I love Christmas yet I have memories of trying to juggle work, kids, family, extended family and more and ending up in tears, drinking Santa’s sherry while wrapping the kids presents in the early hours of Christmas day, worrying about the turkey.

Probably the most insidious issue facing everyone today is overwhelm.  Not the good overwhelm like being overwhelmed by joy when you get the keys to your new home or see your baby born. 

No, the bad kind. 

It can creep up on you and you start to procrastinate as a defense mechanism against it.  Instead of doing that urgent piece of work you rearrange your sock drawer by colour.

Or perhaps you push on through and create yet another TODO list so as not to let anyone down.  It haunts you.  Soon enough you are running on empty.  Stress starts to take a hold which affects you mentally, physically and emotionally. 

So, how do you take back your control and joy?  Especially at this time of year.

Think about the safety announcement on a flight that says: “In the case of decompression, the oxygen masks will drop and parents must put theirs on first”.  The reason they have to make this announcement every time we fly is that this goes contrary to our human instincts.  A parent will always seek to protect their child first.  But in this case they may end up unconscious and that won’t help the kids at all. 

Yet that is what we do in life.  We aim to make everything perfect and in the process we get frazzled and exhausted.

So, here is an OXYGEN guide to get you out of overwhelm this festive season. It spells out the first letters of OXYGEN to make it easy to remember:

On a single piece of paper write down everything you need to do and every little task that is bugging you and is probably keeping you awake at night.

X marks the ones that you really can’t do anything about.  You may be worried about them but you can’t actually do anything at this time to alter them. Put a line through them.

You must do some things but not all at once.  Prioritisation is key.  So take another piece of paper and draw a box inside it then draw a cross across the middle of this inner box to create four boxes.  Write NOT Important on the bottom left-side of the axis and Important top left-hand side.  At the top of the first box write Urgent and top right put Not Urgent.  Now put the things you really must do into these boxes then deal with them in order of being important/urgent first down to Not important/not urgent.  In fact, do you need to do these tasks at all?   Keep the things that are always important to you, such as walking the dog or having cuddles with your kids in the important box.

Get time specific now.  Put times next to the items in the boxes.  Times such as today/tomorrow – any day in the countdown to your Christmas.  Scope out time for them in your diary.

Ensure you are motivated to do them by finding your ‘Why’.  Change items to do from the likes of ‘Make up guest room’  or  ‘Buy crackers’ to something like: ‘make a welcoming space for my lovely family or friends’  and ‘inject some silly fun and games into our Christmas time together’.  You get the idea.

Now take your first step.  Do something this minute to take back your life and your control by oxygenating your body.  Stop what you are doing, sit down somewhere safe, close your eyes and start to draw a box with your breath.  Breath in for four slow counts and draw an imaginary line in your head. Hold it for four breaths and draw the next side of your inner visualised box.  Next breathe out for four counts and draw the third side then hold again for four counts and complete the square.  Do this about 10 times and then open your eyes.    

Anytime you feel that sense of overwhelm creeping back, say to yourself or out loud: “I’ve got this and actually it is more important for us to be together than everything to be perfect”.  Involve others.  You are running a life not a hotel so if your guests even have to make their own beds, rather than you be so tearful that the day goes downhill, then so be it. 

Make it the best, most balanced Christmas yet and be Christmas cosy, not crazy, this year.