How can you stress less at Christmas

By Alice Chisnall-Kalouniviti, Pūkenga Mātauranga Whakapakari (Health Promoter & Nurse Educator)

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This time of year can be filled with the stress of whānau, food and funds. But it doesn’t have to be. We have some easy tips to help you make it through Kirihimete without money worries.

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Moderate your drinking:

Fueling up on caffeine can make sleep more elusive and leave you feeling edgy at an already stressful time of year. Swap coffee, tea, cola or energy drinks for water or milk.

Binge drinking alcohol not only disrupts normal sleep patterns, but also makes you fat. Alcohol is high in calories, which you’ll likely have no energy to burn off if you’re hangover! Your body needs a couple of alcohol-free days a week, and the festive season is no exception.

Swap rituals for a fresh change:

If you're dragging the tāmariki off to church on Christmas Eve - “it's a tradition!” - but they're whining every step of the way, make a switch. Yes, whānau thrives on tradition, but it's less about the event itself, and more about time together. If your kids are complaining, drop expensive, high-stress rituals like church and tithing in favour of something simple and universally appealing, like a Christmas Eve feast with karakia at home.

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Take your meds when you travel:

If you’re going away for the holidays, make sure you have all your medications with you, including inhalers and antihistamines for hay fever. Let your GP or nurse know how long you’ll be gone, to make sure you have enough of everything to cover your holiday. It’s expensive and time-consuming to order your usual meds through a different GP or pharmacy while on holiday, so be prepared, and save yourself the stress of an asthma attack or a bee sting that you can’t manage while away from home.

Avoid easy temptations:

When you’re caught up in the Christmas rush — late-night shopping, overtime at work or traveling all over town to see whānau — you may be tempted by a quick junk food dinner or drive-through meal.

For a healthier solution, carry a stash of nuts with you (almonds, peanuts, cashews) to toss back while you’re on the move or stock up on ingredients for quick meal that you can make as soon as you get back home. Cheaper foods like eggs, pasta, jacket potatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, canned foods (such as baked beans and tuna) and pouches of microwavable brown rice are great standbys. Eating healthy will certainly help keep the stress levels down for those Christmas holiday moments when the Aunties start…

  Kids can make or create a beautiful present for whānau without spending a cent.

Kids can make or create a beautiful present for whānau without spending a cent.

Choosing presence rather than presents: 

Maybe it’s time to stop shopping for whānau members in favour of sharing special moments and experiences. Instead of having a package to rip open, have a wonderful day together. Nannie would most likely be thrilled with a hand-picked bunch of flowers from the mokopuna (grandchildren). Koroua and kuia (grandfather and grandmother) probably loves home baking. A tin of homemade biscuits is something inexpensive that can be shared by a whole whānau, and tamariki (children) almost never complain about the gift of biscuits! Remember - the amount you spend on a koha (gift) does not have to be equal to the aroha (love) you have for someone.

Whāea Miraka Norgate from Public Health is a creative mind when it comes to saving money at Kirihimete. “It’s all about the kids,” she says. “Spending a day at the beach is more exciting and healthy for tamariki than an expensive toy to play with indoors. And a picnic with ham sandwiches and instant pudding is easier for mum and dad to prepare when you’re pōhara (broke).”

She says whānau put unnecessary stress on themselves to buy, when they have all they need to create the perfect environment and experience for family. With typically sunny weather in Te Tau Ihu, a day at the river or beach is an easy, enjoyable option. And food can be creatively presented, no matter how plain it is.

“Who wants to be inside cooking turkey, when you could be having a swim and sharing a box of apples with whānau?” Whāea Miraka says. “In the old days, nobody needed big presents, and we still don’t need them. Tamariki won’t remember a toy you gave them ten years from now, but they’ll remember a game of cricket or tag in the sand with lots of laughs and hugs.”

The gratitude attitude:

So often in the whirlwind of the houanga (season) we forget to stop and reflect on all that we already have. If you find yourself stressing about all the tamariki you should buy for, or whether you have enough blankets and food for visiting whānau – flip this around. Consider instead how privileged you are to have so many loved ones and that you have the opportunity to celebrate Kirihimete with them.

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The 28th Maori Battalion celebrate Christmas in North Africa in 1942.

This time of year spare a thought for the boys of the 28th Māori Battalion, who spent Christmas day in the desert in 1942, during World War II. There were no round stones or wood to put down a hangi, and German troops intercepted a special consignment of tītī (mutton birds) from home.  The Germans became convinced Kiwis were uncivilised because they ate ‘salted seagulls’ for Christmas dinner! Our boys celebrated with pork, tinned fruit and one bottle of beer each.

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Did you know?

The first known written reference to the pohutukawa as a Christmas tree came in 1857 when ‘flowers of the Scarlet Pohutukawa' or 'Christmas tree' formed part of table decorations at a feast put on by Ngāpuhi leader Eruera Patuone.