2 Tips for Enjoying a Stress-free Christmas

Christmas is a truly magical time of year. The bright colours, the Christmas movies, presents, family and friends and don’t even get me started on the food! But creating such a magical atmosphere of cheer and joy can actually take a lot of work. Decorations don’t hang themselves.  Numerous cards need to be written. Before too long you can find yourself with an endless to-do list, muttering “bah humbug” under your breath.

So here are two techniques which I use to help me when I feel overwhelmed by my Christmassy chores and I just want to get them done.


1) First get something done and then do something fun!

Your Grandma was onto something when she told you to eat your broccoli first before giving you desert. It has been shown that you’re more likely to do something that you don’t want to do (but should be doing if you’re gonna have a smoothly running Christmas!) if you make a reward dependant on completing this task first. They called it the Premack principle after the guy who invented it, David Premack. Research has even demonstrated that this is an effective method in helping people to lose weight (Horan & Johnson, 1971).

So instead of jumping right into watching Christmas films on Netflix, write some of your Christmas cards first.  Trust me, you will feel a lot better for it! I feel so much happier when I haven’t left everything to the last minute.

This can take a bit of practice to get the hang of, I mean, we’d all be performing Christmas miracles if we could always be this disciplined! But I have defiantly noticed that the more I have used this technique, the better I have become at getting stuff done. Especially when this is combined with my next tip….

2) Create an environment that encourages success

Life is busy. We are all spinning many different plates, trying to balance the different aspects of our lives. And this is especially true during the festive season. So make it easier for yourself to do what you need to get done.

Arrange an environment that encourages you to do those Christmas chores before you start to dread them! In behaviour babble terms we call this environmental arrangement.

Here are some examples to help get you started.

Not wrapped the presents yet?

Put the presents along with some wrapping paper, scissors and sticky tape in a bag on the sofa. Then before you sit down to watch TV, you’ll be reminded to wrap your presents first! They’ll be beautifully presented covered in the same wrapping paper as last year in no time!

Commonsense Caution: only use this tip for people who don’t live in the same house as you. Otherwise, they might find a serious hint as to what they’ll be getting from you for Christmas!

If your willpower is lacking here and you end up watching TV regardless, then hide your TV remote in another room! This sounds a bit extreme, but if more effort is required to turn on the TV, then this might encourage you to just sit down and wrap those presents! (Reed & Kaplan, 2011).


Relatives complaining that they still don’t know what your plans are for Boxing day?

But trying to arrange plans that will please everyone is an impossible task which makes your head spin? Set a reminder on your phone. Have your calendar, a notepad and/or your SO nearby, anything that will help you to arrange plans that suit everyone. And remember to tell your mum/auntie/brother when you have reached a decision!

Need to do some festive baking in prep for your guests?

Place your baking equipment and some nonperishable ingredients on your kitchen counter. If your kitchen is as tiny as mine, this will take up half the space on the counter! Seeing the baking equipment already out always prompts me to get the baking sooner than I usually would.
This tip works particularly well if you’re like me and you hate the sight of clutter! It can cause a process called negative reinforcement to occur, which contrary to what it’s title suggests, is a safe and beneficial way to encourage me to get my baking done, in order to escape from seeing the dreaded clutter!

There you have it, my top tips on how to have a stress-free time during the most festive days of the year!

Let me know your ideas for getting those Xmas chores sorted in the comments section below.

Horan, J. J., & Johnson, R. G. (1971). Coverant conditioning through a self-management application of the Premack principle: Its effect on weight reduction. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 2(4), 243-249.

Reed, D.D. & Kaplan, B.A.  (2011).  The matching law: A tutorial for practitioners.  Behavior Analysis in Practice, 4(2), 15-24.