Without wishing to take the shine off the tinsel, many of us can acknowledge that Christmas can be a stress time-bomb. However much we want to show goodwill to all men, this can wear very thin when the in-laws are aggravating, the credit card is no longer either flexible or friendly, the freezer’s broken and you’re suffering from a hangover.
Everybody starts off with good resolutions about how they’re going to cope with Christmas tensions but, unless you’re honestly destined for beatification, it’s not a safe policy to rely on your innate angelic nature to see you through the pitfalls.
Experts all agree on the Number One Way to navigate your way through the festive minefield: Planning.
1. Be realistic
Avoid the temptation to believe you can morph into a super-hero. Decide which parts of the celebrations you enjoy doing and delegate the rest. Thirty minutes with your nearest and dearest can enable you to put your concerns honestly and ask for their help. People like to know they’re responsible for something, but once you’ve made Harry head-peeler and Sally table-layer, trust them to get on with it, you don’t need to control everything.
2. Plan Escape routes
As well as the workload, it’s important to plan some escape routes. If you know you will have to be in the company of people who annoy you after half a glass of Cava, you’ll feel far more at ease if you’ve thought out several escape routes which will guarantee you a 10 minute breather away from the throng. This can be as simple as not putting food out for the birds so you have an excuse to go into the garden later on, or claiming the need to go upstairs and ring your long lost cousin, or popping round to check on a neighbour.
3. Be prepared for the TV troubles
Even if everyone’s being well behaved, there are elements of Christmas that can drive a normally sane person to prefer to chew off their own limbs rather than spend another moment in the sitting room. If you know your mother-in-law adores Pointless, and you find game shows unbearable, make sure you have an alternative strategy in place for yourself at the time it’s on. If you have to remain in the same room, why not download a guided meditation onto your phone and sit with your headphones on oblivious to what’s happening in front of you!
4. Avoid One-upmanship
Humorous, honest talking with your partner or close family can nip problems in the bud. If Susan and Frank always play the one-upmanship game about their house, holidays, little Freddy’s achievements or whatever, and you are broke, can’t remember the last day off you had, and have a son who wants to play Herod in the nativity so he can murder babies, it’s possible to feel far less threatened if you’ve managed to make light of it before it even occurs. Just being able to surreptitiously roll your eyes at your partner when Susan and Frank are in full flow, takes the sting out of the situation.
5. Don't forget time and motion
Planning how you would like the day to run can help avoid those moments when people vegetate into the nearest crate of beer. Doing something outdoors makes everyone feel happy-tired rather than irritable-tired, so try to ensure there’s a walk or a kick around with a ball scheduled into your day. If you know there are some people who may annoy you, don’t forgo the exercise, just walk further behind or invite a group of friends to join you so that the irritants will be diluted.
Prepare for dire weather by asking the most out-going member of your clan to get everyone out of their seats for an all-levels “Stretch and Ex” session if it’s too wet to leave the house.
Christmas can be a time when our normal exercise routine flies out of the window, gym classes are often suspended until the New Year and the days follow one another in an orgy of indulgence. Whilst it’s fine to relax into the Christmas spirit, if you’re feeling stressed then taking 10 minutes to go somewhere quiet and do some yoga, or a run round the block, may be the best remedy and one you should allow yourself to do before ploughing on with the festivities.
6. Make sure you pamper …
It’s said that we tend to buy the presents for others that we would most like to receive, so if you find yourself grabbing armfuls of aromatherapy candles, relaxation bath salts and vouchers for pamper days, it’s a sure indication your body is craving some TLC. Tell people about this. Not only might you receive some great gifts, but others will be sympathetic if you disappear into the bathroom for a well-earned soak. The turkey sandwiches can wait until you’ve enjoyed some “me time”.
7. Prepare for Overspending
Two of the biggest December stresses are excess alcohol and over-spending. This pair is the largest contributor to making January the busiest month for divorce lawyers.
Make sure you know exactly how much you can afford to spend, and stick to it. Try to remember all the things you gave and were given last Christmas. Most people haven’t got a clue, yet they can easily recall the mind-numbing credit card statement that followed. Home-made gifts are frequently the least costly and the most memorable, and a promise may be the best present of all. Give vouchers promising a half-hour back massage, a trip to the seaside, or a pedicure; make lemon curd, chutney, soaps … there are thousands of home-made gift ideas available with one click of the Google button. Promise yourself that you are not going to wake up to 2014 with extra debt.
8. Plan for overeating
Who doesn't overeat at Christmas? Only the angels on the Christmas tree! But you can compensate by planning ahead. Save a couple of days in between the foodfest for non-socialising, active fasting. It is still possible to do the 5 + 2 diet!
9. Plan ahead so that you don't waste food or unwanted presents
We can all feel guilty at Christmas about the amount of food we consume and even worse, the food we leave and then throw away. There are healthy options - don't eat the leftovers, freeze what you can in small portions and save it for a snowy day later. We also end up with quite a few unwanted presents that go into drawers and are left there until the next time we move house. Toiletries can be handed over to organisations that provide 'dignity' packs for the homeless. Anything else that is new and 'not to your taste' can easily go to a charity shop.
10. Watch the Alcohol
Alcohol consumption can be a difficult subject to discuss beforehand and even more inflammatory on the day. We all know people who believe they’re wittier with every extra pint. On this one it’s probably best to lead by example.
Hangovers are caused by dehydration. Alcohol dehydrates the body, so the best way to enjoy your Christmas tipples and not regret them in the morning is to pace yourself with a big glass of water, or other non-fizzy soft drink, between every alcoholic beverage. The fizz in carbonated drinks actually speeds up the absorption of alcohol into the blood so ditch the tonics, cokes and Perriers in favour of H2O, juice and herbal teas.