Love it or hate it, there's no doubt that Christmas can bring on tension in most of us. Maybe you enjoy the buzz of a bit of stress or maybe you feel like you're heading for a meltdown. Here are a few simple tips for helping you to get through the festive season with your sanity intact!
1. Set a budget
Plan what you can afford to spend on everything and stick to your budget. Believe me when I tell you that the joy you and your family remember in the future will not be made up of expensive gifts. Presents will be easily forgotten but the memories of fun and love will remain forever. Small children just love opening gifts regardless of what the packages contain. It can be upsetting when they toss aside expensive toys in their haste to open the next one. Pare it down. Having more than they need makes children ungrateful with parents becoming broke and stressed. Focus on what is important. Secret Santa between adults is becoming more popular. This year, the grown-ups in my family are tasked to choose a book for their recipient. It’s great fun and you know what? There’s a perfect book for everyone - even those who don’t read!
2. Prepare for a night out
It’s easy to spoil that big Christmas party night by overspending, losing your phone or having trouble getting home so think before you go. What can you do to prevent the night turning into a disaster?
A) Think about the maximum amount of money you want to spend and take only that. Consider leaving your bank card at home and take cash to avoid over-spending.
B) Arrange your transport home well in advance. If you need to use a taxi, book it and make sure you are where you say you are going to be at the arranged time. Keep your taxi money separate from your drink allowance. To save the hassle and expense of getting a taxi, could you ask a friend or family member to drive you and could you do the same for them when it’s their turn for a night out?
C) If you are taking a handbag, make it a small crossbody bag or wrist purse that you don’t have to put it down. Christmas time is a pickpocket’s paradise so take only what you really have to. Do you actually need to take your phone? You might consider buying a cheap, basic pay as you go phone to use on nights out for emergencies only. If you lose it, you won’t have lost your whole life!
D) The most important reminder is to never get into a car with someone who has been drinking. It’s not the end of the world if the driver loses their license but it is the end of the world for someone who gets killed. It could be you. What would that do to your loved ones?
3. Drink lots of water
This is a mantra for every day of your life really but it’s especially important to keep hydrated when your alcohol intake might be higher than normal and let's face it, most of us use Christmas as an excuse to have a bevvy or five! Stress can cause headaches and one of the bests cures for that is lots of water and less gassy pop.
4. Surround yourself with the right people
If you feel under pressure to spend Christmas with people whose company you’d rather not have on the big day, plan to see them at another time. Do something short and special a week before Christmas. Maybe a visit to a Christmas market followed by a light lunch and mulled wine in a prettily decorated restaurant or a walk around a castle before hot chocolate and mince pies. Put some thought into it so that it appears that you have planned something special as opposed to snubbing them.
5. Get organised for lunch
Personally, I find Christmas Day lunch one of the easiest meals to prepare. There’s so much that can be done in advance. By the second week in December, my freezer already contains: starters that just need reheating, Stuffing, partly roasted potatoes, carrots & parsnips, gravies, sauces, sausage rolls, mince pies, chocolate cake and of course the Christmas pudding was made weeks ago. If you have stress in the kitchen on the day, it’s because you have put it there yourself! There are countless videos online that will teach you how to cook a turkey and the supermarkets are filled with easy and tasty ways to cheat if you are not a confident cook. What’s important is that you create a happy atmosphere around your Christmas dinner table, not that you create something as impressive as Heston Blumenthal! Once again, it’s the love and laughter that counts!
Special tip: Don’t hit the bottle too hard until after lunch is cooked. It never ends well!
6. Plan for a great time!
This might sound regimented or dull but seriously, great events don’t just happen. There’s always someone putting a plan together. Make yourself an itinerary for the run-up to Christmas and the big day itself. I’m a big fan of making and checking off lists. Jot down what needs to be done on which day in preparation for visitors arriving, defrosting and shopping. Know what time you need to start cooking the Turkey, allot chores to the rest of the family: clearing away wrapping paper, washing up, laying the table, walking the dog, serving drinks, making tea, etc. Try to incorporate a short walk in the fresh air to at some point on Christmas Day to allow any tensions to be released. Lots of over-excited people, some of whom may be hungover, all of whom probably got up too early is a recipe for short tempers.
7. Turn off the TV and electronic devices
I know that most people won’t follow this advice but it’s my absolute top tip for a happy family Christmas. For many years it’s been the rule in my house: no TV on Christmas Day or Boxing Day. Instead, we talk, sing and play games. Some of us don’t get to see each other very often nowadays so we need to give our full attention to each other. Memories of my childhood Christmases are made up of the TV switched on from the moment we got up. Dad would get cross because we kids made too much noise with our toys and he couldn’t hear the News. Grandma would sulk because she wanted to watch Tommy Cooper, not Morecambe and Wise and Grandad wanted to watch the Queen’s speech, which delayed lunch and that annoyed Mum. I wanted Top of The Pops which clashed with some puppet show that my little brother wanted to watch. No-one enjoyed any of it because we were all arguing. Mum and Grandma got especially angry when the men fell asleep while watching Zulu and so it went on. The day always ended in disappointment. It was never one of those magical days that featured in the TV adverts!
Nowadays, there is absolutely no reason to have the TV on unless you are alone of course, in which case, go ahead and fill your boots with all your favourite shows! If you are surrounded by loved ones, give them your time. We live in an era when we can catch up with any visual entertainment, films, tv & electronic games any time we like. On this one day of the year, let’s share our time with those we hold dear.
8. Think about assembling gifts
If you are giving gifts which need to be assembled, allow plenty of time to do it. New toys need to be played with immediately and children will not be prepared to wait for a couple of hours while parents put them together. Build the toys before Christmas day and wrap them ready assembled.
9. Forget about sending cards
Writing Christmas cards is a pain. Then there’s the worry that you might have forgotten to send one to someone. Why not drop the tradition and donate to charity instead? More and more people are announcing on social media that they will be supporting a good cause instead of spending money on cards and stamps. So you help someone in need at the same time as doing your bit to save trees. You save time and stress so it’s win-win all round.
10. Have enough batteries, loo roll and bin bags.
Being without any of those things makes Christmas Day stressful!