The holiday season might be fun, but it can also leave you feeling utterly exhausted and emotionally fraught. Life coach and hypnotherapist Anna Yates explains how to get through it all in one piece…

It’s as predictable as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west: every year, the festive season brings utter chaos and, come January, we are all exhausted, fed up of socialising, and boasting pockets and bank accounts as empty as our energy reserves.

Any pre-December declarations of “having a quiet one” have gone out the window and faded into dust by the end of the National Day celebrations and the Rugby Sevens, and, before you know it, you are head-first into the silly season and sinking rapidly. Kids’ parties, office parties, school parties. Christmas markets, Christmas fairs, present shopping, school holidays. family arriving, family leaving, visiting family, pet care logistics, the list goes on. And that’s before you even start on the great festive food fiasco.

It’s enough to make anyone want to hide away in a cave and not come back out till January. But, as exhausting and chaotic as it is, it is still one of the best times of year. The music, the atmosphere, the traditions, the rituals… It’s a warm and fuzzy season and we simply wouldn’t want to miss it.

Anna Yates, owner of Mind Solutions, a therapy centre here in Dubai, says she is inundated with overwhelmed, stressed-out clients at this time of year. “The festive season is well-known for being a supremely stressful period and it can take its toll on families and relationships. The best way to keep the pressure under control is to not let yourself get carried away with the endless events and festivities.” Here are Anna’s top tips for staying calm during the chaos.

01. Pre-schedule downtime

“The key to preventing burn-out and exhaustion is to make sure you have downtime,” says Anna. “It sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done. Most people struggle to find time to relax normally anyway. Throw in the festive season and you can see a schedule that is frankly unrealistic. Plot some weekly downtime into your December calendar and be strict with yourself about it. If something comes up on one of those days, make a rule that you can’t say ‘yes’ to it unless you can re-plot your downtime.”

02. Remember that less might be more

Even if you can make it to all those parties and events, will you be enjoying them if you are stressed out and exhausted? “Fear of missing out is a dangerous thing at this time of year as everything sounds so quaint and lovely,” admits Anna. “It’s hard to say no to a party with festive food and fairy lights, or to a kids’ event where there will be a Santa’s grotto, but you simply can’t go to everything. Think back to last year. Which events stand out in your memory? Make those the ones to go to this year – the ones that you know are really good and memorable – and forget the rest. Just accept the fact that you may miss out on some lovely parties and events, but that this isn’t your one and only Christmas. You will have many more opportunities to celebrate the festive season.”

03. Make time for your other half

“No matter how busy it gets, don’t forget to make sure you have some quality time with your other half,” says Anna. “Studies show that January has a higher incidence of relationships breaking down and people filing for divorce as a result of the intensity of the holidays. There is so much pressure to be happy that often, if a relationship is already on the rocks, this time of year will be the final straw to see people walking away.”

04. Manage the family overdose

“Visiting family back home, or having family come over to see you here, can make this happy time of year particularly fraught. Remember that even though you have planned to spend the festive period together, it doesn’t mean you (or they) have to lose your own freedom of choice. If there is something planned that you, your partner or your children don’t want to do, simply don’t do it. And allow the same freedom to your family and guests,” explains Anna. “Certainly don’t do anything simply to please someone else if it’s not convenient to you, because you will just end up regretting it and resenting them. This is a good rule for life, not just for Christmas – don’t do anything that you will regret or resent. Learn to say ‘no’. And if saying ‘no’ is too hard, try saying ‘Can I get back to you on that when I have checked my schedule?’”

05. Put a curfew on yourself

“When you do go out, put some strategies in place to make sure that you get maximum enjoyment with minimum exhaustion,” says Anna. “In the absence of a carriage that will turn into a pumpkin at midnight, arrange a SaferDriver so that you have to leave at a certain time. Also, get yourself a glass of water as soon as possible and try to keep it near you or, preferably, in your hand. Often when we are socialising, we drink whatever we have in our hand simply because we are thirsty from the chatting and the nibbles,” says Anna. “If you have a glass of water in your hand, you are more likely to drink it. Staying hydrated at night means a better, more energised day tomorrow.”

06. Lower your expectations

“In my experience, a major source of pressure at this time of year is people’s high expectations,” warns Anna. “It will never be as perfect as you remember it to be when you were a child, or as perfect as you imagine other people’s Christmases are. Lower your expectations and you are more likely to be satisfied and happy with how it goes. See it for what it really is – one week out of 52.”

07. Get some me-time

“Remember the safety briefing on aeroplanes? In the case of emergency, put on your own oxygen mask so that you can be of service to others. Yes, the children need to have a magical time and, yes, you need to give your friends and family some attention. But keep a little bit of time and energy back for yourself. Even ten minutes and a cup of tea in the garden, or half an hour in the bath, can be enough of a break when things are getting really full-on. Have a yoga or fitness class schedule up in the kitchen and a bag ready by the door, so that it’s not a big surprise to anyone when you grab your bag to leave. And if instead of going to your exercise class, you slip into the café down the road for a Christmas-spiced coffee and an hour of quiet time, that is more than fine too.”

Anna Yates is a psychotherapist, clinical hypnotherapist, master NLP practitioner and life coach, and the founder of Mind Solutions in Dubai. For bookings, or for more information on the team’s sessions and therapies, visit mindsolutions.ae