WITH THE FESTIVE SEASON FAST APPROACHING WE ASKED anna, founder of AKA Virtual assistant, to provide top tips on staying calm and preparing for the ‘holly-days’.

It cannot be that time already! How did that happen?

I am not sure any of us know how the months have passed by so quickly but December is almost upon us and the feeling of getting a whole lot busier is setting in.

With Christmas approaching rapidly, how can we cope with all the requests and necessities that fill our heads, inboxes and WhatsApp threads without feeling stressed and overwhelmed or, worse still, having the anxious feeling of missing something entirely?

From the school social events, the school plays (with costume making that would make any of Santa’s elves admire your efforts!), the end of term meetings and fundraising effort requests from the PTA (and those more heavily involved in the PTA feeling like it’s a second full-time job) to the present buying, secret squirrelling, party planning and Christmas food planning can be enough to turn even the most efficient of us into a downward spiral of a chaotic disorganised slump.

Here are just 5 ways of keeping as cool as a snowman…

If you are a paper diary user, use it now.

It is counterintuitive to believe that organising yourself in a different way to what you are used to is going to be beneficial. Go with what you know and trust.

It might be that your phone and its reminders, notes and calendar will be your ‘go to’. Keep it charged and at your fingertips so that questions that you research can be answered immediately.

If you prefer paper lists, post-it notes (the thought of the sheer quantity personally fills me with dread), have them at the ready. Have a set place (or two) that you shall display them and refer to.

By that, I mean note whatever it is down in whatever way above you feel most comfortable.

This acts as a reminder (remember to add the deadline) and post it so that it gives you enough time to act upon it.

When that time, comes, you can amend the narrative (if you have made a start on it) or push it back to a later date if necessary.

If you are out and about and see something that you know a loved one would like, buy it when you get the opportunity.

Don’t wait to store the Christmas shopping up as an event that takes place in one day; by purchasing things when you can, it mitigates the last minute panic buying. Just remember to write a secret list of what you have bought so you don’t forget and buy that person too much!

By working out how long things will take, you can plan your time in the weeks ahead effectively.

Whilst some tasks will take a few minutes (that can be completed, done and dusted!) while the oven is heating up (5 Christmas cards written, envelopes addressed and ticked off the list) the donkey costume being created might take longer and can definitely be completed when the children are in bed whilst you are catching up on your favourite programme (with or without a glass of wine!).

By using the time you have effectively allows you to complete ‘easy wins’ and with that list becoming shorter, it offers you a sense of achievement!

Knowing your boundaries is important, particularly at this time of year.

Whilst it is a time of giving (and we all want the festive period to be just perfect) it can often subconsciously or consciously have a negative mental impact on us.

We are often asked to do so much and so by politely declining some of the things we know will stretch us beyond our capacities, it alleviates the pressure.

Equally, by sharing some of the load with our partners, it can unite us because we are ‘in it together’.

If there is an opportunity for them to collect the children, ferry them around or pick up the ‘click and collect’ order, or food shopping for dinner it can take some pressure off you.

Don’t be too proud or stubborn to ask for help!

As a working parent, the busy pace of life can quickly create a sense of overwhelm and stress.

The important thing to remember is that all the chaos that ensues is for one day.

For those who cook up a traditional Sunday roast dinner on a weekly basis, just remember that the Christmas Day feast you are sweating over is not all that much different.

The long-awaited and much wished for gift that has taken ages for you to source for your little one is not really the be-all and end-all of their life.

Being together for the day, playing games, talking and sharing what we can with those we love and spending quality time together will be what everyone under your roof remembers in years to come. I don’t recall what I was bought when I was 16 but I can vividly remember Christmas Day that year and who I spent it with. In fact, it was the imperfections of that day that are now so fondly remembered.

Putting it into perspective and truly remembering what is important is a great way to feel more calm, less stressed and overwhelmed and more enthusiastic to get the important things right.