoughtful but you’re not superwoman. No-one is. Trying to take care of everything at Christmas, making it perfect for everyone, is a quick way to feeling exhausted, resentful and stressed when you want to be enjoying it all along with your family and friends. 

So, share the load, you don’t have to do it all yourself so don’t try to. Involving others helps them to feel useful and part of it all, and there’s nothing that says you have to be solely responsible for Christmas. Make a list of what needs to be done and delegate. Be prepared for things to not to be done exactly as you would do them, or perhaps to your high standard, but done is better than perfect.  

Think about how you can make the mundane but necessary jobs more fun. Put on a Christmas movie or some festive tunes, open a tin of choccies, make yourself a festive cocktail or motivate yourself with the promise of a treat when you’re finished – whatever will help move along the process. 

Number 4 Take time out.

Christmas can be a really full-on time of year with lots to do, people to see and places to go. If you don’t pay attention to how you’re feeling you can run out of energy and wind up feeling exhausted, cranky and resenting the festivities instead of enjoying them. 

While you may think you’ll get an early night or have a sit down when you need it, once Christmas is in full flow those intentions can quickly be forgotten or taken over. To make sure you take care of your own needs, as well as everyone else’s, you need to schedule in downtime.

So, go through your calendar now and look at where you can schedule in some white space. Think about what is restorative for you. It may be having time to yourself to read or take a bath or go for a walk. It could be having a lie-in or an early night. Whatever will help you feel energised and ready to dive back into the Christmas craziness is what you schedule into your diary as white space. Even if you don’t know what you’ll want to do in that downtime, or you don’t know if you’ll really need it, put it on the calendar anyway. You can decide what to do at that time depending on what you need.

And Number 5 follows on from this, give yourself a break.

It’s okay if you don’t feel super jolly every waking moment of the season. It’s okay if you feel tired, sad, lonely or fed up. Yes, Andy Williams may tell us it’s the most wonderful time of the year but you can disagree. You’re allowed to feel whatever it is that you’re feeling and if you push away your emotions or pretend everything’s fine when it isn’t, you’re making things harder on yourself. 

Imagine it’s your best friend feeling as you do and think about what you would say to her, how you would treat her. You might suggest she has a big cry or go for a walk or talk about it or ask for help. Give yourself the kindness and compassion that you’d give to a friend feeling the same way. I talk more about dealing with difficult emotions in episode 18 if you want to have a listen.

Okay, number 6 is be ready to let things go.

My first tip, at the start of this episode is paving the way for this as you get realistic in your expectations of what Christmas will be like. It may be Christmas but that doesn’t magically turn everyone into perfect people so there will still be disagreements and tetchiness and tempers will flare. Pick your battles where you can, if something doesn’t mean that much to you let it go so when you feel strongly about something else you have the energy to speak up for it. 

Christmas can involve a lot of eating, drinking, being crowded around tables and in living rooms so simply changing the environment you’re in can help calm things down and change the atmosphere. If the family’s getting tetchy get everyone out to the local park and soak up some nature. The children can run around and the grown-ups can go at their own pace, have a chat or stay silent and, if you’re fed up with anyone in particular, you can get a little physical distance from them.

If you feel your stress levels rise try to take a break on your own. Go for a walk or lock yourself in the bathroom and take a few deep breaths in and out. Even if it’s just a couple of minutes you’ll feel better for it and everyone else will benefit from a calmer you too.

And finally, number 7, savour the good stuff.

Whatever your Christmas is like, however you feel about the festive season, there will be moments of joy that you can savour. Keep your eyes open for that moment when the children are playing happily together, when your uncles are having a laugh, when everyone’s engrossed in the Christmas Day movie or when silence reigns. When there are moments of calm, of laughter, or when things are simply bumping along nicely, notice it, relish it and soak it up. Everything may not be going to plan, things may have gone wrong but there will be moments that you can smile about and recognising them, acknowledging them rather than racing on to what’s next will allow you to feel some of that festive joy that you’ve been looking forward to.  

Whatever your Christmas and New Year look like, wherever you spend it and whomever you share it with, I hope you can create moments of calm, fun and joy.

I will be taking a break over the festive period and I’ll be back with a new episode in the new year. If you’re already thinking about all the things you feel you ought to be doing when the 1st of January rolls around I suggest you take a look at my seven-day email series, The Warm Embrace, which is designed to help you ease into the new year with less guilt, pressure and stress, and more ease, calm and kindness for yourself. Go to to find out more. 

I’ve linked to The Warm Embrace and the other podcast episodes I mentioned in the show notes which you’ll find at

Thanks for listening, until next time, lovely people.