How is it December already? Did I blink and miss a couple of weeks somewhere? Does it feel as though you are on a treadmill of ever-increasing chores dragging you inexorably towards December 25th. Does it all feel rather overwhelming? This time of year can make all but the most super-organised of us feel as though we need to stretch time – otherwise chaos will break out.

This year was going to be different. You were going to have all the gifts bought by the end of November and wrapped. December was going to be the time for planning the food shopping and pre-preparing some meals for the freezer so when guests arrive, you will be feeling calm and relaxed. Well, that was my plan!

When we feel overwhelmed, it seems as though there aren't enough hours in the day, perhaps you have too many choices and decisions to make and you feel paralysed? Or you feel unable to cope and the brain fog descends, preventing you from seeing things clearly?

Don't worry, there are some very practical steps you can take to keep the 'overwhelm' at bay.

As soon as you recognise that a sense of panic is starting to build, you need to take a few moments for some calming breathing. Imagine drawing a small square with your finger, breath in deeply while you draw side one, hold the breath while you draw side two, then breath out softly and gently through your nose while you draw sides three and four. This type of breathing is calming and stress-relieving and will help to relax you so the panic and the brain fog lifts.

Decide on the priorities
Often we feel overwhelmed because we want everything to be perfect, and feel as though we are responsible for making it perfect. But when overwhelm threatens, we need to let go of the need to be perfect. So make a list of what needs to be done, and a second list of what you don't need to do!

The spare bedroom may need decorating but it could wait a few more weeks. The children's toy cupboard might be stuffed with outgrown toys but perhaps that task could be something you get them to help with during those many Christmas holiday days.

This tip can be applied to invitations too. If you are being pulled in too many different directions by Christmas activities make a list of those that you definitely 'have' to attend, a second of those that you can miss and a third of those that you really 'want' to attend. Perhaps you can share the 'have' to attend events with family members, so you can make time for some events that will make you happy?

Take care of yourself
Burning the candle at both ends is not a good idea. You need to make sure you have some time to relax each day – and that means quietly and calmly. Getting enough sleep will enable you to face each day with energy and enthusiasm so give your body time to prepare for sleep. Don't rush around doing chores until bedtime and wonder why you then lie awake for an hour with your brain buzzing. Prepare yourself for a restful sleep by allowing yourself time to wind down, take a bath, read a book, perhaps practise mindfulness or listen to a relaxation recording.

Remember to feed yourself properly as well. Taking time for a nutritious lunch will give you energy to get through your afternoon and help to keep you healthy. But don't beat yourself up about a few mince pies or dinner out with friends – balance is the key.

Ask for help
Asking for help from your family isn't a sign of weakness. Sometimes we act the martyr and try and do everything, while other members of the family just please themselves. This breeds resentment and stress. So ask them for help – and plan with them what chores they will be responsible for.

So, prioritise, plan, get help when you can and remember to have fun and a really great Christmas!

Author: Louise Coyle; hypnotherapist @ The Maris Practice